Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bartholomew's Notes on Christian Philo-Semitism

In a link to my recent posting about the Anne Frank apartment and to my Ruthless Cosmopolitan column, in which I mention the "virtually Jewish" scene in Krakow, L'viv and elsewhere, the Bartholomew's Notes on Religion blog links to a previous post that describes philo-Semitism and the use of Jewish symbols, "products" etc, by Christians in the U.S. and elsewhere. In it, Richard Bartholomew speaks of

a whole subculture of American Christians for whom Judeo-philia goes far beyond simple Christian Zionism.
This means

selling items associated with Jewish culture to Christians: shofars, mezuzahs, menorahs (engraved with a Star of David merged with a Christian “ichthus” sign), Kiddush cups, tambourines (”mentioned in Psalms”) and, in particular, Tallit prayer shawls

The phenomena have a lot of outward similarities. But at heart, what I was describing (i.e. the "Jewish cafe" and tourism scene in mainly Jew-less, post-Holocaust, post-Communist Europe) is quite different, as, in large part, there is little -- if any -- actual religious identification involved by now. The virtually Jewish scene as a whole in Europe does encompass people who were drawn by their sense of religious or spiritual connection, and I go into these aspects in my book Virtually Jewish Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.

It would be very interesting to carry out a more in depth investigation into the reasons that non-Jewish customers are now drawn to the Jewish-style cafe scene, to see how much of the motivation comes from religious or spiritual interest. The "Please Respond" public art project carried out this past summer by the anthropologist Erica Lehrer, Stephanie Rowden, and graphic designer Hannah Smotrich may contribute to an understanding of this.

I have only recently come across the Bartholomew's Notes blog. But it turns out that Richard Bartholomew and I actually have been published together -- we both contributed chapter-essays to the 2005 book Gerüchte über die Juden Antisemitismus, Philosemitismus und aktuelle Verschwörungstheorien, (Klartext Verlag: Essen), edited by Hanno Lowy, the director of the Jewish Museum in Hohenems, Austria. Bartholomew's essay was on Christian Zionism; mine was on Jewish Kitsch and Kitschy Jews.

, pp. 235-254 (Translated from my unpublished English text, “‘A Curiously Cold Affection‘: Christian Zionism, Philo-Semitism and ‘The Jew’”).

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