Antisemitism and the City: A Beginner's Guide

Hillel J. Kieval

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry an Annual XV 1999

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780195134681
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848652 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Antisemitism and the City: A Beginner's Guide

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This chapter begins by offering a counterpoint to the view, often found in studies of modern antisemitism, that Jews have occupied a central role in the evolution of the modern city, that their presence and stake in urban culture has been so high as to render them the symbolic equivalent of the city itself. It rejects the view that modern anti-Semitism is best understood as a discursive critique of the “modernity” and “urbanity” of the Jew. It suggests that the predicament of “traditional” urban interests in the face of the overwhelming reality of Jewish emancipation bore a phenomenological resemblance to earlier urban challenges and predicaments. The equality of legal status for Jews, their freedom of movement and of settlement, equal access to education and (in theory, at least) occupations constituted an apparently irreversible defeat for one significant model of urban development. It is this sense of finality that accounts for the hyperbolic imagery of much of the anti-Jewish writing of the post emancipation years, in which the emancipation itself is portrayed as an “endgame” of history: not the beginning of a process, but its final point.

Keywords: Jews; modern antisemitism; urban culture; modern city; emancipation

Chapter.  9133 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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