- Article (3) (remove)
- Entangled Stories: The Red Jews in Premodern Yiddish and German Apocalyptic Lore (2012)
- “Far, far away from our areas, somewhere beyond the Mountains of Darkness, on the other side of the Sambatyon River…there lives a nation known as the Red Jews.” The Red Jews are best known from classic Yiddish writing, most notably from Mendele's Kitser masoes Binyomin hashlishi (The Brief Travels of Benjamin the Third). This novel, first published in 1878, represents the initial appearance of the Red Jews in modern Yiddish literature. This comical travelogue describes the adventures of Benjamin, who sets off in search of the legendary Red Jews. But who are these Red Jews or, in Yiddish, di royte yidelekh? The term denotes the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, the ten tribes that in biblical times had composed the Northern Kingdom of Israel until they were exiled by the Assyrians in the eighth century BCE. Over time, the myth of their return emerged, and they were said to live in an uncharted location beyond the mysterious Sambatyon River, where they would remain until the Messiah's arrival at the end of time, when they would rejoin the rest of the Jewish people. This article is part of a broader study of the Red Jews in Jewish popular culture from the Middle Ages through modernity. It is partially based on a chapter from my book, Umstrittene Erlöser: Politik, Ideologie und jüdisch-christlicher Messianismus in Deutschland, 1500–1600 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011). Several postdoctoral fellowships have generously supported my research on the Red Jews: a Dr. Meyer-Struckmann-Fellowship of the German Academic Foundation, a Harry Starr Fellowship in Judaica/Alan M. Stroock Fellowship for Advanced Research in Judaica at Harvard University, a research fellowship from the Heinrich Hertz-Foundation, and a YIVO Dina Abramowicz Emerging Scholar Fellowship. I thank the organizers of and participants in the colloquia and conferences where I have presented this material in various forms as well as the editors and anonymous reviewers of AJS Review for their valuable comments and suggestions. I am especially grateful to Jeremy Dauber and Elisheva Carlebach of the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University, where I was a Visiting Scholar in the fall of 2009, for their generous encouragement to write this article. Sue Oren considerably improved my English. The style employed for Romanization of Yiddish follows YIVO's transliteration standards. Unless otherwise noted, translations from the Yiddish, Hebrew, German, and Latin are my own. Quotations from the Bible follow the JPS translation, and those from the Babylonian Talmud are according to the Hebrew-English edition of the Soncino Talmud by Isidore Epstein.
- Von Muskeljuden und Rotschöpfen : Forschungsprojekt zu den "Roten Juden" in der jüdischen Populärkultur (2011)
- Das imaginäre Volk der »Roten Juden« lebt in einem unerreichbaren sagenumwobenen Land hinter dem mythischen Fluss Sambatjon irgendwo im Osten oder Norden Asiens. Kommen die Roten Juden am Ende der Zeiten zurück? Juden wie Christen beobachteten die Entwicklungen hinter dem Sambatjon in der Vormoderne sehr genau – jeweils mit unterschiedlichen Vorzeichen, aber mit ähnlichen Erwartungen an die Apokalypse, Hoffnungen und Ängsten. Die Judaistin Rebekka Voß will die Rolle der Roten Juden in der jüdischen Kultur vom Mittelalter bis in die Gegenwart untersuchen. Schon ihre ersten Recherchen belegen, wie dynamisch Juden und Christen im Mittelalter und in der Frühen Neuzeit interagiert haben, was sich unter anderem in der Weitergabe von Geschichten und in der Sprache zeigt.