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Space and Place in Jewish Studies

Barbara Mann

Publication Year: 2012

Scholars in the humanities have become increasingly interested in questions of how space is produced and perceived—and they have found that this consideration of human geography greatly enriches our understanding of cultural history. This “spatial turn” equally has the potential to revolutionize Jewish Studies, complicating familiar notions of Jews as “people of the Book,” displaced persons with only a common religious tradition and history to unite them.

Space and Place in Jewish Studies embraces these exciting critical developments by investigating what “space” has meant within Jewish culture and tradition—and how notions of “Jewish space,” diaspora, and home continue to resonate within contemporary discourse, bringing space to the foreground as a practical and analytical category. Barbara Mann takes us on a journey from medieval Levantine trade routes to the Eastern European shtetl to the streets of contemporary New York, introducing readers to the variety of ways in which Jews have historically formed communities and created a sense of place for themselves. Combining cutting-edge theory with rabbinics, anthropology, and literary analysis, Mann offers a fresh take on the Jewish experience.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Key Words in Jewish Studies


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

The Rutgers book series Key Words in Jewish Studies seeks to introduce students and scholars alike to vigorous developments in the field by exploring its . . .

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pp. xi-xii

I acknowledge the friends and colleagues who have nurtured this project, even as they continued to ask the most difficult questions, and I am grateful to those . . .

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Introduction: The Shape of the Book

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pp. 1-7

People tend to have a very personal relationship to space, so I begin with a story about my neighborhood in the Bronx. On a recent Friday afternoon, as daylight dwindled . . .

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The discussion of the Hebrew term for place (makom) in chapter 1 sets the stage for the three chapters that follow it in this section. As indicated in the introduction, . . .

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1 Makom

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pp. 11-25

The term makom in Hebrew may be translated, in deceptively simple fashion, as “place.” As in English, the word has both concrete and abstract significance, and . . .

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2 The Garden

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pp. 26-37

What is the role of the natural world in Jewish cultures? While the book’s final chapter offers a broader discussion of the role of the environment in . . .

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3 Jerusalem

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pp. 38-57

Eli Amir is an Iraqi-born writer who immigrated to Israel as a teen in the 1950s and became a popular novelist and well-known public figure. His 2005 novel . . .

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4 The Land

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pp. 58-77

“Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). “Lekh lekha.” This terse two-word command . . .

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This section moves beyond the Terms of Debate and imagines alternative spaces. In contrast to those roots conceived by chapters 2, 3, and 4, part 2 is organized . . .

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5 Bayit

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pp. 81-97

What makes a house a home? And if there is such a thing as a “Jewish home,” how might we go about determining its defining attributes? How is this space . . .

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6 Diasporas

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pp. 98-115

In the words of the German Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig, “To be a Jew means to be in Golus.1 Exile has largely had negative connotations, indicating . . .

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7 The City

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pp. 116-133

As seen through the eyes of Iya, a Muslim housekeeper, the departure of Jews from Baghdad in the 1950s leaves the city utterly changed and bereft of one of . . .

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The previous two sections have reviewed how Jewish cultures have imagined space and place across a variety of geographical and historical circumstances. In . .

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8 Eruv

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pp. 137-147

Michael Chabon’s novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (2007), set in the district of Sitka, a region of Alaska that has served as a “temporary haven” for Jews after . . .

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9 Environment

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pp. 148-154

Yehuda Amichai’s poem “Jewish Travel” poses a question regarding the essence of Jewish space: Now that the gap between space and place, between the . . .


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pp. 155-181


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pp. 183-196

About the Author

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pp. 197-197

E-ISBN-13: 9780813552125
E-ISBN-10: 0813552125
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813551814

Page Count: 212
Illustrations: 6 photographs
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Volume 2
Volume Title: 2
Series Title: Key Words in Jewish Studies
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Deborah Dash Moore, MacDonald Moore, Andrew Bush See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 777375656
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Space and Place in Jewish Studies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Space -- Religious aspects -- Judaism
  • Geographical perception.
  • Geographical perception in literature.
  • Place (Philosophy).
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