Elective Affinities: A Cultural History of Friendship among German Jews, 1888-1938

 John Efron, Koret Professor of Jewish History, UC Berkeley

 Institute of European StudiesCenter for Jewish StudiesDepartment of GermanDepartment of HistoryGerman Historical Institute Washington | Pacific Office Berkeley

Friendship is a key category for understanding what Jewishness meant to many German Jews in the late nineteenth century and up to the eve of the Holocaust. While Judaism in Germany had been transformed into a mere “community of faith,” that is, one shorn of any ethnic conception of Jewishness, this denominational concept of what it means to be Jewish faced a crisis in the age of secularization. For many Jews, Jewishness was not predominantly a matter of faith or culture, but had a profoundly social characteristic. Being Jewish meant, above all, socializing with other Jews.

This talk will trace the cultural history of friendship among German Jews and at the same time show how the meaning of friendship was also reflected in the discourse of Jewish intellectuals. Thinkers like Hannah Arendt and Siegfried Kracauer, Leo Strauss and Margarete Susman, Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem were eminent thinkers about the meaning of friendship – and thus reflected a fundamental trait of their epoch.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we strongly recommend everyone in attendance to wear a mask at all times. Please arrive on-time to ensure you will have a seat. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event, please contact Ray Savord at rsavord@berkeley.edu or (510) 642-4555 with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days in advance of the event.


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 Ray Savord,  rsavord@berkeley.edu,  510-642-4555