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John Efron’s “Appearance Counts: Sephardic Jewry and the Creation of a German-Jewish Aesthetic”
September 14 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Focusing on the period spanning the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century, this talk explores the special place German-Jewish culture accorded medieval Spanish Jewry. In a broad array of cultural forms and genres, a portrait emerged that promoted an image of Sephardim as attractive, morally and intellectually superior, and worthy of emulation while the culture and physical appearance of Ashkenazic Jewry was most frequently considered regrettable and in need of radical correction. Efron seeks to explain how the claims about the superiority of Sephardic aesthetics became a constitutive element of modern German-Jewish self-fashioning.
Professor Efron is the Koret Professor of Jewish History at U.C. Berkeley. He specializes in the cultural and social history of German Jewry. His scholarship is focused on the ways that German Jewry has attempted to reinterpret and reinvent Jewish culture in the wake of its complex encounter with modernity. In particular, he has written on the German-Jewish engagement with medicine, anthropology, and antisemitism. His publications include Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (Yale, 1994), Jewish History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (University of New England Press, 1998), co-edited with Elisheva Carlebach and David Myers, Medicine and the German Jews: A History (Yale, 2001), The Jews: A History (Penguin, 2nd edition 2013), with Steven Weitzman and Matthias Lehmann, German Voices of the Jewish Sixties, co-edited with Michael Brenner (2014) and German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic (Princeton, 2016). Efron is an elected fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research.