Inventing the Jew

Inventing the Jew

Antisemitic Stereotypes in Romanian and Other Central-East European Cultures

Andrei Oisteanu
Foreword by Moshe Idel
Translated by Mirela Adascalitei

Studies in Antisemitism Series

480 pages

Hardcover

May 2009

978-0-8032-2098-0

$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Inventing the Jew follows the evolution of stereotypes of Jews from the level of traditional Romanian and other Central-East European cultures (their legends, fairy tales, ballads, carols, anecdotes, superstitions, and iconographic representations) to that of “high” cultures (including literature, essays, journalism, and sociopolitical writings), showing how motifs specific to “folkloric antisemitism” migrated to “intellectual antisemitism.” This comparative perspective also highlights how the images of Jews have differed from that of other “strangers” such as Hungarians, Germans, Roma, Turks, Armenians, and Greeks. The gap between the conception of the “imaginary Jew” and the “real Jew” is a cultural distance that differs over time and place, here seen through the lens of cultural anthropology.

Stereotypes of the “generic Jew” were not exclusively negative, and are described in five chapters depicting physical, occupational, moral and intellectual, mythical and magical, and religious portraits of “the Jew.”

Author Bio

Andrei Oisteanu is a researcher at the Institute for the History of Religions in Bucharest, and associate professor at the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Bucharest. He is the author of several books, including The Image of the Jew in Romanian Culture, Order and Chaos: Myth and Magic in Romanian Traditional Culture, and Religion, Politics, and Myth: Texts about Mircea Eliade and Ioan Petru Culianu.

Praise

"Inventing the Jew is a necessary book. Nobody interested in the history (past and present) of Eastern and Central European anti-Semitism, radical nationalism and ethnocentric populism should miss it."—Vladimir Tismaneanu, Times Literary Supplement

"[Andrei Oisteanu] has produced a superb piece of research which will serve as a fundamental resource for future work on the cultural roots of ideas about Jews, not just in Romania but in the wider East European context."—Alex Drace-Francis, Eastern European Jewish Affairs

"This monograph has much to offer to scholars and graduate students not only of East European and Jewish Studies, but also of Ethnic Studies and Cultural Anthropology."—Joanna B. Michlic, American Historical Review

"Inventing the Jew is an outstanding contribution to the study of images of the "imaginary Jew" in Romania and an important book for those who are interested in cultural perceptions of Jews in Eastern and Central Europe."—Günther Jikeli, Journal for the Study of Antisemitism

"This work of cultural anthropology is unparalleled in scope and interest for a whole range of disciplines."—Peter Sherwood, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

"Historians eager to explain the operation of anti-Jewish politics in a particular time and place would do well to study Oisteanu's rich inventory of anti-Jewish myths and stereotypes. His account of the depth, variety, and longevity of antisemitic stereotypes is a well-taken reminder of how powerful and widely felt the image of the Jew as “Other” has been and continues to be in the region."—Paul Hanebrink, Journal of Modern History

Table of Contents

Foreword by Moshe Idel ix
Preface xi
INTRODUCTION: THE IMAGINARY JEW 1
Ethnic Imagology 1
Romanian Tolerance: Between Myth and Reality 7
The Tabooed Jew 25
Notes 30
 
1. THE PHYSICAL PORTRAIT 38
Hooked Nose and Thick Lips 38
Ritual Hair, Beard, and Sidelocks 44
Why Jews Are Freckled 57
The Ruddy Man as Evil Omen 59
Filthy, Stinking Jew 66
Beautiful, Elegant Jewess 85
Jewish Dress and the Stigma of Clothing 99
Notes 113
 
2. THE OCCUPATIONAL PORTRAIT 138
The Jew as Tradesman 138
The Jew as Craftsman 154
The Jew as Moneylender 162
The Jew As Musician 169
The Jew as Tavern-keeper 173
The Jew as Wagon-driver 191
The Jew as Farmer and as Shepherd 197
Notes 205
 
3. THE MORAL AND INTELLECTUAL PORTRAIT 228
The Intelligent, Yet Cunning Jew 228
Dangerous Intelligence 233
The Cowardice of the Jew 235
The Good-Bad Jew 257
Ethnical and Ethical Characteristics 266
The Blind, Deaf, and Dumb Jew 276
Notes 290
 
4. THE MYTHICAL AND MAGICAL PORTRAIT 310
Brimstone and Fire 310
Demonization of the Jew 315
The Jew as Warlock and Rainmaker 324
The Legend of the Wandering Jew 330
Why Jews Do Not Eat Pork 342
The Jew as Good Omen 347
The "Jidovi" or Giants 356
Notes 360
 
5. THE RELIGIOUS PORTRAIT 378
Deicide 378
Hagiocide 385
Iconocide 393
Ritual Infanticide 400
Ritual Xenocide? 426
Notes 441  

Awards

Winner of the 2011 Alexandru D. Xenopol prize awarded by the Romanian Academy

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