06 May 2009

CONF: Bund and Borders: German Jewish Thinking Between Faith and Power

Jewish Museum Berlin, Lindenstrasse 9-14, 10969 Berlin, Germany
17-19 May 2009

Conference: "Bund and Borders: German Jewish Thinking Between Faith and Power"

The conference describes the history of German Jewry in light of two principle ideas: the notion of a Bund between the Jewish people and God and the need to define this Bund (Hebrew: Brith) within geopolitical and social borders.

Traditionally, German Jews stood between two systems of ideas: the world of fun­damental faith and religious commitment and the world of secular power in poli­tics. Since the Haskala, the majority of German Jews was committed to the idea of a religious Bund that should be transformed into a strong notion of cultural identity between well-defined borders. They did so by integrating the tools of intellectual critique on the one hand, and of moderate politics, on the other. Many German Jews transferred the same intermediary forms they learned and practiced to the cultures they were emigrating to, most notably to the heart of the Jewish Yishuv and then the new Jewish state. Responsible for much of the activity among Israel’s cultural elite, German Jews reworked an intensive culture of mediation and moderation.

Ingrained in today’s tension between religious and secular segments in Israeli society is the notion that many of the early achievements were rescinded. As a result, a variety of voices have recently pleaded to return to a model of German-Jewish critique, one that dares to ask difficult questions but strives to find mod­erate solutions. At the heart of this rediscovery lies a concept that immigrated with German Jews to Palestine; the supposedly utopian alternative to the Zionist idea of a Jewish State, or as Martin Buber called it, the "theopolitical". In the background of this utopia lies a radical critique that was formulated by the late Prague circle in Jerusalem, in Jacob Taubes’s correspondence with Carl Schmitt, and in the current debate on the relation between religion and politics in Israel.

"Bund and Borders" relates to the ideas of key German Jewish scholars who for­mulated a language of dialogue and defined distinctions between state and relig­ion, power and faith, operative language and its philosophy. With regard to these scholars the conference aims at defining a fruitful and promising relation be­tween the notion of Bund, in its religious and political form, and borders, in its geo-political context, its social as well as methodological relevance.

The first afternoon session on 18 May, 2-4 pm, is particularly concerned with "A Jewish Political Theology?":

Jacob Taubes redefined Carl Schmitt’s concept of political theology in terms of Jewish religious traditions, posing a series of questions: What is the task of po­litical theology in a world very different from the one Schmitt knew? How did it become such a hotly debated topic? How should it be contextualized? Presentations will be given by Vivian Liska (University of Antwerp), Menachem Lorberbaum (University of Tel Aviv), Nitzan Lebovic (University of Tel Aviv/University of Sussex).

The conference was initiated and shaped by Nitzan Lebovic and Mirjam Wenzel, two former Fellows of the Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme. It is organized by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Berlin and supported by the Stiftung "Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft". The programme can be found here:


For further information and registration please contact Johannes Sabel (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes): sabel@studienstiftung.de

Deadline for registration is 10 May.

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