I am a historian of 19-21st century Europe with a growing interest in world history. Before joining Indiana University I was teaching at Munich University in Germany. Apart from this long-time appointment I held guest positions in Berkeley, Berlin/Germany and Zurich/Switzerland.
My first book Next Year in Marienbad: The Lost Worlds of Jewish Spa Culture is a spatial history of European Jewish cultures before World War II. It describes health resorts as stages of modernity, where a growing variety of Jewish identities was put on display. Through the prisms of sociability, cultural encounter, perception by and of others, body politics and space it analyzes the centrality of these summery refuges for modern Jewish cultures in Europe and beyond.
My second book is a biography of the Trotskyist politician Werner Scholem, the once famous elder brother of Gershom Scholem. His biography tells an exceptional story of success, failure, hope, love, betrayal and persecution – and last but not least sheds light on a central yet often overlooked part of Jewish history: the red sheep of the family and their story as "non-Jewish Jews".
More recently I have been working on a project entitled A Deal Made in Heaven: Economy and Romance in Modern Jewish History, a cultural history of “Shidduchim”, Jewish matchmaking. The "dating project" focuses on strategies of building economic and political networks through carefully chosen marriage partners around the globe. Naturally, romance is of growing importance in the global Jewish marriage-market since the beginning of the 20th century.
Other topics that keep me busy include:
- a text book on modern Jewish world history
- a research project on Reuven Brainin (1862-1939), an influential literary critic, who was born in Russia and spend his life in Berlin, Vienna, the US and Canada. Brainin tried to bridge between the contradicting ideologies of Zionism and communism, and between Yiddish and Hebrew. By attempting this reconciliation he wrote himself out of Jewish history and memory, and is forgotten today.