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Jews and Non-Jews: Memories and Interactions from the Perspective of Cultural Studies

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Edited By Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich and Jacek Partyka

The book adds new studies of memories and interactions between Jews and non-Jews to the historical and cultural research on this topic. It gathers in one volume the results of work by scholars from several countries, while the topics of the articles cover various disciplines: history, sociology, psychology, literary and language studies. The specific themes refer to the cultures and interactions with non-Jews in places such as Kiev, Vienna, Ireland, Springfield, Sosúa as well as reflect upon interactions in literary texts by Czesław Milosz and other Polish writers, some contemporary Jewish-American novelists and South American writers. Finally there are texts referring to the experience of the Holocaust and the post-Holocaust trauma as well as German-Israeli and Polish-Jewish relations and heritage.
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Introduction

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It goes without saying that the perceptions of Jews, their culture and religion have played an important role in developing norms and standards of social life in Western nations. Since ancient times, the experience of Jewry has been marked by what in Hebrew is called galut, “exile”, the deliberate choice or, more often, repeated necessity to function as a community outside its home in the Land of Israel. The Jews gradually evolved to create a form of communal existence in the Diaspora – the nation without its own state managed to preserve its language, customs and ethnic identity within foreign, sometimes unfavorable or even hostile, contexts. Refusing to perceive their homelessness and displacement as a curse, the diasporic Jews adopted a strategy of controlled assimilation into the cultures that they chose or were forced to live in, without renouncing their ethnic separateness. The gift to reconcile the need of fitting in and remaining outside has become an almost stereotypical characteristic of Jews ever since. Throughout centuries the attitude to the “Jew” – simultaneously one of us and one of them – has become an index of tolerance in Western societies.

Within autonomous states, Jewish communities would often organize their own administrative units (e.g. kehillahs in Central and Eastern Europe), and they often resided together in parts of towns or cities. Despite their relative (because restricted) autonomy as well as their manifested difference, Jews were still part of local societies and, by their presence, would make significant contributions to local...

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