The Jewish Salonnières of Vienna

In the late 18th century, Jewish women played a crucial role in developing Germany’s salon culture, which incubated the German Enlightenment. One such woman, Fanny von Arnstein, brought the salon—along with the Christmas tree—from Berlin to Vienna. Reviewing a new exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Vienna that tells the story of the city’s many Jewish salonnières, from Arnstein until the eve of World War II, Marina Gerner writes:

The woman who interested me the most was Berta Zuckerkandl, as soon as I saw a photograph of her sitting at her desk, writing. She glances at the camera with the look of one who is inspired and inspires others. Zuckerkandl was born in 1864, the daughter of an influential publisher. Her father ran the Neues Wiener Tagblatt, one of Austria’s leading liberal daily newspapers. He was a friend of Crown Prince Rudolf, whose political articles he published without naming the author. Only Berta was privy to the secret, as she was her father’s right hand by the age of sixteen, and she became a journalist and cultural critic in her own right.

The Viennese culture we know today flourished in her salon. She had a poignant way of telling stories and the ability to portray characters deftly in a few words. She ran her salon from 1888 to 1938. The gatherings, which took place on Sundays, had up to 200 guests. The food was known to be meager, consisting of sandwiches with coffee and tea, as Zuckerkandl focused on nourishing the intellect instead. It is said that the art movement [known as] the Vienna Secession was founded at her salon, as were the influential design group the Wiener Werkstaette (Vienna Workshop) and the Salzburg Festival. . . .

The first woman to bring the salon culture to Austria was Fanny von Arnstein at the end of the 18th century. At the time, Jews had been granted permission to live in Vienna, but had to pay very hefty taxes for this privilege, so only the most successful businessmen managed to settle there. Originally from Berlin, Arnstein was highly educated and inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment.

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More about: Art, Austrian Jewry, Enlightenment, History & Ideas, Vienna

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics