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Jewish Masculinities

Jewish Masculinities: German Jews, Gender, and History

Benjamin Maria Baader
Sharon Gillerman
Paul Lerner
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Indiana University Press
Pages: 254
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    Jewish Masculinities
    Book Description:

    Stereotyped as delicate and feeble intellectuals, Jewish men in German-speaking lands in fact developed a rich and complex spectrum of male norms, models, and behaviors. Jewish Masculinities explores conceptions and experiences of masculinity among Jews in Germany from the 16th through the late 20th century as well as emigrants to North America, Palestine, and Israel. The volume examines the different worlds of students, businessmen, mohels, ritual slaughterers, rabbis, performers, and others, shedding new light on the challenge for Jewish men of balancing German citizenship and cultural affiliation with Jewish communal solidarity, religious practice, and identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-00221-1
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-xii)
    Benjamin Maria Baader, Sharon Gillerman and Paul Lerner
  4. INTRODUCTION German Jews, Gender, and History (pp. 1-22)

    This volume, an exploration of maleness and manliness among German Jews, presents innovative historical investigations of the lives, experiences, and identities of Jewish men. Its chapters stretch from the early modern period through the late twentieth century and treat German Jews in Germany, as well as in exile and emigration in North America, Palestine, and Israel. Its contributors engage with traditional Jewish texts, Jewish and non-Jewish social and religious practices, and anti-Semitic discourses on Jews; at the same time,Jewish Masculinitiesfocuses closely on German and German Jewish cultures and contexts. The book builds on a growing body of scholarship...

  5. 1 Respectability Tested Male Ideals, Sexuality, and Honor in Early Modern Ashkenazi Jewry (pp. 23-49)

    Veith Kahn was everything a seventeenth-century Jewish man was not supposed to be. In business, he was no more than an agent for other members of the Frankfurt Jewish community. He sporadically dealt in the linen trade, and his attempts to mix with the merchant elite proved disastrous. In fact, Kahn seemed cursed with bad fortune. He declared bankruptcy at least twice in his lifetime, when he lost his businesses in Hamburg and in Amsterdam. According to his own account, Kahn was so aggressively hounded by creditors that he was forced to leave Frankfurt. Kahn was captured after an attempt...

  6. 2 Jewish Difference and the Feminine Spirit of Judaism in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Germany (pp. 50-71)

    In sermons, Bible commentaries, pedagogical literature, and a variety of other publications, nineteenth-century German Jewish preachers and rabbis lauded Jewish women. They praised the superior moral and religious temperament of the female sex, declared mothers and wives to be the pillars of modern Judaism, and developed a true cult of the Jewish mother and of feminine religiosity.¹ In this chapter, I will discuss how two Jewish leaders in this period, Samson Raphael Hirsch, who is often considered the founder of modern Orthodoxy in Germany, and the Reform rabbi Adolf Jellinek in Vienna took this exaltation of the female to another...

  7. 3 Moral, Clean Men of the Jewish Faith Jewish Rituals and Their Male Practitioners, 1843–1914 (pp. 72-89)

    In September 1887, the leadership of the Frankfurt-based Free Association for the Interests of Orthodox Judaism contacted their member rabbis as part of a newly launched investigation into the character and training of localmohelim(ritual circumcisers). Earlier that summer, several of the organization’s key leaders had publicly articulated concern over the reputation and integrity of ritual practitioners. At a moment when anti-Semites were increasingly identifying Jewish ritual practices as worrisome and when German-speaking Jews appeared to be relaxing certain standards of Jewish religious observance, the Free Association’s leadership worried that somemohelimfailed to exemplify a morally upstanding lifestyle....

  8. 4 A Soft Hero Male Jewish Identity in Imperial Germany through the Autobiography of Aron Liebeck (pp. 90-113)

    Women write diaries, men write books. Women talk about their lives, men talk about the world. And when historians ask questions, they tend to ask female subjects about the private sphere and male subjects about the public sphere. At least since Karin Hausen’s pathbreaking essay on the polarization of “gender characteristics,” we know that this alleged division between the two spheres is part and parcel of a middle-class gender ideology. Indeed, Marion Kaplan has shown how useful an investigation of the “female sphere”—based primarily on private or personal sources—can be for our understanding of the “making of the...

  9. 5 Performing Masculinity Jewish Students and the Honor Code at German Universities (pp. 114-137)

    InThe Loyal Subject(Der Untertan), written between 1906 and 1914, Heinrich Mann produced a devastating satire of fraternity life. Mann’s protagonist, Diederich, initially preferred to drink as a guest with a student fraternity called Neu-Teutons without formally joining them, but the members insisted that “the aim of the association of students, namely, training in manliness and idealism, could not be fully achieved by mere drinking, important as that was.” It was participation in the student duels with swords that was central for this training in manliness. Thus, Diederich joined the Neu-Teutons, and since he slavishly followed the orders of...

  10. 6 Whose Body Is It Anyway? Hermaphrodites, Gays, and Jews in N. O. Body’s Germany (pp. 138-151)

    “N. O. Body” is a most appropriate pseudonym for Karl M. Baer (1885–1956) to have used when he sat down to pen his autobiography, which first appeared in 1907,¹ for being “nobody” was his way of seeing his body. It was doubly alienated (he writes “nobody” in English rather than German) because it was male as well as female, Jewish as well as German. This is how he imagined his earlier life raised to be a woman, Martha Baer, in a Jewish family in imperial Germany. But it is “nobody” that Odysseus tricks the Cyclops into answering when asked...

  11. 7 Toward a Theory of the Modern Hebrew Handshake The Conduct of Muscle Judaism (pp. 152-185)

    My interest in handshakes began some years ago, when a friend of mine, Menashe, unexpectedly rejected my handshake.¹ He told me that I had pressed his hand too hard and demanded that I shake it more gently instead. His reaction, I believe, was connected to his decision to change the manner of his own handshake, returning to that of his late father, who had immigrated to Israel from Baghdad in the 1950s. My friend asked me, in particular, to stop giving him the strong slaps on the back and shoulders that Israelis callchapcha. Like many of my fellow countrymen,...

  12. 8 Friedrich Gundolf and Jewish Conservative Bohemianism in the Weimar Republic (pp. 186-196)

    Friedrich Gundolf (1880–1931), the influential Weimar literary scholar and Heidelberg professor, was in many ways a classic Jewish Wagnerian.¹ The notion of “Jewish Wagnerianism,” which derives from the Jewish studies scholar Daniel Boyarin, refers to those Jewish men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who fled the effeminate, queer, hysterical Jew of fin-de-siècle anti-Semitic discourse by embracing an aggressive masculinism of Western culture.² Coming of age at the turn of the twentieth century, Gundolf fled his Jewishness in the most literal sense, choosing as his mentor the neo-Romantic poet-prophet Stefan George (1868–1933). The gentile George gave...

  13. 9 A Kinder Gentler Strongman? Siegmund Breitbart in Eastern Europe (pp. 197-209)

    Through his spectacular displays of strength, bending iron and biting through chains, Siegmund Breitbart had become one of Europe’s most popular entertainment sensations in the 1920s. Breitbart performed his feats of strength in a variety of typical masculine personas, but the most well known and frequently reproduced image of him was as a Roman centurion. Breitbart frequently made his grand entrance onto the stage riding in a chariot pulled by four white horses while accompanied by two men on horseback blowing trumpets to announce his arrival. The centurion was an intriguing figure to have become the strongman’s signature persona, since,...

  14. 10 Family Matters German Jewish Masculinities among Nazi Era Refugees (pp. 210-232)

    Recalling his close relationship with his father, Henry Salfeld wrote in his memoir that his father was anxious to bring up his son as “a proud Jew and also a German patriot.” Elected to head the local chapter of the Reichsbund jüdischer Frontsoldaten (RjF; Association of Jewish Combat Veterans), Richard Offenbacher remembered that every year on Memorial Day he led a parade of its members and delivered a speech in front of the war memorial at the Jewish cemetery. Taken from the memoirs of German Jewish refugees during the Nazi era, these are only two instances among many that reference...

  15. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS (pp. 233-234)
  16. INDEX (pp. 235-242)