Jewish Migration to the Metropolises of Europe, 1848-1918: A Comparative Perspective

Jewish Migration to the Metropolises of Europe, 1848-1918: A Comparative Perspective

Universität Wien, Institut für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte, Dr. Ingo Haar und Prof. Dr. Josef Ehmer
Jüdisches Museum Wien, Springer Schlössl Wien
Vom - Bis
10.12.2009 - 13.12.2009
Dr. Ingo Haar

The planned conference ‘Jewish Migration and Integration to the Metropolises of Europe, 1848-1918’ brings together scholars from both sides of the Atlantic who are active in this field in the USA, Europe and Israel.


Since the middle of the 19th century, and increasingly after 1880/90, several million Jews migrated from the formerly divided Poland, from Rumania and from Russia to Western Europe or, alternatively, to North and South America. Today, Jewish migration and integration history is regarded both as trans-national history and as European history with global implications. This conference, which is to be held in Vienna in late 2009, addresses the issue of ‘Jewish Migration and Integration in the Metropolises of Europe, 1848-1918’. The organisers will assume travel and conference costs; the publication of the results is planned.

In recent years, terms such as ‘acculturation’ and ‘assimilation’ have increasingly been recognised as political-historical constructs based on certain social-technical premises. Migrants are attributed per se with a need to adapt to the ‘majority society’ without any claim on free spaces that could allow for their own socio-cultural differences. Thus Jewish migration history has frequently been written in two different ways: On the one hand, as a history of consecutive practices of exclusion and expulsion, against which particularly Jewish organisations resisted with greater or lesser degrees of success, and, on the other, as a history of successful integration. The relevant literature treats both aspects, whose interactions have rarely been examined, as being typical of the Jewish experience. This detachment from general migration studies has led to a situation where new concepts such as disintegration and exclusion, segregation, acquisition and defiance have remained almost entirely unexamined and unused. The complex field of interlocking inclusion and exclusion mechanisms – directed against migrants in general and against specific socially, ethnically and religiously defined groups – has rarely been illuminated.

At the same time, the conference will build upon sociological reflections on the ambivalence of modernity (Zygmunt Baumann/Michel Foucault) and on the dialectics of social justice and recognition (Nancy Fraser/Judith Butler/Seyla Benhabib). It will give credence to the impulses emerging from this corner and develop them further. After all, modernity holds out not only the promise of inclusion but also entails risks and exclusionary practices. This aspect plays an important role in the topic under discussion here since migration from East to West also represented a transfer from societies that were still under the sway of the ancien régime, and thus still in the throes of modernisation, into a part of Europe that was already divided into modern nation-states that regarded themselves as more or less ethnically homogeneous entities. In addition, modernism has in more recent times been understood as a process of continuous ‘de-placement’, which has been intersected by constant attempts at ‘re-placement’. These processes were largely focussed on the cities in the wake of a secular internal migration process. But at the same time, the cities were the places where the overwhelming majority of Jewish (and most other) migrants congregated. The contributions should thus examine the history of Jewish migration to the West as a multi-perspectival history of urban societies and their dynamic transformation within the give and take of exclusion and inclusion, integration and segregation, attribution and identity.

In the process, it will be necessary to challenge a dichotomy that is frequently implicit in Jewish historiography: On the one hand, European Jews per se have been regarded as a mobile, educated, socially climbing population group that was linked to the rise of capitalism and was deeply involved in the urbanisation process. This directly contradicts the notion that the new nation-states more or less excluded Jews emigrating from ‘the East’ by integrating them into homogenisation and/or assimilation processes. As cultures transformed, these practices were increasingly interpreted from an essentialist or race biology perspective. In fact, after Jews began migrating to the Central European metropolises starting in 1848 and particularly after 1880/90, the ‘New Nationalism’ of the 1880s increasingly began attributing them with a role as outsiders, regardless of whether they migrated internally from the crisis areas on the periphery of Eastern Europe or arrived in the West due to pogroms.

Key Questions

The contributions examine the following themes. Papers that compare or relate Jewish migration experiences to those of other groups are of particular interest:

1) How did Jewish self-organisation function in labour and educational associations as well as in emigration agencies when, starting in 1880, the European nation-states were confronted by mass emigration from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe before they had developed their own government instruments for the humanitarian regulation and cushioning of economic and forced migration? Who came together in these organisations and how was policy developed there? This refers to the Alliance Israélite and its trans-national fields of activity from a post-colonial perspective.

2) How did the respective national constructs in the European metropolises impact Jewish migration and integration after 1860? This concerns not only the reactions of the proponents of national community-building in politics and the public sphere to Jewish migration, but also the interaction between the already ‘assimilated’ communities and the new migrants from the ‘East’. The focus is not only on the formation of associations in the field of Jewish sociable and welfare organisations along with educational, colonisation and settlement associations, but also conflicts and conflict management throughout all social groups.

3) What defiance strategies did Jewish migrants from East-Central and South-Eastern Europe develop in order to carve out their own urban spaces in the European cities? This refers to the formation of networks through associations and prayer houses. How did these institutions correspond to gender-specific opportunities for work, social mobility and political participation?

4) Did ‘parallel’ societies exist in the European metropolises of the 19th century? If so, how and by whom were they constituted? How did specific residential areas, such as the ‘Grätzl’ or ‘Pletzl’, impact the inclusion and exclusion of migrants? Were these merely transit points or were they also places of lasting interest?

5) How did societies and milieus in the metropolises react to migration? This refers to the various practices of inclusion and exclusion across the spectrum of migration and immigration bans, all the way to the construction of a ‘Jewish question’. This simultaneously includes the reactive response in the form of Jewish nationalism.


Thursday, December 10, 2009
Jewish Museum Vienna
5.30-8.00 p.m.


Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek (Jewish Museum Vienna)

Ilan Knapp (Jewish Community Vienna)

Josef Ehmer (University of Vienna)

Catherine Horel (Université de Paris 1.):
Jewish associative life in the multicultural cities of the Habsburg Empire around 1900

Friday, December 11, 2009
Springer Schlößl
Panel I:
Eastern European Jewish Migration and Civil Society I
Moderator: Josef Ehmer (University of Vienna)
9.00-10.30 a.m.

Eugene M. Avrutin (University of Illinois):
Mass migration and the dilemmas of travel from the Russian Empire

Bjoern Siegel (Hebrew University of Jerusalem):
Brussels, Berlin and Brody - Jewish organizations and their strategies against mass immigration from Eastern Europe (1872-1882)

10.30-11.00 a.m.
Coffee Break

Eastern European Jewish Migration and Civil Society II
11.00 a.m. -12.30 p.m.

Ingo Haar (University of Vienna):
The ‘Israelitische Allianz Wien’ and the Pogroms in First World War Galicia: Negotiations, the Misery of the Camps and Repatriation

Patrick Kury (University of Bern):
Between socio-cultural differences and nationalistic reflex: Migration and Jewish life in Switzerland in 1900

12.30-2.00 p.m.
Lunch and Break

Panel II:
Jewish Immigration and Integration in the Cities of Northern Europe
Moderator: Tobias Metzler (University of Southampton)
2.00-4.00 p.m.

Anders Hammarlund (Stockholm University):
A prayer for modernity: Cantor Abraham Baer’s Jewish liturgy reform and Swedish national identity

Carl Henrik Carlson (Uppsala University):
Interaction between ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ Jews in Stockholm

Christop Buller (Technical University of Berlin):
Eastern European Jewish immigrants in Copenhagen, 1880-1918

4.00-4.30 p.m.
Coffee Break

Panel III:
Jewish Immigration and Integration in the Cities of Western Europe I.
Moderator: David Feldman (Birkbeck University of London):
4.30-6.30 p.m.

Veerle Vanden Daelen (University of Michigan):
In the port city we meet? Sub-ethnic Jewish cultures in Antwerp, 1880-1914

Rosa Reicher (University of Heidelberg):
Clustering, segregation and ‘Little Jerusalem’: Jewish migration to Dublin

Frank Caestaecker (University of Ghent):
Jewish migrants in Belgium in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century: The dynamics of immigration and political, demographic and economic factors
7.00 p.m.

Saturday, December 12, 2009
Springer Schlößl
Panel IV:
Jewish Immigration and Integration in the Cities of Western Europe II
Moderator: Leo Lucassen (Leiden University)
9.00-11.00 a.m.

Yael Granot-Bein (University of Haifa):
Conflict and compromise: Anglo-Jewish policy towards destitute immigrants. Jewish Families from Eastern Europe, 1881-1914

David Feldman (Birkbeck University of London):
Conservative pluralism: a framework for understanding Jewish integration in London, 1848-1914

Peter Tammes (Leiden University):
Eastern European Jewish migration to Amsterdam: transmigration and settlement

11.00-11.30 a.m.
Coffee Break

Panel V:
Jewish Immigration and Integration: Comparison of Metropolises in Western and ‘Central Europe’
Moderator: Joachim Schlör (University of Southampton)
11.30 a.m. -1.00 p.m.

Tobias Metzler (University of Southampton) :
Transitory refuge: The London Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter and the Paris Asile Israélite de nuit in comparative perspective

Matthias Thorns (University of Hanover):
Solidarity in times of crisis: Jewish solidarity in Berlin and London with Eastern Jewish immigrants during the First World War

1.00-2.00 p.m.
Lunch and Break

Panel VI:
Jewish Immigration and Integration in the German Empire
Moderator: Joachim Schlör (University of Southampton)
2.00-4.00 p.m.

Sabine Sander (University of Erfurt):
Haskala and Reform Judaism as a contribution to the integration of metropolitan culture - Mendelssohn and Lazarus

Ramona Wöllner (University of Halle-Wittenberg) :
German Jews in the tug-of-war between the “enlightened” tradition and Eastern Jews ‘old’ tradition

Michael L. Miller (CEU Budapest)
Ungarian Jews in Wilhelmine Empire

4.00-4.30 p.m.
Coffee Break

Panel VII:
Jewish Migration and Integration in Habsburg Empire
Moderator: Klaus Hödl (University of Graz)
4.30-6.00 p.m.

Katerina Capkova (New York University of Prague):
Jewish migration to Prague and its impact on Prague Jewish society, 1848-1914

Barbara Staudinger (University of Vienna):
Jewish welfare for Eastern European refugees in early 20th century Vienna: Integration and instrumentalisation

7.00 p.m.

Sunday, December 13, 2009
Springer Schlößl

Panel VIII:
Jewish Migration and Integration in Vienna
Moderator: Ingo Haar (University of Vienna)
9.00-11.00 a.m.

Klaus Hödl (University of Graz):
Jewish experiences in Vienna around 1900

Markus Helmut Lenhart (Hebrew University of Jerusalem):
Between truth and fiction - Eastern Jewish life in Isidor Kaufmann’s art

Iris Meder (University of Natural Resources and Applied
Life Sciences, Vienna) :
Networks of Jewish Architects of Vienna Modernism

11.00-11.30 a.m.
Coffee Break

Panel IX:
Global Perspectives
11.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m.

Lara Rabinovitsch (University of New York):
Pastrama, cashcaval and eggplant: Little Roumania as a site of cultural identification in early 20th century New
York City
12.30-2.00 p.m.

2.00-2.30 p.m.
Joachim Schlör (University of Southampton)

2.30-3.30 p.m.
Moderation: Ingo Haar
Leo Lucassen, Joachim Schlör v.a.

3.30 p.m.