Call for Papers
Annual International Conference of the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem
“Natural Jews. New Approaches to (German) Jews in Environmental History”
27/28 January 2021
in cooperation with the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies, the Institute of Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp, the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Israel, the Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Leo Baeck Institute in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
The proposed conference will open a discussion on the history of the Jews in Germany and Central Europe in relation to nature, landscape and physical environment – in their native countries and later in the Land of Israel and the State of Israel. We intend to link the study of Jewish history in Germany and Central Europe and the Jewish emigration from Germany to the Land of Israel to environmental history and thereby explore new perspectives on richly debated political, social, religious, economic aspects of the history of Central European Jewry.
Studies in the field of environmental history have revealed fascinating aspects of the relationship between modern German nationalism, the German state and the environment. For example, the attitude to water, forest, and landscape as developed in Germany was shaped by Enlightenment thought and “improvement” politics through romanticism, the rise of nationalism in the 19th century until the First World War, the Weimar era and the Nazi regime. Political and cultural forces in Germany needed images of the landscape (among other things around the establishment and development of the Heimat concept) and even took an active part in its redesign. As (local) natural history societies as well as natural history museums and collections were also fundamental institutions in this process, Jewish membership and participation in these endeavors was widespread but has not yet gained sufficient attention.
The historiography of German Jews, which recently faced the challenge of the spatial turn and its impact on the life of the Jews in the era of emancipation as well as in the face of anti-Semitism and Nazism, has so far mainly dealt with aspects of urban life. The relationship to nature was mainly addressed in the context of Jewish youth movements and the work of the Hachsharot activities (agricultural training), but has not yet been widely discussed. The proposed conference will strive to advance research on the history of the Jews in Germany in relation to rural spaces and nature and to connect the field of Jewish Studies to environmental history.
Studies of Zionism have already analyzed links to images and practices related to nature and landscape, but have not yet systematically engaged with environmental history. In a more focused way, the attitude of Jewish immigrants from Europe in general and from Germany and Central Europe in particular to the different aspects of nature and landscape in their new homeland has not yet been fully examined. We intend to develop a discussion of attitudes to the climate of Israeli land, sea, desert, flora and fauna and other dimensions of human-nature interactions and to examine their reflection in the world-views and self-consciousness of Jewish and German immigrants from Central Europe in the face of landscape memory and homeland (Heimat) construction.
Because of the current limitations in movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic we plan to hold the conference online.
Applicants should include a summary of no more than 200 words, and a CV not exceeding 150 words in text.
Proposals for paper topics should be submitted by 31 July 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org
Proposals will be reviewed and selected by a committee. Applicants will be notified by August.
Dr. Irene Aue-Ben-David, Dr. Steffen Hagemann, Dr. Dominik Hünniger, Dr. Sharon Livne, Prof. Guy Miron, Prof. Miriam Rürup, Prof. Galili Shahar