Yfaat Weiss

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline History
Full Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Research project

German Tradition and Jewish Knowledge: the Cultural History of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Due to the diasporic conditions of the Jews, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem differed from European universities of its time. Lacking local intelligentsia in Palestine, it had to be found primarily on the strength of intellectuals and scholars who acquired their education in Europe, especially in the German speaking realm. The origins of this German orientation in the field of academic education among European Jews stem from the nineteenth century and in the disparity between the somewhat liberal policy of Wilhelminian Germany and the restrictive measures imposed by Czarist Russia on Jewish students at the turn of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the strong German influence at the Hebrew University from the 1930s onward is linked to very different circumstances, and above all to the sweeping dismissal of Jewish intellectuals and scholars from the German civil service in general and from universities in particular in the wake of the Nazis’ accession to power and the migration of some of them to Palestine. By means of a micro-historical study that focuses on the Hebrew University I intend to explore the process of the adjustment of German tradition of knowledge and the diffusion and acceptance of these bodies of knowledge within the framework of the building of the Jewish nation in Palestine, through a history of transfer and influence, a cultural history that adopts a prosopographical approach, which maps knowledge through revealing networks of intellectuals as it deciphers their “mental maps.” Alongside these cultural and intellectual aspects, the project will, by its micro-historical setting, address spatial aspects and will examine the university as a concrete and physical site embedded in a sphere that enjoys the status of religious sacredness within the world of imperial rule on the one hand and in the world of its subjects – Jews and Arabs alike – on the other, while constituting an area of contention at the heart of a growing national struggle. The spatial aspect will thus strengthen the political dimension implicit in cultural history and confer concrete meaning to it.




Yfaat Weiss teaches in the department of History of the Jewish people and Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the director of the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewry Literature and Cultural History and the vice dean of research at the Humanity Faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was a Senior Fellow at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna, a visiting scholar at Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture in Leipzig, and a visiting Fellow at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, at the Remarque Institute of European modern history of the University of New York and at the International Institute for Holocaust Research – Yad Vashem. She holds a Ph.D in History from the University of Tel-Aviv.


Her research concentrates on memory, spatial history and transfer of culture and knowledge in the European Jewish and Israeli history.

Selected publications


‘Au-delà du sionisme: un "tournant spatial" de l’historiographie israélienne?’, Revue d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine, vol. 61, no. 4, 2014, pp. 125-153.


‘Rückkehr in den Elfenbeinturm: Deutsch an der Hebräischen Universität’, Naharaim, vol. 8, no. 2, 2014, pp. 227-245.


Haifa Before & After 1948. Narratives of a Mixed City, with M. Yazbak (eds), Institute of Historical Justice and Reconciliation, no. 6, Republic of Letters, Hague 2012.


A Confiscated Memory: Wadi Salib and Haifa's Lost Heritage, Columbia University Press, New York, 2011.


Lea Goldberg, Lehrjahre in Deutschland 1930-1933. Toldot - Essays zur jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2010. 


Challenging Ethnic Citizenship: German and Israeli Perspectives on Immigration, with D. Levy (eds), Berghahn Books, New York, 2002. 

Staatssbürgerschaft und Ethnizität. Deutsche und polnische Juden am Vorabend des Holocaust, Oldenbourg, München, 2000.

Zionistische Utopie - israelische Realität. Religion und Politik in Israel, with M. Brenner (eds), C.H. Beck, München, 1999.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Literature
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Philosophy