Jews, Money, Myth
Birkbeck, University of London, 17 June 2019
Associations between Jews and money give rise to some of the most deeply entrenched Jewish stereotypes. Ideas of Jews as driven by greed and miserliness have morphed and accumulated throughout history, and have been used to denigrate both rich and poor Jews. Modern antisemitic depictions of Jews as powerful, rootless and treacherous have drawn on a centuries-long imagery of Jews and their perceived attachment to money. As David Nirenberg has argued in Anti-Judaism (2013), the link between Jews and money has been routinely utilised to make judgments about contemporaneous political questions and to advance various ideologies.
Money has informed not only ideas of archetypical Jews, but also the social and political history of ordinary Jewish men and women across Europe. Jewish religious scholars engaged frequently with practical, religious and ethical questions pertaining to money, charity, poverty and wealth. Before the modern period, the economic usefulness of Jews could impact their legal status and protection by the state. Jews’ professions in the local economy also influenced the social dynamics between Jews and non-Jews. The prevalence of poverty among Jews, especially among those who migrated from Eastern Europe to Western countries in the 19th and 20th centuries, had a profound impact on the formation of Jewish political movements seeking to transform Jewish societies.
What function did money have in the history of anti-Jewish imagery and thought? How did the transformation of economic systems affect stereotypes of Jews, money, and ‘Jewish money’? How have modern Jewish political ideologies engaged with stereotypes linking Jews with money? How should historians analyse the relationship between real and imagined Jews when studying the place of money in Jewish/non-Jewish relations?
We invite submissions from scholars specialising in different periods and areas to present papers that explore these themes. Proposals from PhD students and early career scholars are particularly welcome.
This workshop is one of a series of events exploring themes from the exhibition Jews, Money, Myth at the Jewish Museum London (19 March – 7 July 2019) developed with the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London.
The workshop also forms part of an on-going collaboration between Birkbeck and New York University. On the evening of 17 June, Professor Hasia Diner, New York University, will deliver a public lecture: On the Road: Jewish Peddling and the Shaping of Jewish History which workshop participants are welcome to attend. Full details available here.
A paper proposal of 200-300 words, and a brief CV (no more than one page) should be sent to Tanesha Westcarr,firstname.lastname@example.org by 7 April 2019.
Some funding may be available for PhD students.
Professor Anthony Bale, School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London
Professor David Feldman, Director, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism
Dr Marc Volovici, Early Career Fellow, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism