International Conference

Jewish History and Culture in Early Modern Europe –

The Eighteenth Century Reconsidered



Sunday Evening, 24 June 2012: Künstlerverein Malkasten, Jacobistraße 6, 40211 Düsseldorf

Monday–Tuesday, 25–26 June 2012: Schloss Jägerhof/ Goethe-Museum Düsseldorf, Jacobistraße 2, 40211 Düsseldorf


During the past two decades our knowledge about the development of the history, culture and religion of the different Jewish communities in Europe from the medieval to the modern period has increased substantially. This gain in knowledge almost inevitably involved the emergence of new perspectives regarding the “big questions” and traditional topics. So far the pacemaker for new, innovative approaches and insights concerning processes of change and continuity within the Jewish society during the “century of Enlightenment” has mainly been the international research on the Haskalah. Particularly studies in legal history, the history of education and the history of ideas have stimulated the discussion.

The proposed conference intends to revise the confines of this approach and to broaden the perspective in terms of both content and methodology. Based on essential methodological and conceptual questions aiming at a comparative “localization” of the eighteenth century in pre-modern Jewish as well as general history, it will give priority to aspects such as everyday culture, social life, language, literature, cultures of knowledge and transformations of religious affiliation. These topics will serve as the background for a more precise exploration of the processes of interaction and exchange between the different Jewish communities and cultures in Europe as well as of the mutual impact and transfer between the Jewish society and its non-Jewish environment. A particular focus of the conference will thus be the dynamic poles of continuity and change, the tension between religious tradition, secularization and modernization within the Jewish community during the period of Enlightenment. This also implies the question regarding individual expressions of exploring more open lifestyles beyond the Jewish community as well as their social perception.

A crucial concern of this conference is bringing together current perspectives and innovative approaches in the field of Jewish Studies, Yiddish Studies, history, cultural studies and literary studies. The 16 to 18 invited speakers will, therefore, be internationally acknowledged representatives of different disciplines in the area of German, European and Jewish history in the early modern period.



Sunday, 24 June 2012

17:00 Welcome

Ulrich von Alemann, Vice President, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Bruno Bleckmann, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities


17:30 Keynote Lecture

Chair: Marion Aptroot (Düsseldorf)


Shmuel Feiner(Ramat-Gan)

Age of Conflicts and Inventions: New Perspectives on the Jewish Eighteenth Century




Monday, 25 June 2012

09:00 Introduction

Jörg Deventer(Leipzig)


09:15 Reconsidering Periodizations

Chair: Shmuel Feiner (Ramat-Gan)


Dan Diner (Jerusalem/Leipzig)

Point and Plane: Jewish Conflations in Space and Time


Gershon D. Hundert (Montreal)

The Localization of the Eighteenth Century in European Jewish History: A Singular Perspective


10:45 Coffee Break


11:15 Querying Paradigms

Chair: Christian Wiese (Frankfurt)


Heinz Schilling (Berlin)

Konfessionalisierung – Säkularisierung. Anmerkungen zu einem komplexen Verhältnis

Yosef Kaplan (Jerusalem)

Confessionalization and Secularization in the Judeoconverso Diaspora


12:45 Lunch Break


14:15 Change and Transition in Everyday Life (I)

Chair: Rebekka Voss (Frankfurt)


Magda Teter (Middletown, CT)

The Pleasures and Dangers of Daily Jewish-Christian Encounters


Stefan Litt (Jerusalem)

Games, Inns and Wine: Leisure Activities of Jews and Attempts to Ban them in Central Europe in the Eighteenth Century


15:45 Coffee Break


16:15 Change and Transition in Everyday Life (II)


Maoz Kahana (Jerusalem)

Medical Knowledge through a Jewish Lens: Rabbis, Physicians and Alchemists, Hamburg 1736


Natalie Naimark-Goldberg (Ramat-Gan)

Changing Perceptions of Marriage among Eighteenth-Century German Jews: The Modernization of a Traditional Institution


17:45 Coffee Break


18:15 Keynote Lecture

Introduction: Christian Wiese (Frankfurt)


David B. Ruderman (Philadelphia)

The Moral Cosmopolitanism of Pinhas Hurwitz, the Author of Sefer Ha-Brit: Some Initial Reflections on its Origins and Impact




Tuesday, 26 June 2012

9:15 Transfer and Dissemination of Knowledge (I)

Chair: Achim Landwehr (Düsseldorf)


Shlomo Berger (Amsterdam)

Between Internal and External Culture: Yiddish Books and their Gatekeeping Roles during the Eighteenth Century


Nathanael Riemer (Potsdam)

Generation, Presentation and Diffusion of Pre-Modern Knowledge in Early Modern Jewish Encyclopedias


10:45 Coffee Break


11:15 Transfer and Dissemination of Knowledge (II)


Simon Neuberg (Trier)

The Making of a Popular Work on Morals and Conduct: Simkhes hanefesh


Marion Aptroot (Düsseldorf)

A Yiddish Library for the Jewish Home: A Publisher’s Vision?


12:45 Lunch Break


14:00 Threshold Experiences

Chair: Jörg Deventer (Leipzig)


Todd M. Endelman (Ann Arbor)

Why Jews Became Christians in Central and Western Europe in the Eighteenth Century


Elliott Horowitz (Ramat-Gan)

An Italian Convert to Christianity in Eighteenth-Century England


15:30 Coffee Break


15:45 Perceiving the “Other”

Chair: Stefan Litt (Jerusalem)


Andrea Schatz (London)

Jewish Orients before the Enlightenment


Iris Idelson-Shein (Tel Aviv)

Race in Translation: Curious Encounters on the Threshold of Modernity


17:15 Concluding Remarks

Chair: Marion Aptroot (Düsseldorf)


Shmuel Feiner (Ramat-Gan), David B. Ruderman (Philadelphia)




Marion Aptroot, Chair of Yiddish Studies, Department of Jewish Studies, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf


Jörg Deventer, Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University


Christian Wiese, Martin Buber Chair in Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main



With the financial support of

  • Gesellschaft von Freunden und Förderern der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

  • Moe-Radzyner-Stiftung “Brückenschlag”

  • Philosophische Fakultät der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

  • Simon-Dubnow-Institut für Jüdische Geschichte und Kultur an der Universität Leipzig




Tel. +49-211/81-14292


The conference is open to the public. Admission is free.