Since their arrival on these shores over 350 years ago, American Jews who have wished to maintain a Jewish communal life have faced a set of novel challenges. Throughout their history in the U.S., Jews have been free to embrace or eschew communal involvement; to support or ignore Jewish institutions; to associate with other Jews or to distance themselves from coreligionists. The dispersal of Jews across so vast a country has also posed serious challenges to Jewish unity. For these and other reasons examined in this volume, the group existence of Jews in the U.S. has depended on a variety of creative efforts to develop and sustain communities in the face of powerful pressures to disperse and assimilate. This volume explores the multiple conceptions of community in the American Jewish imagination. Essays by leading scholars working in the fields of history, ethnography, material culture, literary criticism and Jewish thought uncover the underlying assumptions of those who continually redefined the Jewish community from colonial times to the present day. Topics include the notion of "synagogue-community" in prerevolutionary America, the role of commerce and business in nineteenth-century communal life, transnationalism and Jewish immigration, suburbanization, Jewish patriotism in wartime, sports and board games, Jewish literary classics, Jewish mothers, feminism,Yiddish schools, Jewish museums, and the communal possibilities of the internet.
Jewish American Culture from Cahan to The Goldbergs
Author: Donald Weber
Category: Social Science
"Haunted in the New World is a superb, insightful, and acutely intelligent piece of work. It makes a real contribution to the understanding of ethnicity in general and Jewish American culture in particular." —Morris Dickstein In 1916 Abraham Cahan, editor of the Jewish daily The Forward, warned his Yiddish-speaking readers of the potential psychic dangers associated with their New World situation. "You will not be able to erase the old home from your heart," he cautioned his immigrant readers, transplanted from the shtetls and cities of Eastern Europe to exhilarating, if bewildering, multicultural New York. Building on Cahan's deeply personal reflection, Haunted in the New World maps the affective landscape of modern Jewish American culture. Drawing on scholarship in a range of disciplines, including the sociology of manners, the study of the role of foodways in the formation of ethnic identity, the psychoanalysis of shame and self-hatred, and the role of memory for those unsettled by the experience of migration, Donald Weber traces the impact of the tension between nostalgia for the world left behind and the desire to blend into American culture, as evidenced in a number of key texts in the canon of Jewish American expression. These range from early immigrant fiction and cinema, through the novels of Anzia Yezierska and Henry Roth, to Hollywood's representation of Jews in The Jazz Singer and Gentleman's Agreement, to Saul Bellow, Gertrude Berg (Molly Goldberg), and the comedians Milton Berle and Mickey Katz. Setting an array of figures and works in creative dialogue, Haunted in the New World offers a genealogy of those core emotions—shame and self-hatred, nostalgic longing and the impulse to forget—that organized much of 20th-century Jewish American expressive culture and transformed American culture at the same time.
Discusses how media technology impacts the Jewish experience. This title explores mid-twentieth-century ecumenical radio and television broadcasting, video documentation of life cycle rituals, and museum displays and tourist practices as means for engaging the Holocaust as a moral touchstone
How Jews think about and work with objects is the subject of this fascinating study of the interplay between material culture and Jewish thought. Ken Koltun-Fromm draws from philosophy, cultural studies, literature, psychology, film, and photography to portray the vibrancy and richness of Jewish practice in America. His analyses of Mordecai Kaplan's obsession with journal writing, Joseph Soloveitchik's urban religion, Abraham Joshua Heschel's fascination with objects in The Sabbath, and material identity in the works of Anzia Yezierska, Cynthia Ozick, Bernard Malamud, and Philip Roth, as well as Jewish images on the covers of Lilith magazine and in the Jazz Singer films, offer a groundbreaking approach to an understanding of modern Jewish thought and its relation to American culture.
In You Never Call, You Never Write, Joyce Antler provides an illuminating and often amusing history of one of the best-known figures in popular culture--the Jewish Mother. Whether drawn as self-sacrificing or manipulative, in countless films, novels, radio and television programs, stand-up comedy, and psychological and historical studies, she appears as a colossal figure, intensely involved in the lives of her children. Antler traces the odyssey of this compelling personality through decades of American culture. She reminds us of a time when Jewish mothers were admired for their tenacity and nurturance, as in the early twentieth-century image of the "Yiddishe Mama," a sentimental figure popularized by entertainers such as George Jessel, Al Jolson, and Sophie Tucker, and especially by Gertrude Berg, whose amazingly successful "Molly Goldberg" ruled American radio and television for over 25 years. Antler explains the transformation of this Jewish Mother into a "brassy-voiced, smothering, and shrewish" scourge (in Irving Howe's words), detailing many variations on this negative theme, from Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks to television shows such as "The Nanny," "Seinfeld," and "Will and Grace." But she also uncovers a new counter-narrative, leading feminist scholars and stand-up comediennes to see the Jewish Mother in positive terms. Continually revised and reinvented, the Jewish Mother becomes in Antler's expert hands a unique lens with which to examine vital concerns of American Jews and the culture at large. A joy to read, You Never Call, You Never Write will delight anyone who has ever known or been nurtured by a "Jewish Mother," and it will be a special source of insight for modern parents. As Antler suggests, in many ways "we are all Jewish Mothers" today.
Jewish American Drama and Jewish American Experience
Author: J. Novick
Category: Performing Arts
Beyond the Golden Door is the first book devoted to showing how Jewish playwrights of the twentieth century have dramatized the Jewish encounter with America. Questions dealt within this study include - How do you balance old world heritage with new world opportunity? What does it mean to be a Jew - or to be an American, for that matter?
Jewish American Writers and American Literary Culture
Author: Julian Levinson
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Category: Literary Collections
How have Jews reshaped their identities as Jews in the face of the radical newness called America? Julian Levinson explores the ways in which exposure to American literary culture -- in particular the visionary tradition identified with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman -- led American Jewish writers to a new understanding of themselves as Jews. Discussing the lives and work of writers such as Emma Lazarus, Mary Antin, Ludwig Lewisohn, Waldo Frank, Anzia Yezierska, I. J. Schwartz, Alfred Kazin, and Irving Howe, Levinson concludes that their interaction with American culture led them to improvise new and meaningful ways of being Jewish. In contrast to the often expressed view that the diaspora experience leads to assimilation, Exiles on Main Street traces an arc of return to Jewish identification and describes a vital and creative Jewish American literary culture.
The contributors to this volume treat pluralism as a concept that is historically and ideologically produced or, put another way, as a doctrine that is embedded within a range of political, civic, and cultural institutions. Their critique considers how religious difference is framed as a problem that only pluralism can solve. Working comparatively across nations and disciplines, the essays in After Pluralism explore pluralism as a "term of art" that sets the norms of identity and the parameters of exchange, encounter, and conflict. Contributors locate pluralism's ideals in diverse sites Broadway plays, Polish Holocaust memorials, Egyptian dream interpretations, German jails, and legal theories and demonstrate its shaping of political and social interaction in surprising and powerful ways. Throughout, they question assumptions underlying pluralism's discourse and its influence on the legal decisions that shape modern religious practice. Contributors do more than deconstruct this theory; they tackle what comes next. Having established the genealogy and effects of pluralism, they generate new questions for engaging the collective worlds and multiple registers in which religion operates.