Michael Miller: First Pan-Europeans? Jews and the Paneuropean-Union

Live and Online-Lecture and Discussion with Prof. Dr. Michael Miller, Budapest/Vienna (in English!)

Richard Nikolaus Coudenhove-Kalergi, founder of the Paneuropa Union, was an enigmatic figure: aristocrat, cosmopolitan and passionate opponent of anti-Semitism. The Paneuropa Union, which imagined a Europe without borders, had among its members – in addition to many a member of the nobility seeking new orientation – numerous Jews who felt attracted by the idea of a tolerant, fraternal Europe. And this despite the fact that the Paneuropa Union saw itself as a Christian movement. Michael Miller’s lecture deals with the Paneuropa Union of the interwar period, its attraction to Jews, its confrontation with the Jewish question of the time, and its advocacy of pacifism and transnational reconciliation. In the end, the Pan-European Union was on the losing end – and at the same time became a forerunner of the European Union after the catastrophe of World War II.

Michael Miller directs the Nationalism Studies Program at the Central European University in Vienna/Budapest, where he also teaches in the Jewish Studies Program. His research focuses on the impact of nationality conflicts on the religious, cultural, and political development of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Miller is a founding member of the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism. His book Rabbis and Revolution: the Jews of Moravia in the Age of Emancipation was published in 2011. He is currently working on a history of Hungarian Jewry.

Diana Pinto: “A Jewish Space Called Europe”?

Online-Lecture and talk with Dr. Diana Pinto, Paris (in English)

It was in the mid-1990’s Diana Pinto coined the term “Jewish Space” to define one of the specificities of the Jewish presence/absence, ongoing creativity and memory inside what was at the time a rapidly expanding European setting. After the fall of the Berlin Wall a new whiff of democratic pluralism allowed Jews across the continent to define themselves well beyond their official Jewish representative institutions. “Jewish Spaces” emerged where Jewish themes, ideas, creativity, life, traditions, and history intersected with the wider society – in a diasporic setting in which, unlike Israel or the United States, non-Jews were also integral actors of these Spaces. At the same time, in the past thirty years, doubts about an ongoing Jewish future in the former lands of the Holocaust have never gone away. They have even increased with the return of antisemitism and the much publicized departure of many Jews (especially in France) to settle in Israel. For many, Europe was once a continent of Jewish life, but no longer. Diana Pinto counters this interpretation by explaining why Jewish Spaces across Europe are continuing to expand. The symbolic importance of these Jewish Spaces has even taken on a new relevance in light of the growing populism and right wing revisionism which has infected the entire Western world (including Israel and the US). In the battle between liberal democracy and illiberal populism, such Spaces are destined to play an ever more important role in anchoring pluralist reflexes and universal values across the Continent.

Diana Pinto is an intellectual historian and writer based in Paris. She is Italian, French and American and was educated at Harvard University (B.A. and Ph.D). In the 1990’s she was the Editor in Chief of Belvédère, a French pan-European review and subsequently a Consultant to the Political Directorate of the Council of Europe for its civil society programs in Eastern Europe and Russia. She subsequently directed the Ford Foundation’s Voices for the Res Publica program as a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, London. She has lectured and written widely on European and Jewish topics and is the author of Israel has Moved (2013).

Avraham Burg: Somewhere between Europe and Israel. Interviewed by Hanno Loewy

On February 24 we had Avraham Burg as a guest in a joint online event of the Jewish Museum Hohenems and the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue (Vienna), in the series Borders and Identities and in the program for the exhibition The Last Europeans.

The recording of the event (in English) can be found here:

Conflicts about the future of Europe have always been linked to arguments about the role of European Jews. Their emancipation was seen as a test case for the liberal hopes of the 19th century, and their transnational cosmopolitanism as a precursor of European unification – or as a scapegoat for nationalist ideologies. Today, the state of Israel seems to symbolically take its place – admittedly under the opposite sign, as the favorite child of right-wing populist and nationalist politicians. Avraham Burg has already crossed many borders in his life. After his political career, Avraham Burg is engaged in publishing and in various political initiatives for an ethnically and religiously neutral state of its citizens, a state that would follow the ideals of the European Union. While these ideals are admittedly coming under increasing pressure in contemporary Europe. In a recent interview with the newspaper Haaretz, he explained why he no longer wants to carry the entry “Jewish” as a “nationality” in the Israeli civil registry.

Avraham Burg, born in Jerusalem in 1955, is an Israeli author and former high-ranking politician. His Dresden-born father, Josef Burg, was a rabbi, leader of the National Religious, and minister in twenty-one Israeli governments. Avraham Burg, on the other hand, linked his political involvement with the Peace Now movement and the Labor Party. Between 1995 and 1999, he was chairman of the World Zionist Organization, then president of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for four years. In 2004, he left politics after publicly calling for Israel to choose between democracy and discrimination against the Arab minority. “The patriarch Abraham discovered God outside the boundaries of the Land of Israel, the tribes became a people outside the Land of Israel, the Torah was given outside the Land of Israel, and the Babylonian Talmud, which is more important than the Jerusalem Talmud, was written outside the Land of Israel, the past 2,000 years, which shaped the Judaism of this generation, happened outside Israel. The present Jewish people was not born in Israel.”

In cooperation with the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue (Vienna).



Omri Boehm: Israel – a Utopia

Omri Boehm’s book “Israel – a Utopia” is a lively source of discussion and joins a growing number of critical voices that no longer cling to the failed phantom of a “two-state solution” but are developing new ideas of a bi-national state.
Here is a recording of our Zoom webinar with him, which was held largely in English. (A joint event with the German-Israeli Society Lake Constance Region)

There is a blatant contradiction between a Jewish state and a liberal democracy, says the Israeli philosopher Omri Boehm. For a Jew (and thus a fully-fledged Israeli citizen) is only someone who is ‘of Jewish descent’ – or religiously converted. In his great essay, he sketches the vision of an ethnically neutral state that overcomes its nationalist founding myth and thus finally has a future.
Israel has changed dramatically in the last two decades: While religious Zionism is becoming increasingly popular, both leftists and liberals lack convincing ideas and concepts. The two-state solution is widely considered to have failed. In view of this disaster, Omri Boehm argues for a rethink of Israel’s statehood: Only the equal rights of all citizens can end the conflict between Jews and Arabs. The Jewish state and its occupied territories must become a federal, binational republic. Such a policy is not anti-Zionist; on the contrary, it lays the foundation for a modern and liberal Zionism.
Omri Boehm, born in 1979 in Haifa, studied in Tel Aviv and served in the Israeli secret service Shin Bet. He received his doctorate at Yale with a dissertation on “Kant’s Critique of Spinoza.” Today he teaches as professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is an Israeli and German citizen, has conducted research in Munich and Berlin, and writes about Israeli politics in Haaretz, Die Zeit, and The New York Times.
The book:
Omri Boehm: Israel – eine Utopie,
Propyläen Verlag, Berlin 2020, hardback, 256 pages,
€ 20.60, ISBN 978-3-549-10007-3
The English edition, A Future for Israel: Beyond the Two-State Solution, will appear in April 2021 at New York Review Books.

Avraham Burg: On Stefan Zweig’s “World of Yesterday”and our world of today…

On November 28, 2020, the Willy Brandt Center in Jerusalem celebrated Stefan Zweig’s birthday together with us and other partners. Avraham Burg shared his personal reflections on Stefan Zweig’s autobiography The World of Yesterday. Memories of a European, reading the book several times in various translations. A journey from education sentimental to a vivid portray of present challenges. Thanks to the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem for the permission to share Avraham Burg’s thoughts here.

Micha Brumlik: Witch hunt under the sign of the “Christian-Jewish Occident”?

On October 14, 2020, Prof. Dr. Micha Brumlik (Berlin) gave a lecture – as a part of the program “The Last Europeans” – about the political instrumentalization of the notion of “Christian-Jewish Occident” in the exclusion of Muslims, migrants and refugees in Europe. Due to the measures taken against the Covid-19 pandemic, the lecture took place as a zoom webinar, to which participants from Vorarlberg and Berlin, Vienna and Graz, Zurich, Jerusalem and many other places joined in. A premiere in the museum.


Videos: Interviews and Lectures

“The Last Europeans” is an ongoing discourse on the future of Europe, on its legal standards, on democracy and authoritarian rule, on the protection of minorities and how to deal with diversity and migration, on open and closed borders, on social rights and economic interests.
Here we bring together interviews with people who think about Europe, lectures from our “Very Central European University”, and other contributions to the discussion about living together in Europe, a dialogue the Jewish Museum of Hohenems has basically been conducting since its founding in 1986. In this way, the Hohenems exhibition will become a visual library of European reflections.