Conference Sephardim and Ashkenazim - Jewish-Jewish Encounters in History and Literature

Zentrum Jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg (ZJS); Universität Potsdam; Europa Universität Viadrina Frankfurt/O.
31.10.2016-02.11.2016, Berlin, Humboldt Graduate School, Luisenstr. 56,
10117 Berlin
Deadline: 15.03.2016

Fourth Annual Conference of the Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg (ZJS)

Sephardim and Ashkenazim - Jewish-Jewish Encounters in History and Literature

Berlin, October 31-November 2, 2016

Conveners: Prof. Dr. Sina Rauschenbach (University of Potsdam), Prof.
Dr. Kerstin Schoor (European University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder)For a long time, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Judaism have been studied separately.
Scholars have either dedicated their works to histories and literatures of Iberian Jews or to those of their French, German and Eastern European counterparts. Essays entirely dedicated to comparisons or the study of entanglements between both groups can be counted on the fingers of both hands. To this day, Hirsch Jakob Zimmels' "Ashkenazim and Sephardim"
(1958) is the only monograph aiming at a systematic comparison between Ashkenazi and Sephardic religious thought and traditions.

However, scholarship is becoming ever more aware of the problematic separation and the need to integrate the study of both Sephardic and Ashkenazi history, religion and thought into one field of Jewish Studies. Recent articles and books tend to focus on similarities and differences in historical dynamics and developments between these groups. Since 2012, three monographs have been published dealing with what Ismar Schorsch has famously called "the myth of Sephardic supremacy" in eighteen- and nineteenth-century German Judaism. At the same time, some medievalists have even brought into question the legitimacy of labels like 'Sephardim' and 'Ashkenazim' for early historical periods and instead pleaded for a re-consideration of "multiplicities of Jewish Diasporas as sub-ethnic groups" (Jonathan Ray).

The conference is intended to act as a continuation of and stimulus for these and further discussions. We welcome papers that combine case studies with new conceptional approaches, as well as contributions considering Sephardic-Ashkenazi relationships in theory and praxis, religious differences and influences, or narratives that deal with the respective Jewish other, be they from within or without Judaism. We also encourage participants to reflect upon questions of belonging and different identities within Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewries. Ultimately, the conference aims to combine new insights from different disciplines and established fields of research such as Jewish Studies, Sephardic Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Eastern European Studies, General History and Literature. It will cover the period spanning from the early modern era, the epoch that marked the construction of Sephardic and Ashkenazi identities, until today. The geographical focus is on Europe, although countries and cultures outside of Europe may be taken into consideration for the sake of comparison. 

The conference languages will be English and German. The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2016. Please send your abstract (300-400 words) and a short academic biography to

Viola Beckmann

Zentrum Jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg Sophienstr. 22a, 10178 Berlin

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31 October 2016 - 2 November 2016