The primary concern of the Institute is to integrate Jewish history into general history in terms of content and method. Jewish history, conceived as a plural history of Jews in complex intercultural historical spaces, is investigated in a fundamental sense in its distinctively trans-national pan-European context. The express intention is to counter the emergence of an isolating perspective from either a Jewish or non-Jewish vantage.
At the very core of the research interest of the Institute is the European vantage inherent within Jewish history. Distinctive cultural characteristics of the Jewish population such as urbanity, mobility and trans-territorial and trans-national networking are explored against the backdrop of changing contexts in culture, society and systems of rule. Various methodological approaches are applied, including comparative studies on the process of secularization among the Jews in Western and Eastern Europe. More specifically, the respective identity and self-view of the individual Jewries are examined utilizing categories such as religion and confessio, nationality and citizenship, individual and the collective.
Against the backdrop of this overarching research profile, an innovative approach is sought to exploring the history of a “Jewish diplomacy” beyond the history of power of empires and nation-states. It concentrates on the strategies and international forums of individual advocates and organizations. Moving from a perspective grounded in the history of migration and against the backdrop of the high mobility of the Jews between East and West, a key question arises pertaining to changing Jewish identity, principally in the 19th century: what was Jewish self-understanding in the context of citizenship and affiliation with a state that was increasingly constituted along national lines? In addition, the Institute seeks to shed light in connection with the history of science on the reticulation of mutual relations between migration and innovation. From a perspective in cultural anthropology, of especial interest are religion and textuality as media of trans-national Jewish bonding. Central emblems of belonging such as Hebrew and other Jewish languages will be investigated in their importance for the process of transformation to modernity experienced by various Jewries.