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From horned devils to greedy money lenders, images have been used as weapons against Jews for thousands of years. Even photojournalist social reformers of the early twentieth century reinforced derogatory stereotypes of Jews as wretched, immoral, and dirty. Little attention has focused, however, on the ways in which Jews themselves have attempted to counteract these views and to construct their own ethnic and political identities.
In The Jewish Self-Image in the West, Michael Berkowitz examines dozens of visual renderings from the fin-de-siècle to the beginning of the Second World War to argue that Jews have exercised some control over representations of their own national communities and aspirations. In the decades before the Holocaust, organized segments of Jewry enthusiastically appropriated modern media in order to exert a greater influence over their public images.
Presenting photographs and graphic images by Jews as attempts to disrupt or undermine prevailing perceptions, Berkowitz reconstructs the development of the Jewish self-image in the West over a crucial half-century.