"Who Am I?"

In the bourgeois society of the 19th century, religion and identity became increasingly personal matters. Each individual Jew answered for himself the questions: “Who is a Jew?” and “What does it mean to be a Jew?”

Jews who were not religious were still identified by many others in society as Jews. The political and social tensions that intensified in the late 19th century posed new problems for the Jews. Most were supporters of bourgeois liberalism or felt loyalty to the Kaiser. But the Liberal movement became increasingly nationalistic and anti-Semitic. And the Christian-Social Party made hatred of the Jews part of their platform. At the other end of the spectrum the labour movement was growing in strength. Somewhere in between these two poles, the Jewish bourgeoisie no longer had any political home. Individual Jews joined the workers’ movement. At the same time, political Zionism emerged in central Europe. It called for the establishment of a state for the Jews.

Many Jews turned away from politics and sought to overcome social discrimination and attain personal advancement in science, scholarship and progress. next