I've been invited to speak again at a symposium in July at the Yiddish Summer Weimar, an ambitious workshop/festival on Yiddish music and culture that takes place for about a month in Weimar, the Germany city more associated with Goethe, Schiller and a failed "Republic" than with East European Jewish traditions....
This year's Symposium July 12-14, and the Yiddish Summer as a whole, are dedicated to a project called "The Other Europeans" -- an intercultural dialogue exploring Yiddish and Roma music, culture and identity.
I'll be speaking about popular images of Jews and Yiddish culture in Europe, including stereotypes, cliches and kitsch. I'll discuss their inherent ambiguities in a world that straddles the Jewish and non-Jewish community and where stereotypes and shorthand often take the place of nuanced definitions.
As I noted in my last post, from LA -- boundaries between insider and outsider, believer and non-believer, devotee and ironic observer can sharply delineate the differences between kitsch and caricature, art and artifice, stereotype and homage. Perspectives shift, and the boundaries often blur; the images and their meaning are often decidedly in the eye of the beholder, and they are frequently dictated by changing religious realities, philo-Semitic, often engineered nostalgia, and the powerful exigencies of the marketplace.
As the author of National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, I have roamed thousands of miles around Europe's historic Jewish heartland, bringing Jewish heritage to light for on-site explorers and armchair travelers alike. On this blog I will post photographs, links and personal experiences related to Jewish heritage sites and travel, particularly in the countries of east-central Europe.
Aside from clearly marked quotations, links and pictures, all material on this blog is copyright ⓒ Ruth Ellen Gruber
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant.