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From Personal Narratives to a Group Portrait
In the final years of the Soviet Union and into the 1990s, Soviet Jews immigrated to Israel at an unprecedented rate, bringing about profound changes in Israeli society and the way immigrants understood their own identity. In this volume ex-Soviets in Israel reflect on their immigration experiences, allowing readers to explore this transitional cultural group directly through immigrants’ thoughts, memories, and feelings, rather than physical artifacts like magazines, films, or books. Drawing on their fieldwork as well as on analyses of the Russian-language Israeli media and Internet forums, Larisa Fialkova and Maria N. Yelenevskaya present a collage of cultural and folk traditions—from Slavic to Soviet, Jewish, and Muslim—to demonstrate that the mythology of Soviet Jews in Israel is still in the making. The authors begin by discussing their research strategies, explaining the sources used as material for the study, and analyzing the demographic profile of the immigrants interviewed for the project. Chapters use immigrants’ personal recollections to both find fragments of Jewish tradition that survived despite the assimilation policy in the USSR and show how traditional folk perception of the Other affected immigrants’ interaction with members of their receiving society. The authors also investigate how immigrants’ perception of time and space affected their integration, consider the mythology of Fate and Lucky Coincidences as a means of fighting immigrant stress, examine folk-linguistics and the role of the lay-person’s view of languages in the life of the immigrant community, and analyze the transformation of folklore genres and images of the country of origin under new conditions. As the biggest immigration wave from a single country in Israel’s history, the ex-Soviet Jews make a fascinating case study for a variety of disciplines. Ex-Soviets in Israel will be of interest to scholars who work in Jewish and immigration studies, modern folklore, anthropology, and sociolinguistics.
Narrative Strategies in the Works of Isaac Bashevis Singer
David Neal Miller’s Fear of Fiction is the first book-length study that begins with the understanding that Singer is truly a Yiddish writer in language and culture. With the exception of a handful of articles, American critical examination of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s work has been devoted to Singer’s work in English—to those pieces he himself has selected for translation. This American Nobel laureate is part of a long tradition of Yiddish literature, and he still writes in that language.
The Lives of Central European University Women
Female, Jewish, and Educated presents a collective biography of Jewish women who attended universities in Germany or Austria before the Nazi era. To what extent could middle-class Jewish women in the early decades of the 20th century combine family and careers? What impact did anti-Semitism and gender discrimination have in shaping their personal and professional choices? Harriet Freidenreich analyzes the lives of 460 Central European Jewish university women, focusing on their family backgrounds, university experiences, professional careers, and decisions about marriage and children. She evaluates the role of discrimination and anti-Semitism in shaping the careers of academics, physicians, and lawyers in the four decades preceding World War II and assesses the effects of Nazism, the Holocaust, and emigration on the lives of a younger cohort of women. The life stories of the women profiled reveal the courage, character, and resourcefulness with which they confronted challenges still faced by women today.
Feminist Perspectives on Orthodox Responsa Literature
This book presents, from the perspective of feminist jurisprudence and feminist and liberal bioethics, a complete study of Jewish law (halakhah) on contemporary reproductive issues such as birth control, abortion, and assisted fertility. Irshai examines these issues to probe gender-based values that underlie the interpretations and determinations reached by modern practitioners of halakhah. Her primary goal is to tell, through common halakhic tools, a different halakhic story, one that takes account of the female narrative and its missing perspective.
Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights
Webb begins by ranging over the experiences of southern Jews up to the eve of the civil rights movement--from antebellum slaveowners to refugees who fled Hitler's Europe only to arrive in the Jim Crow South. He then shows how the historical burden of ambivalence between Jews and blacks weighed on such issues as school desegregation, the white massive resistance movement, and business boycotts and sit-ins.
As many Jews grappled as never before with the ways they had become--and yet never could become--southerners, their empathy with African Americans translated into scattered, individual actions rather than any large-scale, organized alliance between the two groups. The reasons for this are clear, Webb says, once we get past the notion that the choices of the much larger, less conservative, and urban-centered Jewish populations of the North define those of all American Jews. To understand Jews in the South we must look at their particular circumstances: their small numbers and wide distribution, denominational rifts, and well-founded anxiety over defying racial and class customs set by the region's white Protestant majority.
For better or worse, we continue to define the history of Jews and blacks in America by its flash points. By setting aside emotions and shallow perceptions, Fight against Fear takes a substantial step toward giving these two communities the more open and evenhanded consideration their shared experiences demand.
The Life and Legacy of Jacob Godin
An illluminating inside look at the life and times of playwright and author Jacob Gordin, a central presence in the Golden Age of Yiddish theater
The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism
This book addresses a central question in the study of Jewish mysticism in the medieval and early modern periods: why are there no known female mystics in medieval Judaism, unlike contemporaneous movements in Christianity and Islam? Sharon Faye Koren demonstrates that the male rejection of female mystical aspirations is based in deeply rooted attitudes toward corporeality and ritual purity. In particular, medieval Jewish male mystics increasingly emphasized that the changing states of the female body between ritual purity and impurity disqualified women from the quest for mystical connection with God.
Offering a provocative look at premodern rabbinical views of the female body and their ramifications for women's spiritual development, Koren compares Jewish views with medieval Christian and Muslim views of both female menstruation and the possibility of female mystical experience.
From Saadiah Gaon to Abraham Ibn Ezra
Uriel Simon describes the fascinating controversy that raged from the tenth to the twelfth centuries regarding the theological status and literary genre of the Psalms. Saadiah Gaon, who initiated the controversy, claimed that the Psalter was a second Torah—the Lord’s word to David—and by no means man’s prayer to God. Salmon ben Yerucham and Yefet ben Ali insisted on the Karaite view that the Book of Psalms was the prophetic common prayerbook of Israel. Totally opposing both of these concepts, Rabbi Moses Ibn Giqatilah regarded the Psalms as non-prophetic prayers authored by different poets, beginning with David and ending with the captive Levites in the Babylonian exile. Finally, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra reverted to the belief held by the Talmudic sages—that the Psalms were Israel’s divinely inspired and most sacred poetry.
The German Jewish Community of Washington Heights, 1933-82, Its Structure and Culture
The 20,000 German Jews who fled Hitler's Germany and settled in Washington Heights were unusual in many ways. They preserved their Jewish identity while fostering a culture that was still heavily German—a difficult combination in light of their origins. In his study of this immigrant group, Steven Lowenstein strives for more that a chronicle of their institutions and leaders. He analyzes both the social structure of the community and the folk culture of the immigrants. He deals with such issues as the formal nature of German Jewish cultural style, the relationships between the generations, and intergroup relations. Using organizational bulletins, surveys, interviews, and personal observations and anecdotes, Lowenstein paints a picture of a unique lifestyle now in the process of merging into American Jewry and disappearing.
Frieden explores methods of dream interpretation in the Bible, the Talmud, and in the writings of Sigmund Freud, and brings to light Freud’s troubled relationship to his Judaic forerunners. This book reveals unfamiliar associations in intellectual history and challenges received ideas in biblical, Talmudic, and Freudian scholarship.