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Boundaries of Jewish Identity (Samuel and Althea Stroum Book)

Susan A. Glenn is Howard and Frances Keller Endowed Professor of History and a member of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Washington. Naomi B. Sokoloff is professor of Near Eastern languages and civilizations and professor of comparative li

Publication Year: 2010

The subject of Jewish identity is one of the most vexed and contested issues of modern religious and ethnic group history. This interdisciplinary collection draws on work in law, anthropology, history, sociology, literature, and popular culture to consider contemporary and historical responses to the question: "Who and what is Jewish?"

Published by: University of Washington Press


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p. vii- vii

The essays collected in this volume emerged out of a symposium held in May 2007 at the University of Washington in Seattle. We are grateful to our UW colleagues Michelle Habell-Pallan, Joel Migdal, Janelle Taylor, and Noam Pianko for their valuable contributions as commentators. Their questions and insights catalyzed our thinking as we wrote the introduction and proved to be critical to a number of the authors whose work appears in this volume...

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Introduction: Who and What Is Jewish? : Controversies and Comparative Perspectives on the Boundaries of Jewish Identity

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pp. 3-11

The subject of Jewish identity, including the question of who is a Jew and what constitutes “Jewishness,” is one of the most vexed and contested issues of modern religious and ethnic group history. This cross-disciplinary volume brings together work by a diverse group of scholars to offer comparative perspectives on what might best be described...

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1. Are Genes Jewish? : Conceptual Ambiguities in the New Genetic Age

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pp. 12-26

Imagining Jewishness as an embodied identity has a long and complicated history. Maimonides posited that Jewishness was not inherently manifest in one’s body; rather, it was realized through commitment to Jewish law. Other Jewish philosophers such as Judah Halevi have argued that there is something physiologically different...

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2. Who Is a Jew? - Categories, Boundaries, Communities, and Citizenship Law in Israel

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pp. 27-42

Sociopolitical categories construct, shape, and reproduce identities in compound ways. In defining who is in and who is outside a group, different communities may use various categories contingent on specific needs, expectations, interests, and visions of the “good” society and the desirable state. Similarly, any attempt to comprehend citizenship as an exclusively legalistic issue resulting in rights and duties may miss opportunities...

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3. Jewish Character? - Stereotype and Identity in Fiction from Israel by Aharon Appelfeld and Sayed Kashua

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pp. 43-63

In a story called “Transformation” (1968), celebrated Hebrew author and Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld imagines characters at the far edges of Jewish identity.1 His protagonists, a man and a woman on the run during the Nazi era, undergo a sudden, Kafkaesque metamorphosis. Taking refuge in a forest, they become unrecognizable as Jews, turn into peasants...

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4. “Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish” - Visual Stereotypes and the Making of Modern Jewish Identity

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pp. 64-90

“If you want to compliment a Jew . . . tell him that he does not look like one. What a depth of degradation for a people to have reached,” observed the Anglo-Jewish writer Israel Zangwill in 1904.1 Fifty years later, a popular joke among American Jews reveals the persistent preoccupation with the question of Jewish looks. In the joke, an older woman approaches a “dignified” looking gentleman on the subway...

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5. Blame, Boundaries, and Birthrights - Jewish Intermarriage in Midcentury America

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pp. 91-109

To study the debates about Jewish intermarriage over the past half century is to be confronted with a politics of blame. In both scholarly and popular discussions, the desire to assign blame has remained a constant theme. For example, Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist well known for his statistical studies, lambasted American Jews in 2007 for not doing enough to stem the tide of intermarriages. Either address the problem, he...

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6. Boundary Maintenance and Jewish Identity - Comparative and Historical Perspectives

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pp. 110-131

Who and what is “Jewish,” and how do we know? The sociological way of knowing that I examine relies on two key social science concepts: community and stratification. Community can be defined by the connections among persons who share history and experience and the spatial boundaries within which people live, work, and interact. Stratification...

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7. Good Bad Jews - Converts, Conversion, and Boundary Redrawing in Modern Russian Jewry, Notes toward a New Category

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pp. 132-160

One of the more interesting questions about a group’s behavior is its boundary drawing: how, when, and why a group literally defines itself, by marking who is in and who is out. What criteria are used to designate insiders and outsiders, and who decides? Who enforces lines that are drawn, with what measures and authority? What role do self-conscious elites, articulate leaders in processes of boundary...

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8. “Jewish Like an Adjective” - Confronting Jewish Identities in Contemporary Poland

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pp. 161-187

Dekalog 8: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (1989) was a highly praised segment in a ten-part film series by the esteemed Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, each part of which references one of the ten biblical commandments...

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9. Conversos, Marranos, and Crypto-Latinos - The Jewish Question in the American Southwest (and What It Can Tell Us about Race and Ethnicity)

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pp. 188-202

A few years ago I found myself with a seat at the table where most of the real intellectual work gets done at the contemporary university: on a hiring committee. This committee faced a more interesting challenge than most; we were charged with hiring a junior person, in any department, who specialized in any aspect of Jewish cultural or social life in America...

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10. The Contested Logics of Jewish Identity

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pp. 203-215

“Jewish like an adjective.” “Good bad Jews.” “Jewishness.” With these words we struggle to capture something that does not fit in the simpler naming, “a Jew.” Yet even the simple noun “Jew,” given here in English, is a field of struggle.1 Whether we consider the question of who is or is not a Jew, or the possibility of degrees of Jewishness, we come back to the...


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pp. 216-232


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pp. 233-236


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pp. 237- 249

E-ISBN-13: 9780295800837
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295990552

Publication Year: 2010