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European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London, 2011

New perspectives on Jewish-non-Jewish relations

This season's lecture series will discuss new perspectives on Jewish-non-Jewish relations. One aspect we will look at is the phenomenon of “philosemitism”. While it has an old tradition in English-Jewish history, it is a very new, post-Holocaust phenomenon in German-Jewish history. We aim to explore the ways in which approaches to Jews and Jewish history have changed throughout history in various political and cultural settings.

These events are organised by the Leo Baeck Institute London, the Jewish Museum, Frankfurt am Main and the Fritz Bauer Institut, Frankfurt am Main, in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London.

3 May

A brief history of philosemitism

Venue: German Historical Institute, London

Philosemitism is often misunderstood as simply antisemitism in sheep’s clothing. This lecture will argue that it is, on the contrary, a real and important phenomenon, with deep roots in both secular and Christian attitudes to Jews. The lecture will survey the history of philosemitism, from its emergence in the ancient world and in the early theology of Christianity, through its medieval, early modern and nineteenth-century role in politics, literature and culture, to its major manifestations in recent decades, from evangelical Christian supporters of Israel to the tourism and klezmer scene in Eastern Europe. It will also include a discussion of the complex role of philosemitism in contemporary global politics.

Adam Sutcliffe teaches European and Jewish history at King’s College London. He is the author of Judaism and Enlightenment (2003), and the co-editor of Philosemitism in History (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

24 May

Why the Jews are the smartest people in the universe and why this is a bad thing

Venue: German Historical Institute, London

Claims about Jewish intellectual superiority surface regularly even in the 21st century. Modern genetics, it is claimed, prove that being smart is a singular component of “being Jewish”. Can it be a bad thing to be thought to be smart? The claim reveals itself to be a form of insidious philosemitism, a form of antisemitism, which has traditionally masked itself as being supportive of the Jews. Often it is your supposed friends that you have to worry about most.

Sander L. Gilman is a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. He is the author or editor of over eighty books. Obesity: The Biography appeared with Oxford University Press (2010); his most recent edited volume is Wagner and Cinema (with Jeongwon Joe, 2010). He is the author of the basic study of the visual stereotyping of the mentally ill, Seeing the Insane (1982), as well as Jewish Self-Hatred (1986). For 25 years he was a member of the humanities and medical faculties at Cornell University where he held the Goldwin Smith Professorship of Humane Studies.

7 July

The Virtuous Jewess. Gender and Semitic Discourse in 19th Century England

Venue: German Historical Institute, London

From the medieval ballad of the Jew’s daughter who seduces a young Christian boy in order to murder him, to Shakespeare’s uncertain apostate Jessica, the Jewess held a marginal place in English literary history. In the nineteenth century, however, she became a literary preoccupation. In this lecture, Nadia Valman traces the story of the Jewess, from its birth in Romantic and Evangelical writing through myriad rewritings in both popular and high literature. The literary Jewess – invariably beautiful, virtuous and tragic – dramatically reveals the dynamic and ambiguous responses to Jews in England in this period.

Dr Nadia Valman is Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at Queen Mary, University of London, the author of The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture (Cambridge University Press) and the co-editor of five books on Jews and British literature.

28 July

A Strange Kind of Love: Philosemitism in German-Jewish History

Venue: Pearson lecture theatre, Pearson Building, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1 6BT

Recent treatments of philosemitism (in Germany) have dismissed the phenomenon either as non-existent, or as the tendency to reify the Jews, or else as a projection of Gentile fantasies. The lecture will attempt to redress the balance by arguing that the study of philosemitism may enable the historian to understand better the nature of Gentile-Jewish relations, thereby allowing for an alternative approach to the widespread scholarly focus on antisemitism.

Dr Anthony D. Kauders teaches in the Department of History at the University of Keele. He is currently undertaking research on the German reception of psychoanalysis as part of a two-year grant by the DFG (German Research Council) at the University of Munich. Dr Kauders has published widely in the field of German-Jewish History. His most recent monograph, Unmögliche Heimat (Impossible Homeland), appeared with the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt in 2007.