Research Focus I:

From the Jewish Enlightenment to the emergence of the Science of Judaism to Jewish studies in Prussia, Berlin, and Brandenburg

The replacement of a religious identity by a cultural one was conveyed in particular in the Jewish Enlightenment, the Haskalah. For this reason, one of the goals of the Center is to explore the development of the science of Judaism from its beginning until the emergence of Jewish studies of the 21st century.

To this day, Jewish studies follow the history and the results of the science of Judaism; meanwhile, they have substantially extended their disciplinary framework and range of methods. The Center focuses on the history of science of Jewish studies at its place of origin and the international center of the science of Judaism until 1933: Berlin and Brandenburg. Due to its proximity to the places, traditions, libraries and archives, the history of science profits from the “genius loci;” moreover, the unique concentration of academic institutions for Jewish studies and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science is a kind of “home advantage.”

Following the pluridisciplinarity of the Science of Judaism, the Center will pursue, analyze and document the development of individual fields within Jewish studies in a scientific-historical way from the beginnings up to the current state of research. Besides their specific qualification work, the doctoral and postdoctoral students will thus be familiarized with the science history of their respective field within Jewish studies and represent their field themselves for the first time. This corresponds to the recommendations of the German Scientific Council to make the science of history of the disciplines of humanities and cultural studies the subject of university teaching and especially of the promotion of young researchers. The focus on the Science of Judaism is especially suitable because it addressed the religious and profane Judaism in all historical epochs. With respect to the pluridisciplinarity of the Science of Judaism and Jewish studies today, it allows all scientists from Potsdam and Berlin the opportunity to tie in the science of history within their field, and connect it to their own state of research.

The inter- and transdisciplinary analysis of this focus does not only allow for a historical reconstruction of the history of Judaism in Berlin and Brandenburg. Rather, it gives an insight into the political and social handling of religious and cultural minorities, exclusion mechanisms and emancipation processes. And, not least, the disputed question of a specific German-Jewish identity is resumed and analyzed extensively. The linking of historical processes to a review of the contemporary culture shall create new perspectives that can also be applied to current societal developments beyond the scholarly reception.