Cite: Kamczycki, Herzl and His Beard

Kamczycki, Arthur. “Orientalism. Herzl and His Beard.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 12.1 (2013): 90-116.

 

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14725886.2012.757475

 

Abstract

Before Zionism entered the political arena, Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) struggled with many issues concerning his appearance, which were connected with the contemporary dilemmas of Jewish emancipation and stereotypes about the Jewish look. Herzl identified with the Vienna cultural circle and manifested a full approval of its values, for example, by wearing sideburns distinctively modelled on those of the Emperor Franz Joseph. But during his stay in France (1891–1896) Herzl began to consider Austrian anti-Semitism as a new political power. Along with the shift of his views on the Jewish Question, Herzl changed his appearance. He cut off his sideburns and grew a long, black, Assyrian beard instead. This new look alluded to ancient Jewish roots which had gained interest within the context of Orientalism that had become popular thanks to the archaeological discoveries in the Middle East, especially those of images of Assyrian rulers. Thus, the phenomenon of Orientalism understood in aesthetic and historical categories was an important factor behind the formation of Jewish identity. This conclusion constituted a significant argument on the way to embracing elements of Eastern culture and identifying them with Jewish elements in a new, Zionist, incarnation.

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