There was a time when even Jews made a distinction between “cultivated” Westjuden or  Jeckes and the less cultivated Ostjuden.  From this German Wikipedia entry (which I translated into English using Google, my efforts in high school in German being scarcely better than my failure in Latin):

The complementary term Ostjuden and Westjuden (also: Polacken and Jeckes) was first coined in 1900 by the Jewish journalist Nathan Birnbaum, who thus characterized two social profiles within European Jewry that were shaped by the different living conditions in East and West.

    *        *        *        *        *

The distinction between Western and Eastern Jews traditionally refers less to the different geographical origins than to the socio-cultural, religious and linguistic differences between Ashkenazim in Western and Eastern Europe, and above all to the more advanced western assimilation, urbanization and abandonment of (Western) Yiddish Language or its adaptation to the German standard language, to the ghettoization and way of life of the Shtetl, the adherence to the Halacha and the preservation of developed in contact with Slavic languages ​​(East) Yiddish language, which were considered typical of Eastern European Jewry.

In the course of the strong westward migration of Eastern European Jews since the 1880s and the associated social conflicts and problems, the described differences were seen as “East-European” backwardness from a “Western Jewish” point of view, while advocates of Eastern European Judaism are characterized by their cultural independence from the appropriateness and self-sacrifice Western European Jews emphasized. The stereotypes in this inner-Jewish conflict with regard to the Eastern Jews were then further developed in the anti-Semitic propaganda of the Weimar Republic in Germany and the First Republic in Austria as well as under National Socialism and reinterpreted as the idea that in the “Ostjuden” that “inferiority “Manifest in a particularly obvious and unveiled form that marks the” Jewish race “as such in its entirety.

(Emphasis added.)

Yesterday, Donald Trump stepped up his demagoguery.

“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame,” Trump said. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

“So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad,” he continued. “I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”

Rather than call out Trump’s bigotry for what it is, Prime Minister Theresa May today pulled her punches on any criticism of Trump’s remarks.  When asked whether she agreed that “immigration has damaged the cultural fabric of Europe?” she blandly replied:

The U.K. has a proud history of welcoming people who flee persecution or want to contribute to our economy and society. Over the years, immigration has been good for the U.K. What is important is we have control of our borders and a set of rules to determine who comes into our country.

We know that Republicans in this country won’t challenge Trump on his bigotry.  One would think (hope?) that Europeans who have seen this sort of thing at closer range would step up to the plate.  Perhaps that’s too much to ask.  After all, it was a Jew who first drew a distinction between himself, cultured and sophisticated, and those “lesser” Jews who resisted assimilation.


4 thoughts on “Ostjuden”

  1. In the second quotation, something is wrong with the phrase, "the preservation of developed in contact with Slavic languages ​​(East) Yiddish language." Perhaps "contact" should be "contrast," but, apart from that, no one speaks of "developed" languages, and a conjunction apparently should appear before "(East)."

  2. I don’t support the current U.S. administration, just fyi. I will say this though – we in the US never had a choice about being multi-racial. (Native Americans probably didn’t either. I am just speaking in practical terms.) We haven’t done all *that* well getting along, either. I am not sure I feel a need to tell people in other countries how to make these decisions. (I like our mix here … but if I had a choice, I’d have canned the historical violence. If we’re fantasizing that is.)

    Of course, one needs to treat people well, regardless of whether you let them in or not.

    As a brief digression, it seems to me, usually no one asks the perceived “lessor” group what *they* think of their “superiors.” They are probably prejudiced too. Maybe I say this bc I am RC – the tendency to be suspicious and boneheaded seems to me to be baked in. It is all a question of self-management.

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