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Keynote Speech with Dr Keith Kahn-Harris

Keynote Speech with Dr Keith Kahn-Harris “Rethinking Jewish culture: Embracing the mundane in an interesting age”
This presentation will be delivered in English and simultaneously translated into German.

In this lecture I will argue that the image many people have of Jews, as well as the image that Jews have of themselves, is profoundly distorted. For a very long time, perhaps for the entirety of our history, Jews have been seen as important. That importance means that we are, inevitably, interesting. The consequences of this has been that Jews are defined by and defined themselves by ‘big’ existential questions – questions of war and peace, of memory and forgetting, of right and wrong. Since October 7 2023, Jews in Europe and across the globe are relentlessly in the spotlight, from every angle.

In this context, there is a profound risk of Jewish life being ‘hollowed out’, reducible to our presence in public controversies. We risk being profoundly damaged by the persistent tendency of even our ‘friends’ to render us as a question, a puzzle, a conundrum to be solved. I will therefore argue that Jews need to consider how they might become an unremarkable sub-group of humanity. This means developing a new parochialism through attention to and valorization of, the mundane – even boring – aspects of Jewish life. In particular, this means emphasizing doing Jewish over being Jewish.

How might it be possible to build Jewish culture that pays attention to the parochial and the mundane? In this lecture I will suggest some strategies and opportunities for Jewish cultural renewal that avoids the trap of importance, that can be interesting without reducing Jews to their public personae.


Dr Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and writer, based in London. He is a senior lecturer at Leo Baeck College, senior research fellow at the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and an associate lecturer and honorary fellow at Birkbeck College. He has a broad range of interests, including particular expertise in researching metal music scenes and the UK Jewish community. The author or co-author of eight books, editor of several collections and many articles and reviews, his career bridges academia and multiple other worlds. His work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, New Humanist, Prospect, Haaretz, The Forward, New Statesman and more. His most recent books are The Babel Message: A Love Letter to Language (Icon) and What Does A Jew Look Like? (in collaboration with Rob Stothard).

Get your ticket:

Symposium “Jewish, Now! – The Significance of Jewish Culture for a Democratic Society”
When: April 15th and 16th, 2024
Location: Kulturrathaus, Königstr. 15, 01097 Dresden
Ticket: karten@juedische-woche-dresden.de
Cost: €80 (participation & catering)
! EARLY-BIRD: For the first 20 registrations, participation costs €65 !
Registration deadline: April 4th, 2024

Diese Maßnahme wird mitfinanziert durch Steuermittel auf der Grundlage des vom Sächsischen Landtag beschlossenen Haushaltes. Das Projekt wird durch das Amt für Kultur und Denkmalschutz der Landeshauptstadt Dresden gefördert. Und unterstützt durch den Beauftragten der Sächsischen Staatsregierung für jüdisches Leben.

Apr 15 2024


Date: 15. April
Time: 09:45 - 10:45
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Königstr. 15 Dresden 01097 Deutschland

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