The GIS prism: Beyond the Myth of Stockholm's Ostjuden


In this chapter, I argue that the GIS approach holds the potential to

challenge historiographical master narratives in Jewish urban history. Using

Stockholm’s modern Jewish population as a case study, I propose that the digital,

quantitative studies associated with GIS can be used as analytical prisms through

which to explore qualitative sources. In the case of Stockholm’s Jewry, this methodology

allows for a re-examination of spatially inscribed tropes, particularly the

so-called Ostjude.

I begin the article by describing the largely unchallenged historiographical

idea that Stockholm’s Jewish pre-1939 population was divided into two groups:

the integrated, Reform, and northern-residing Jews, and the Eastern European,

poor, orthodox, and southern-residing Jews – the Ostjuden. Introducing the analytical

possibilities and methodological challenges of the GIS approach, I thereafter

use ArcGIS to digitally map Jewish economic engagement with Stockholm’s

urban topography in relation to members of two synagogues, one Reform and

one orthodox. The results show that the two religious groups utilized a unified

geographical integration and created communal connections across religious


With this new framework in mind, I lastly turn to a newspaper article, written

by a reformed Jew in 1905, that describes a shabbat service in the orthodox

synagogue. Textual analysis reveals the author’s construction of the spatially

inscribed stereotypes previously mentioned, in particular the ostracized trope of

the Ostjude, and their loose ties to the Jewish community’s social reality. Thus,

this chapter shows that the GIS approach is vital for understanding the Swedish

Jewish community’s creation of tropes to sustain inner-communal hierarchies.


Maja Hultman. 2022. The GIS prism: Beyond the Myth of Stockholm's Ostjuden. In  Gerben Zaagsma, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra, Miriam Rürup, Michelle Margolis and Amalia S. Levi (eds.), Jewish Studies in the Digital Age (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Oldenburg, 2022), 125-145. DOI: 10.1515/9783110744828-007