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Leo Baeck Institute London Lecture Series 2022

Leo Baeck Institute London Lecture Series 2022Popular Culture, Politics and Jews

A lecture series organised by the Leo Baeck Institute London in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London

This season’s lecture series Popular Culture, Politics and Jews delves into the rich world of German-Jewish and European-Jewish popular culture, examining its diverse manifestations, forgotten origins, creative adaptations, mass appeal and political dimensions and motivations in history. It explores the topic by looking at a cross section of its expression in film, television, theatre, dance, music and literature. 


For more information on this season’s lecture series please refer to the leaflet here.    

Dr Sonia Gollance

Contemporary popular culture often portrays Jewish mixed-sex dancing as either absolutely forbidden or as the punchline of a dirty joke. Fictional portrayals of women who leave Orthodoxy sometimes use transgressive dancing to underscore the temptation of secular society – and gentile men. Yet long before the Netflix miniseries Unorthodox, Jewish writers used partner dance as a powerful metaphor for social changes that transformed Jewish communities between the Enlightenment and the Holocaust. Scandalous dance scenes in German and other literatures are part of a…

Dr Hanno Loewy

The history of ‘Pop’ is a history of music, migration and transcultural exchange. Following the invention of recording technologies and the worldwide production and distribution of records at the end of the 19th century, the new music industry created a new global culture. Jews were prominently involved in that process on all planes, from the creation of the Shellac record and the Gramophone by Emil Berliner, to the pioneers of the music industry and Tin Pan Alley. They were composers of musicals and popular songs and popularized ‘Jewish culture’ through cantorial music, Yiddish theatre or…

Dr Lisa Schoß

In general, East German television attempted to combine so-called ‘political-operational cultural work’ with attractive programming. The same balancing act can also be observed in the presentation of Jewish topics and characters on TV. This talk covers so-called anti-fascist films about the Nazi era; campaign films against the West, e.g. courtroom dramas and crime movies; the aspect of ‘Jewish heritage’; Yiddish music; and Jewish contributions to entertainment shows. 

Prof Moshe Zimmermann

The bon mot 'A German joke is no laughing matter' is attributed to Mark Twain. Improvising on Adorno's dictum 'writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric' one might consider writing humour in the German language after Auschwitz a contradiction in terms. Yet, this was the gap into which the Israeli Author Ephraim Kishon, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, stepped.

Dr Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann

In recent years, streaming networks have offered new encounters with the lives and traditions of ultraorthodox Judaism through means of pop cultural representations. While some praised the accuracy with which series such as Shtisel (2013-2021) or Unorthodox (2020) presented ultraorthodox customs, others identified problematic anti-Semitic stereotypes in those depictions. This lecture examines how far the representations in either series serve as a distancing mirror of our own societies and looks at them in comparison to modes of classical serial storytelling in television…