The Business of Emancipation

The German-Jewish struggle for legal equality and economic prosperity

About

The goal of this exhibition, prepared by the Leo Baeck Institute New York | Berlin, is to tell a complex story about the economic integration of Jews into German society and its impact on their families, professions, and the wider community. Because civil rights are intimately bound up with economic rights, the story of Jewish emancipation is also the story of the economic liberties afforded to Jews. The emancipation of German Jewry was not instantaneous, nor was it irreversible; rather Jews gained rights and, sometimes, lost them again throughout the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. By exploring the commercial activity of Jews during this period through a few well-chosen examples, the exhibition will underscore the importance of the relationship between political freedom and economic liberty in a way that is historically accurate and currently relevant.

As important as it is to tell the story of the fate of German Jews beginning in 1933, it is equally important to preserve German-Jewish history before 1933. From the tremendous accomplishments of German Jews in the face of legal adversity to their remarkable contributions as they gained the rights of citizenship, the business of German-Jewish emancipation offers a unique perspective on the importance of integrating minorities into industrialized societies. Examining the relationships between political rights, economic opportunities, social discrimination, and commercial success and failure offers important lessons for today.

Credits

This online exhibit was possible thanks to the generous support of Eva H. Eckert.

This online exhibit used historical materials belonging to:

Arnhold Family

Kahn & Arnold Family

Schweitzer Family

LBI Archival and Art Collection

 

People involved in online exhibit creation:

Prof. Jonathan Zatlin, Boston University – historical consulting and text supervision

Dr. William H. Weitzer, LBI – project supervision

Dr. Magdalena Wrobel, LBI – project manager

Sophie Rupp, LBI – assistant project manager

Renate Evers, LBI – collection consulting

Lauren Paustian, LBI – collection consulting

Shayna Marchese, Center for Jewish History – website designer

Sean Naftel, Center for Jewish History – web developer