Deracination and Racialization in Martin Buber’s Hasidic Tales
Hosted By: The National Library of Israel (NLI)
Race. Hasidic Judaism. Martin Buber.
One of the 20th century’s most revered thinkers, Martin Buber is also well-known for popularizing Hasidic tales for general audiences.
A Jew and a Zionist, Buber was also of course the result of the German-speaking world in which he lived and wrote for much of his life.
Hasidic and German circles alike promoted distinctions between Jewish and non-Jewish bodies… how did Buber navigate that terrain in his German renditions of Hasidic texts?
How did racial anti-Semitism, denigrations of Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews), and volkish ideologies in Germany shape Buber’s interpretations of Hasidic sources?
Buber deracinated Hasidism, uprooting the movement from its geographic and religio-cultural particularities in order to inspire diverse audiences, yet at the same time, that deracination also served to racialize the Hasidic body.
In effect, Buber’s tales intimated that even assimilated, “Western” Jews might identify with a primal Jewishness that lay beneath Hasidic garments, as it were.
Join Sam Shonkoff, scholar of Hasidism and German-Jewish thought, for a fascinating discussion of race based on his extensive research in the Martin Buber Archive at the National Library of Israel.
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