Was Urbanization Harmful to Jewish Tradition and Identity in Germany?

Steven M. Lowenstein

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

Was Urbanization Harmful to Jewish Tradition and Identity in Germany?

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German Jewry has often been depicted in terms of the contrast between a core area of traditional Jewishness in small towns and an urban Jewish population that was culturally creative and prosperous but weak in Jewish identity and commitment. According to this scenario, urbanization was an important element in the overall process of “modernization” that led away from tradition and toward secularization and eventual assimilation. This picture of urbanization as a move away from Judaism was not only widespread among German Jews; it has also found favor among scholars dedicated to the study of German Jewry. This chapter considers whether there is a basis in fact for the view of urbanization in German Jewry as a move toward assimilation, in contrast with the forces in the United States and other countries.

Keywords: German Jews; German Jewry; urbanization; assimilation; Judaism

Chapter.  14058 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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