Jewish Europe Today. Between Memory and Everyday Life 

New Volume Explores the Challenges and Opportunities for Jews in Europe 

Groundbreaking new research on European Jewish community trends are situated amidst a fast changing continent in a new book – Jewish Europe Today. Between Memory and Everyday Life available today from Krakow-based publisher Austeria. eJewishPhilanthropy is offering exclusive access to three chapters for its readers.  

The volume, edited by social anthropologist Marcelo Dimentstein and sociologist Ewa Tartakowsky, draws from papers delivered at the Third Conference of Emerging Researchers in Contemporary Jewish Europe. The confab, held in October 2017 at the POLIN Museum of Polish Jews, was sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s International Centre for Community Development (JDC-ICCD) in partnership with the Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University. As the editors note:  

“Jewish life in Europe coexists between normalcy and vibrancy and the appearance of new vulnerabilities including anti-Semitism, terrorism, the place of minorities in society, and community demographics, which are emerging as prominent concerns impacting communities across the region. Not to mention the crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.   

In a sense, this new scenario started to take shape in 2014, when the terrorist attacks on Hyper-Casher in Paris and a synagogue in Copenhagen, took place. These acts of violence abruptly changed the agenda for Jewish communities, repositioning issues related to security and disaster-responsiveness. Once again, a global conversation on the sustainability of Jewish life in Europe ensued. Additionally, and fundamentally, this raised a general awareness shared by the majority of Jewish communal leaders in Europe, that the current situation would be long term. The last edition of the JDC European Jewish Community Leaders’ Survey depicts how antisemitism became a more central concern across Europe. If in 2008 only 23 percent considered it as a serious threat for the future of Jewish community life, a decade later, in 2018, 56 percent considered it a very serious threat. Moreover, 66 percent think that antisemitism will increase over five to ten years. 

This is taking place against the backdrop of a continually diminishing distinction, maybe even a reversal, between the communities of the ‘East’ and ‘West’. If this was once a shorthand to represent the type of community, its activities and its leadership, today every community is unique and on its own journey. Traumatic history is less defining of a community’s present and there are today flagship communities who less than 30 years ago were under Communist rule with almost no Jewish identity and institutions.” 

Chapters explore a diversity of issues present in European Jewish life today. They include: antisemitism in Europe as a complex and multifaceted phenomenon; how “Jewish” is Jewish social welfare in France today; and the legal aspects of Jewish ritual slaughter in contemporary Poland. eJewishPhilanthropy readers can read chapters on Jewish revivalism in Hungary; the formation of Rabbis in Germany, and the debate on the legacy and meaning of the Venice Ghetto for current inhabitants.  

The volume aims to contribute to a better understanding of some of the challenges and opportunities that European Jewish life currently face. In the crossroads between a well-documented renaissance and the rise of hate and antisemitism, between normalcy and the need for more protection and security, the editors believe the research contained in Jewish Europe Today. Between Memory and Everyday Life depict a Jewish life in Europe poised to continually reinvent its own destiny. 

[Editors note: The 3 chapters will be highlighted in our ‘daily update’ over the coming week.]