A Rabbi’s Impressions of the Oberammergau Passion Play: Joseph Krauskopf, Antisemitism, and the Limits of the Transnational Jewish Public Sphere

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Performed at regular intervals since 1634, the passion play at Oberammergau in Bavaria has in recent decades become a byword for the allegedly timeless continuities of European and especially German anti-Jewish prejudice. This article explores the publication and reception of the first significant attempt to accuse Oberammergau of antisemitism: Joseph Krauskopf’s A Rabbi’s Impressions of the Passion Play, published in Philadelphia in 1901. The specific context of American Reform Judaism at the turn of the century contributed to the nature and timing of Krauskopf’s attack on the play, but although Krauskopf achieved limited success among both Christian and Jewish audiences in the United States, Britain, and Germany, Jewish feminist Bertha Pappenheim’s subsequent efforts to publish a German translation of his book ultimately failed. Krauskopf’s difficulties in turning either American or European public opinion against the Oberammergau play expose the obstacles to the ideal of an integrated transnational Jewish public sphere at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-126
Number of pages27
JournalJewish Social Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2018

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