Turning Object into Subject
Communicating Jewish Everyday Culture in Germany

The resurgence of antisemitic attitudes and increased attacks on Jews in Germany point to a grave problem: Antisemitism is spreading, although political awareness for the need to combat it has grown in recent years. One reason for this may be that distorted perceptions of Jews are widespread even among professional groups (such as educators in preschools, schools, and other public institutions; the police; and the judiciary) whose members are tasked with challenging and censuring antisemitism. These attitudes stem from the fact that there are few Jews in Germany today. There is, in turn, a lack of knowledge about Jewish history and culture, and even educational materials at times convey prejudices. Furthermore, the re-engagement with Germany’s Nazi past has, paradoxically, narrowed the public perception of Jewish history to one defined exclusively by persecution, antisemitism, and the Holocaust. As a result, contemporary Jewish life and its plurality are overlooked.

The aim of this project, coordinated by the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture - Simon Dubnow (DI), is to counter the fragmented or diminished knowledge of Jewish religious and daily practices. We therefore will bring together research on cultural history and practice-oriented research on school textbooks, then turning our findings into materials that can be used by teachers and public educators of history and politics alike. To this end, the DI will work closely with the Leibniz Institute for Educational Media | Georg Eckert Institute (GEI) and the Working Group on German Jewish History of the Association of German History Teachers (Arbeitskreis Deutsch-Jüdische Geschichte im Verband der Geschichtslehrer Deutschlands e.V.).

The project is composed of three modules:

The first module, conducted at the DI, examines the culture of Jewish everyday life in Germany. Four volumes of essays will thematize contemporary, religiously-grounded practices of daily life, such as wearing a kippah, circumcision, kosher slaughter, dietary laws, and funeral rites. These essays aim to depict key elements of the Jewish religion while also illustrating how Jewish practice has transformed since the nineteenth century. One collection, conceived of as a digital catalog, focuses on how Jewish life has changed in Germany since 1989 due to immigration from the Soviet Union.

Module 2 will develop a scholarly monograph that explores how history textbooks and magazines disseminate stereotypical images of Jews and Judaism. This project, based at the GEI, investigates how these stereotypes perpetuated in educational institutions fill in the gaps of knowledge about Jewish life and can even entrench antisemitic prejudices.

Module 3 will be a collaboration between the DI, GEI, and the Working Group on German Jewish History of the Association of German History Teachers that brings our research results into schools and other educational institutions. We will develop three secondary-level handbooks for the classroom that are based on the case studies of Module 1 and draw from this material. A number of advanced training courses will communicate the results of the individual projects to teachers and, in turn, incorporate educators’ practical experiences back into the research projects. Our third strategy of joining research and practice will draw from the results of Module 2. Using these findings, we will develop a guide with recommendations for textbook authors and editors.


  • Alltagskultur: : Themenheft 1: Jüdische religiöse Traditionen. Jahreslauf – Speisegesetze – Schächten – Beschneidung, Leipzig 2023.

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Prof. Dr. Yfaat Weiss

Leibniz-Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur - Simon Dubnow
Goldschmidtstraße 28
04103 Leipzig

Dr. Philipp Graf

Leibniz-Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur - Simon Dubnow
Goldschmidtstraße 28
04103 Leipzig

Dr. Dirk Sadowski

Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsmedien
Freisestr. 1

38118 Braunschweig