Jewish Scholars Project
Jewish Scholars in Saxony. Participation, Disadvantage and Exclusion
An Online Exhibition
The project is part of the funding initiative »Virtual Archives for Research in the Humanities« sponsored by the Saxon Ministry of Science and Art. In the framework of an overarching project coordinated by the Saxon Academy of Sciences (SAW) aiming at the creation of a collaborative data repository, the Leibnitz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow is creating a registry of Jewish scholars working in Saxony in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The data collection will combine biographical sketches with information on the scholars' significance and work, which will be prepared systematically for scholarship and the interested public in the form of a web portal.
The project aims rather to locate the biographical material between the descriptive historical categories of ascendency and success on the one hand and disadvantage and exclusion on the other. The focus on Saxony promises new insights in numerous respects. In the nineteenth century, the Kingdom of Saxony was one of the most industrialized territories in the German-speaking world. Following its incorporation into the German Empire, Saxony underwent a drive towards economic and social modernization which resulted not least of all in a rapid development of the educational sector and scholarship. For Jews, this did not only mean formal legal equality but also new perspectives for livelihoods and lifestyles. The pedagogic concepts that had reigned in the Jewish communities hitherto transformed within a very short period, and Jewish students rushed to gain entry to the institutes of higher education and academic training occupations. Their enthusiasm for the bourgeois culture of knowledge reflected their wish to overcome the social disadvantages they often still faced. For although Saxony appeared as an economic and demographic prototype of a modern industrial state, it remained politically and culturally a model state of reaction and was shaped by conservatism. Modern antisemitism also began to organize itself from an early stage in Saxony. The representation of the history of Jewish scholars thus foregrounds the often uncompleted and later misaligned path of Jewish acculturation and assimilation in the context of the Saxon scholarly community. The focus on the history of Jewish scholars in Saxony moreover allows for the multilateral process of modernization and its inherent contradictions to be illuminated.
The first stage of the project is dedicated to Jewish scholars at Leipzig University. This is justified alone from the prominent position of this university: It was for a long time the only state university and thus exerted an enormous pull on students domestically and abroad. A range of soon-to-become prominent Jewish scholars studied in Leipzig, including Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Émile Durkheim, Marc Bloch, and Edmund Husserl. Then there were doctoral candidates such as Ignaz Goldziher, Selig Brodetsky, Bernard Katz, and Josef Burg. University lecturers in Leipzig included people such as Julius Fürst, Felix Hausdorff, Hans Mayer, and Ernst Bloch. The second stage of the project will include other Saxon institutes of higher education founded later, such as the Technical University in Dresden and the School of Commerce in Leipzig. These also became attractive for Jewish scholars as a result of industrial modernization and the increasing significance of academic professions. The potential insights afforded by a history of Jewish scholars will be presented on the planned website in the form of a thematically broad opening text, specific key areas, and biographical sketches. In addition, the biographical material will be augmented in cooperation with the Leipzig University Archive with thematically relevant data sets from the university. Interactive maps and graphs on the website will allow questions to be posed of the data material based on the register of Jewish students (1798–1909), information on the revocation of academic degrees from 1937 to 1944, and the personnel register of university lecturers. This will allow for the representation, for example, of the places of origin of the Jewish students, their most popular areas of study, and the biographical intersections of prominent Jewish scholars in Leipzig. The combination of data-based representations of knowledge, surveying texts, and biographical sketches will allow a user-friendly access to Jewish history in Saxony for students, researchers, lecturers, and teachers, and thereby offer new insights onto modernity and its flaws.
The website is planned to go online in mid-2019.
Dr. Ulrich Schuster, Dubnow-Institut