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Jewish Families

Jonathan Boyarin

Publication Year: 2013

From stories of biblical patriarchs and matriarchs and their children, through the Gospel’s Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and to modern Jewish families in fiction, film, and everyday life, the family has been considered key to transmitting Jewish identity. Current discussions about the Jewish family’s supposed traditional character and its alleged contemporary crisis tend to assume that the dynamics of Jewish family life have remained constant from the days of Abraham and Sarah to those of Tevye and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof and on to Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint.

Jonathan Boyarin explores a wide range of scholarship in Jewish studies to argue instead that Jewish family forms and ideologies have varied greatly throughout the times and places where Jewish families have found themselves. He considers a range of family configurations from biblical times to the twenty-first century, including strictly Orthodox communities and new forms of family, including same-sex parents. The book shows the vast canvas of history and culture as well as the social pressures and strategies that have helped shape Jewish families, and suggests productive ways to think about possible futures for Jewish family forms.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Key Words in Jewish Studies

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

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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 terms. These words and phrases reference important concepts, issues, practices, events, and circumstances. ...

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Preface: Doing the Jewish Family

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pp. xi-xvi

Several years ago, when Andy Bush (one of the coeditors of this series and the author of its keynote volume) told me about Key Words in Jewish Studies, I responded immediately that if I ever got up the courage to write a volume for the series, it would be on the Jewish family. ...

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pp. 1-16

We usually think we know what families are. After all, for better and for worse, we all grow up in one, and even in the rare case that one of us hasn’t, we (and she) generally assume that we know what she missed: a male father, a female mother, a sibling or more of assorted sexes and genders.1 ...

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1: Terms of Debate

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pp. 17-62

Glance back, for a moment, to the epigraph to this book—the first quotation from the Tractate Sanhedrin of the Babylonian Talmud about the creation of the human in the singular. I cited it there as a “quote without comment,” figuring that it could stand on its own as testimony to ancient recognition that families don’t always work the way they’re supposed to. ...

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2: State of the Question

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pp. 63-110

In the aftermath of the Nazi genocide, the Yiddish poet Moshe Szulsztejn wrote: “Es veln nisht feln/di nemen nokh vemen [There will be no lack/ Of those to name after].” This deceptively simple couplet—da DA da da DA da/da DA da da DA da—is a reminder that for some time to come at least, Jewish generations will have been depleted, ...

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3: In a New Key

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pp. 111-162

This is the last chapter, but only of this book: its goal is to make you wonder, learn more, and perhaps even think of doing research like the scholars you’ve been meeting in these pages. To cite what is admittedly quite an “un-Jewish” image, it’s just too tempting to say that this chapter cannot help but be Janus-faced, ...


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pp. 163-164


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pp. 165-172


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pp. 173-186

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About the Author

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pp. 205-206

Jonathan Boyarin was born into a family of New Jersey chicken farmers whose ancestors were Russian and Lithuanian Jews. His spouse, Elissa Sampson, stems from Galician and Sephardi Jewish families. They have two sons, Jonah and Yeshaya. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813562933
E-ISBN-10: 0813562937
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813562926

Page Count: 206
Publication Year: 2013

Volume Title: 4
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: 861693146
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Jewish Families