The Jewish community of Zagreb : negotiating identity in the new Eastern Europe / by Nila Ginger Hofman
Includes bibliographical references (p. 152-161)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
My dissertation addresses the sociocultural processes which contribute to the construction of ethnocultural identity among Zagrebian Jews. I argue, contrary to the often essentialized perception of Jewish identity imposed by e.g. the Croatian government and Jewish international organizations, that Jewish identity in Zagreb is actively chosen in ways that are both idiosyncratic and contingent upon the surrounding sociocultural environment. At the heart of my argument is an appeal to the dynamic and contextual nature of identity negotiation, and the influence this has on the maintenance and survival of the Zagrebian Jewish community. In support of this, I have employed ethnographic methods to assess (i) the ways in which Jewish identity is negotiated by community members and (ii) the ways in which the meaning of Jewish community is sustained in Zagreb. With regards to (i), I conclude that Zagrebian Jews understand their identities in terms of symbolic ethnoreligiosity, i.e. in terms of feelings and nostalgic ideas about Jewish culture and tradition. With regards to (ii), I show that the history and development of Jewish identity in Zagreb can be traced through patterns of membership participation in various Jewish organizations prevalent in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These patterns reveal the predominantly secular nature of the Zagrebian Jewish community. In light of this, I argue that community for Zagrebian Jews is ultimately defined symbolically through various types of social interaction among members. It is for this reason that the recent attempts of both international Jewish organizations and the Croatian government to impose an essentialized image of Jewish identity on the community are at odds with, and ultimately destructive to, the secular and improvisatory self-images of the members themselves.
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