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Aus Nordcarolina: The Jewish American South in German Jewish Periodicals of the Nineteenth Century 1

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Abstract For many German Jewish papers of the nineteenth century, the United States of America was held up as an ideal. This holds true especially for the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, then Germany’s most influential Jewish publication. In America, Jews had already achieved what their co-religionists in Germany strove for until complete legal emancipation with the formation of the German Empire in 1871: the transition from ‘Jews in Germany’ via ‘German Jews’ to ‘Germans of the Jewish faith.’ Thus, the experiences of Jews from Germany in America represented the post-emancipation hopes for those who had remained behind. 2 When examined for the representation of Jewry living in the American Southern states, 3 it becomes apparent that German Jewish papers in their coverage of America largely refrained from a regionalization. Most articles and accounts concerning Jewish life in the South do not show any significant distinctiveness in the perception of the region and its Jews. The incidents presented or the comments sent to the papers might in fact have occurred in respectively dealt with any region of the United States at the time, barring anything that remotely dealt with slavery or secession prior to 1865. When the Jewish South was explicitly dealt with in the papers, however, it either functioned as an ‘über-America’ of the negative stereotypes in respect to low Jewish piety, or took the place of an alternative America of injustice and slavery—the ‘anti-America.’ Jewish Southerners who actively supported the region during the Civil War, or who had internalized the South’s moral values as supporters of the Confederacy and/or slavery were condemned in the strongest words for endangering the existence of ‘America the Ideal.’ As the concept of the United States and its Jewish life is represented in a largely unrealistic manner that almost exclusively focused on the positive aspects of Jewish life in America, the concept of the Jewish South was equally far from being accurate.


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