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New Article by Dr Dana Smith, Former John A.S. Grenville PhD Studentship Holder

The LBI London would like to congratulate their alumna Dana Smith on the publication of her essay Female Musicians and “Jewish” Music in the Jewish Kulturbund in Bavaria, 1934–38  in the volume DREAMS OF GERMANY. Musical Imaginaries from the Concert Hall to Dance Floor, edited by Prof Neil Gregor and Dr Thomas Irvine.

This volume brings together historians, musicologists, anthropologists, and cultural studies scholars to explore the various ways in which notions of ‘Germanness’ and ‘musicality’ have been sutured together in modern times. A generation ago scholars interested in exploring these themes would have headed straight for Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. This volume, by contrast, emphasizes that such stories are just as likely to be found in the basements of post-war Hamburg (where the Beatles played), or in the queer electronic dance music scene of contemporary Berlin, as they are in the symphony concert hall. The collection is thus an implicit plea for a more pluralized understanding of what constitutes ‘culture’ and where we might go to find it.

Dana Smith offers a pioneering study of German-Jewish women’s involvement in Jewish musical life under the conditions of Nazi persecution in her essay. Previous studies of German-Jewish cultural associations during the ‘Third Reich’ have offered an image of assimilated Jews seeking to affirm their ‘Germanness’ in the face of ever-intensifying persecution by stubbornly performing the works of the Austro-German canon. Smith, by contrast, shows that this is an image derived from the study of German-Jewish men, whose greater engagement with the wider public sphere rendered them more emotionally invested in the bourgeois world of the symphony concert hall than their female counterparts. German-Jewish women, Smith argues, had fewer such investments, making them more open to rediscovering the rich traditions of non-German Jewish musical heritage at an earlier stage in the 1930s. In amateur Jewish music-making circles, where women played a more prominent role, reconnecting with these powerful musical traditions formed an important element of the emotional and cultural preparation undertaken within Jewish communities for emigration. This powerful essay will be of interest to anyone interested in the dynamics of grassroots Zionism and German-Jewish exile stories during this period.


Dana wrote her PhD under the supervision of the LBI’s director, Daniel Wildmann. She was awarded the  John A.S. Grenville Studentship in Modern Jewish History and Culture in 2012 and has passed her viva in 2015. Her thesis “The Jewish Kulturbund in Bavaria, 1934-­‐1938” provides a fresh perspective on the only state-approved Jewish cultural organisation in Nazi Germany, and analyses the strategies of Jewish cultural self-representation under Nazism, as expressed (with a regional bent) in the Bavarian Kulturbund’s programme.

Recording of the third lecture of the Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series 2018/19

Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series 2018/19: ‘Seeing Jews in Art: Networks, Fantasies and Dreams’

We are happy to announce that the recording of the third lecture in the series, Cilly Kugelmann’s Jewish Museums between Self-Assertion and Self-Defence, is now online.

To listen, please click here.

Leo Baeck Institute Lecture Series London, 2018/19

Seeing Jews in Art: Networks, Fantasies and Dreams

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

This season’s topic will explore the agency of Jews within the networks shaping visual culture. Spanning from the middle ages to the present, and across a range of different media, it will focus on the point of intersection of Art by Jews with Art about Jews and the complex interplay of Jewish reactions to their depiction in Western art and Gentile attitudes towards Jewish visual culture. How do Jews respond and attempt to re-shape their images, stereotyped by the majority societies surrounding them? How does Jewish material culture them? How does Jewish material culture influence Western visual culture, and how were Jews entangled with the art world?

For more information on the lecture series please refer to the leaflet here

Dr Daniel Wildmann (Director, Leo Baeck Institute London) has pleasure in inviting you to the third lecture in the series:


Cilly Kugelmann

(Jewish Museum Berlin, Germany)

Jewish Museums between Self-Assertion and Self-Defence

6.30pm, 24 January 2019

In the 19th century Jews gradually began to free themselves from their ambivalence towards the fine arts. rabbis repeatedly placed the depiction of people in pictures and sculptures close to idolatry and viewed it with reservations. The discovery of a visual culture in Judaism by the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment, fulfilled a double function: it was intended to strengthen a new Jewish self-confidence internally and at the same time to ward off the anti-Semitic prejudice that Jews were incapable of artistic expression. This process will be illustrated by the example of the emergence and development of Jewish museums in Europe.

Cilly Kugelmann was the Program Director and Vice Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin from September 2002 until March 2017 and she is currently chief curator on the museum’s new permanent exhibition. She had worked for the museum since May 2000, first as head of the Education departments. Previously, Kugelmann directed the education program, ran public relations, and curated historical exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt am Main.

Lectures will be held at the German Historical Institute London, 17 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2NJ and begin at 6.30pm.

Admission is free but places are strictly limited and must be reserved in advance by contacting the Leo Baeck Institute, London (email or phone 020 7882 5690).

Underground: Holborn, Russell Square; Bus: 1, 7, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 59, 68, 91, 98, 134, 168, 171, 188, 242, 243, 521, X68


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