American Jewish Loss after the Holocaust
Publication Year: 2007
Many of us belong to communities that have been scarred by terrible calamities. And many of us come from families that have suffered grievous losses. How we reflect on these legacies of loss and the ways they inform each other are the questions Laura Levitt takes up in this provocative and passionate book.
An American Jew whose family was not directly affected by the Holocaust, Levitt grapples with the challenges of contending with ordinary Jewish loss. She suggests that although the memory of the Holocaust may seem to overshadow all other kinds of loss for American Jews, it can also open up possibilities for engaging these more personal and everyday legacies.
Weaving in discussions of her own family stories and writing in a manner that is both deeply personal and erudite, Levitt shows what happens when public and private losses are seen next to each other, and what happens when difficult works of art or commemoration, such as museum exhibits or films, are seen alongside ordinary family stories about more intimate losses. In so doing she illuminates how through these “ordinary stories” we may create an alternative model for confronting Holocaust memory in Jewish culture.
Published by: NYU Press
Cover, Copyright and Title Pages
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Preface: Unraveling, a Personal Story
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No event informs the narrative of 20th-century Jewish history more than the Holocaust. Against this backdrop of traumatic loss, the lives of ordinary American Jews who have grown up in “a culture of plenty” are seemingly immune to such devastation, and their lives and losses are somehow less consequential. ...
Introduction: Indirection and Ordinary Jews
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In his analysis of Alain Resnais’ film Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), cultural critic Michael S. Roth explains why the filmmaker could not directly address the legacy of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, why he could not offer viewers another version of...
1. Looking Out from under a Long Shadow
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What does it mean to be a “keeper of accounts” after the Holocaust? How do we preserve memory? Which memories get to be remembered? And which memories are worth preserving? These are some of the questions posed by poet Irena Klepfisz in this, the last prose section of her poem Bashert. ...
2. Postmarked Pictures
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As we have already seen, for many American Jews, the allure of the Tower of Faces is a sense of connection and familiarity. It is as if these people whose pictures are on display in the Tower are our own. Through these deeply intimate connections, viewers also come to appreciate how intimacy can usher us into larger and more public narratives. ...
3. Secret Stashes
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Writing about grief and recovery and the imbrications of different losses in her own life, the writer Jane Lazarre describes her ongoing efforts to deal with the loss of her mother when she was seven. In her book Wet Earth and Dreams: A Narrative of Grief and Recovery, Lazarre explores this legacy in lucid and powerful ways.1 ...
4. Mary, Irena, and Me: Keepers of Accounts
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It is difficult to image where to go after writing about family photographs found at Auschwitz. What can come after the rediscovery of 2,400 hidden photographs from the final Polish transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau? ...
Conclusion: Other Ghosts, Other Encounters, Other Communities
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Returning to the Tower of Faces, we reconsider the allure of other people’s family pictures knowing what we now know about what it means to look at disparate images and legacies next to one another, ordinary and extraordinary stories of loss, images marked by the horrors of the Holocaust and intimate family albums. ...
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About the Author
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Laura Levitt is the director of Jewish Studies and an Associate Professor of Religion at Temple University. She is the author of Jews and Feminism: The Ambivalent Search for Home (1997), and with...
Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2007