Jewish Cultural Heritage Research Network

Statement letter of the Jewish Cultural Heritage Research Network


Jewish culture and history are reflected in testimonies, the research and interpretation of which is the aim of various academic disciplines. Artefacts of Jewish cultural heritage provide information in many ways about the political, social and economic, but also religious, intellectual and artistic developments up to the present day. Systematically documenting, evaluating and contextualising such objects, bodies of knowledge and traditions, preserving them and communicating knowledge about them to a broad public is a task that can only be successfully and permanently accomplished in an interdisciplinary manner. And also with an international exchange and the involvement of a wide range of institutions such as universities, museums, conservation, Jewish communities, local and regional initiatives, experts.


With the Jewish Cultural Heritage Network, a long-term cooperation is to be established in which research, academic teaching, further training of young academics, the preservation of objects and the public communication of topics of Jewish culture and history take place on a broadly diversified methodological basis. The members of the open network strive for an intensive exchange in order to implement research projects, conferences and publications in partnership. The aim is to anchor the topic of "material and immaterial culture" with regard to Jewish culture in a new perspective in academic discourse and to draw greater attention to the testimonies themselves.

The Bet Tfila - Research Centre for Jewish Architecture in Europe, Technical University of Brunswick / Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the European Centre for Jewish Music, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media, have taken a major initiative to establish such long-term cooperation with the conferences in Greifswald (2015) and Brunswick / Hanover (2016). The structure and further content of the Jewish Cultural Heritage Network will develop within the framework of future project work by the actors and partners.

The aim of the Jewish Cultural Heritage Network is to initiate and carry out joint projects, conferences and publications. The network sees itself as a forum for brainstorming and coordinated preparation of research and outreach projects. At regular working meetings and in constant dialogue, the participants exchange ideas on current issues of research and teaching.

The network provides the framework to form clusters of institutions and experts on the diverse thematic fields of Jewish cultural heritage by bringing together the expertise of different disciplines. A working unit will serve as a contact for all those involved and for enquiries from other interested parties. A website and a mailing list will form the communication platform.

A key goal is to better anchor the subject area in academic teaching, for example by establishing a research training group or a priority programme. Other events (excursions, teaching programmes, summer schools, etc.) are intended to promote exchange among researchers, teachers and students. In addition, the transfer of knowledge between science and society is to be mutually strengthened in various formats.


Jewish Cultural Heritage DFG Priority Program

Aims and objectives

Project duration: 2021 - 2027

The aim of the priority program is to conduct interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, seeking to contextualize developments in the societal and cultural-political significance of, and engagement with, Jewish cultural heritage in Europe. The program will critically examine what it is that is categorized as Jewish cultural heritage; by whom; and the processes of negotiation in relation the preceding points among stakeholders and other actors with vested interests. The mechanisms that structure historical and contemporary relationships between society, Jewish cultural heritage, and the relevant political, economic, religious, and sociocultural spheres will be identified and analyzed accordingly.

Drawing from current insights and discourses in the field of Critical Heritage Studies, the overall objective of the project is to develop an understanding of the discursivization of the cultural heritage of Jews in Europe. This involves a reconsideration of the German concept of „Jüdisches Kulturerbe“, understood as a cultural-political and economic resource, specifically the cultural heritage of a civilization that vanished; and "Jewish heritage", understood as the totality of all forms of expression of Jewish life. An interdisciplinary team of scholars will critically examine tangible, intangible, and intellectual objects, contexts of creation, and the processes of transmission and innovation of Jewish cultural heritage. Other questions to be considered include the development and deployment of strategies for involving Jewish communities and institutions in the heritagization processes of their own heritage. In the first funding period, the participating scholars will devote themselves primarily, and from a comparative vantage point, to "theoretical reflection" on the diverse understandings and the changing uses of Jewish cultural heritage in identified European societies. Retrospective analyses, together with comparative classifications of historical and contemporary developments in Germany and Europe will feature prominently at this stage. In this manner, the SPP "Jewish Cultural Heritage" aspires to turn interdisciplinary examinations of, and reflections on Jewish heritage into a transdisciplinary consideration of the latter; and to join and merge previous academic, monument preservation, museological and cultural-political work in this field in a critical, and thus forward-looking, way.

Against the background of current debates about forms of representation, and the restitution of cultural assets looted from their original contexts during the colonial era, it is clear that Jewish cultural heritage should be more intensively discussed and redefined with the participation of Jewish actors, rather than without them. The SPP brings together a range of disciplines interested in the objects and concepts of Jewish heritage. Research methodology and objects will be exchanged and compared by way of interdisciplinary sub-projects and cross-project formats, enabling a genuine transdisciplinary perspective. In addition to the relevant disciplines of Jewish Studies, History, and Literary Studies, the view "from the margins" on concepts and objects of Jewish cultural heritage should form a part of the ongoing conversation. Research fields such as Musicology, architecture, archaeology, art history, monument preservation, museology, philosophy, (empirical) cultural studies/anthropology, linguistics and literary studies, critical heritage studies, and sociology—all of which will feature in this project—will provide fresh perspectives.