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Turning the Kaleidoscope and Religious Pluralism Inside-Out: The Case of Berlin’s Jewish Scene

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges book series (PSLRSC)

Abstract

In recent years, Berlin has witnessed an ever-growing internationalization: Promoting itself as a creative and political centre, the city has attracted migrants from all over the world. As a consequence, its increasing internationalization has also impacted its religious communities. This chapter examines its effects on the Jewish and Hebrew scene and suggests ‘turning the kaleidoscope’ and examining religious pluralisms from the inside-out: from its inner complexities and contestations. Interrogating the conceptualization of religion and the secular in the framework of religious pluralisms, this chapter demonstrates the internal complexities of newly emerging religious groups characterized by processes of migration and conversion. Drawing on ethnographic and biographical research, the ambivalence and tensions of Jewish belonging highlight how religious pluralisms can no longer be conceptualized in terms of fixed congregations but must respond to the way in which urban cosmopolitan religious belonging is practiced and subject to constant negotiation. By doing so, this chapter sheds light on emergent religious pluralisms ‘in the making’ and thereby challenging the concept itself.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Ostalgie refers to the sentiment of post-socialist spaces and the nostalgia of a lost ‘Eastern German culture’.

  2. 2.

    In the German context, Berlin in the 1990s is often associated with a kind of ‘Aufbruchsstimmung’ literally translated as ‘atmosphere of departure’, which largely refers to an ambience of renewal.

  3. 3.

    Jews of Central and Eastern European descent.

  4. 4.

    By intersectional, I refer to the classical theories on intersectionality introduced by Crenshaw (1991). This concept has been taken up by biographical research on migration , gender and transnationality (Lutz/Davis).

  5. 5.

    According to these denominations, the conduct and order of the service differs. The most significant ones are in the language of prayer (Hebrew for Orthodox and a mix of the local language and Hebrew for the others), gender -segregated seating (or not) and functions in the prayer .

  6. 6.

    In comparison, the Jewish population of Berlin does not even amount to a third of what it used to be prior to 1933 (170,000 members).

  7. 7.

    Due to the scope of this chapter, I cannot expand in detail on the individual agendas of these organisations. It suffices to say that, subsidised by large organisations, they aim to cater for a growing and diversifying Jewish population.

  8. 8.

    https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article149136577/Wir-werden-um-Obergrenzen-nicht-herumkommen.html [accessed 3 October 2018].

  9. 9.

    Coined by Steve Vertovec, the concept of ‘super-diversity ’ goes beyond national or ethnic diversity by referring to the wide spectrum of different types of citizenship , legal status, age, gender , nationality, class and so on—all of which complicate the notion of ‘diversity ’ further.

  10. 10.

    Literally the ‘reception of Shabbat ’ refers to the ritual at the beginning of Shabbat on Friday night.

  11. 11.

    Shlomo Carlebach (1925–1994) made his living as a composer and performer of original music based on traditional nusah (liturgical form) and hasidic niggunim (wordless melodies) (Shaul Magid 2013: 233, 234). His melodies came to be associated with the Jewish Renewal in the US . Magid argues that Carlebach changed the way in which many Jews related to Jewish tradition (ibid.).

  12. 12.

    Drawn from an interview with the organiser, he was dismissive of ‘empty rituals ’, referring to the felt obligation of maintaining certain traditions without paying attention to their religious content and significance.

  13. 13.

    Referring to Jews of European, north-African and Arab backgrounds.

  14. 14.

    Similar to what Judith Butler describes in Parting of the Ways (2012).

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Rau, V. (2019). Turning the Kaleidoscope and Religious Pluralism Inside-Out: The Case of Berlin’s Jewish Scene. In: Bock, JJ., Fahy, J., Everett, S. (eds) Emergent Religious Pluralisms. Palgrave Studies in Lived Religion and Societal Challenges. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-13811-0_9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-13811-0_9

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