In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section European Jewish Sociology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • General Overviews on Ruppin’s Career
  • The Study of Assimilation
  • The Sociological Study of Anti-Semitism
  • Jewish Sociology and Jewish Nationalism
  • Political Work in Palestine
  • Methodology and Epistemic Assumptions
  • Race
  • European Jewish Sociology after Ruppin

Jewish Studies European Jewish Sociology
Amos Morris-Reich
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0094


There is wide consensus among historians that European Jewish sociology only comes into being with its institutionalization as a field in the first decade of the 20th century with the establishment of a society, an academic journal, and an office dedicated to the subject. While this institutionalization is recognized to have been advanced primarily by Arthur Ruppin, there is growing agreement among historians that several authors working more or less parallel to Ruppin greatly contributed to the emergence of the field in Italy, Russia, Great Britain, and Germany and to the emergence of a vast body of research in German, Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew. Although the boundaries between European sociological discourses (e.g., Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss in France or Georg Simmel in Germany) and Jewish sociology are not always stable, scholars widely assent that European Jewish sociology denotes the study of contemporary Jewry with the tools of modern social science. Historians have also documented the unstable boundaries between European and American Jewish sociology (e.g., Max Weinreich, Maurice Fishberg, or Joseph Jacobs). Scholars also agree that similarly to broader trends in Europe connected to the emergence of nationalism, its general context was that of attempts to employ scientific tools for the rationalization of society, and more specifically for finding solutions to social tensions and problems. As such, its generators viewed its primary aim to study and understand the condition and future tendencies of Jews in modern non-Jewish-majority societies. In particular, this included degrees of assimilation of Jews into non-Jewish societies and the measurement of anti-Semitic hostility toward Jews. In comparison with other branches of sociology, Jewish sociology tended to focus on empirical questions and showed less interest in general theoretical or methodological concerns. With Ruppin’s immigration to Palestine in 1908 and his position as a professor of sociology (1926–1943) at the newly established Hebrew University, the center of European Jewish sociology shifted to Palestine. Studies in the field were continued by some of Ruppin’s prominent former students.

General Overviews

There are as yet no comprehensive overviews of the field of European Jewish sociology in its entirety. The reasons for this are empirical (its emergence in numerous national and linguistic contexts) and conceptual, connected to the subject’s contemporary-pragmatic (rather than reflective) orientation and to a lack of its perception as a separate field of inquiry. There are individual studies of some of the earliest authors who were engaged in sociological studies of Jewry, although none dealing exclusively with that particular facet of their intellectual work. While practically limited to the central European case, Hart 2000 examines the relationship between the intellectual, institutional, ideological, and analytical aspects of Ruppin’s German-Jewish European sociology. In the Eastern European context, Kuznitz 2014 studies the establishment of YIVO by a group of scholars of Eastern European Jewish background in 1925 in Vilna as a center of Jewish scholarship, including philology and social scientific methods.

  • Hart, Mitchell B. Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

    NNNIn this comprehensive study of Ruppin’s Jewish sociology, historian Mitchell Hart shows the intricate connections between Ruppin’s project to establish Jewish social science as a field of inquiry and the nexus between Jewish social science and Zionism.

  • Kuznitz, Cecile Esther. YIVO and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture: Scholarship for the Yiddish Nation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139013604

    NNNThe most comprehensive history of YIVO, the center for Yiddish scholarship established in Vilna in 1925 by a group of Eastern European scholars and activists. Kuznitz studies the intricate interconnections between secular Jewish ideologies and scientific methods in the institute’s study of contemporary Judaism.

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