Inventing the Jew follows the evolution of stereotypes of Jews from the level of traditional Romanian and other Central-East European cultures (their legends, fairy tales, ballads, carols, anecdotes, superstitions, and iconographic representations) to that of "high" cultures (including literature, essays, journalism, and sociopolitical writings), showing how motifs specific to "folkloric antisemitism" migrated to "intellectual antisemitism." This comparative perspective also highlights how the images of Jews have differed from that of other "strangers" such as Hungarians, Germans, Roma, Turks, Armenians, and Greeks. The gap between the conception of the "imaginary Jew" and the "real Jew" is a cultural distance that differs over time and place, here seen through the lens of cultural anthropology. Stereotypes of the "generic Jew" were not exclusively negative, and are described in five chapters depicting physical, occupational, moral and intellectual, mythical and magical, and religious portraits of "the Jew."
Andrei Oisteanu is a researcher at the Institute for the History of Religions in Bucharest, and associate professor at the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Bucharest. He is the author of several books, including The Image of the Jew in Romanian Culture, Order and Chaos: Myth and Magic in Romanian Traditional Culture, and Religion, Politics, and Myth: Texts about Mircea Eliade and Ioan Petru Culianu.