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Jewish Identity in the American Scene
Lithuanian-born artist Ben Shahn learned fresco painting as an assistant to Diego Rivera in the 1930s and created his own visually powerful, technically sophisticated, and stylistically innovative artworks as part of the New Deal Arts Project's national mural program. In Ben Shahn's New Deal Murals: Jewish Identity in the American Scene author Diana L. Linden demonstrates that Shahn mined his Jewish heritage and left-leaning politics for his style and subject matter, offering insight into his murals' creation and their sometimes complicated reception by officials, the public, and the press.
In four chapters, Linden presents case studies of select Shahn murals that were created from 1933 to 1943 and are located in public buildings in New York, New Jersey, and Missouri. She studies Shahn's famous untitled fresco for the Jersey Homesteads-a utopian socialist cooperative community populated with former Jewish garment workers and funded under the New Deal-Shahn's mural for the Bronx Post Office, a fresco Shahn proposed to the post office in St. Louis, and a related one-panel easel painting titled The First Amendment located in a Queens, New York, Post Office. By investigating the role of Jewish identity in Shahn's works, Linden considers the artist's responses to important issues of the era, such as President Roosevelt's opposition to open immigration to the United States, New York's bustling garment industry and its labor unions, ideological concerns about freedom and liberty that had signifcant meaning to Jews, and the encroachment of censorship into American art.
Linden shows that throughout his public murals, Shahn literally painted Jews into the American scene with his subjects, themes, and compositions. Readers interested in Jewish American history, art history, and Depression-era American culture will enjoy this insightful volume.
Rethinking an Old Opposition
Although the ideas of “tradition” and “modernity” may seem to be directly opposed, David Ellenson, a leading contemporary scholar of modern Jewish thought, understood that these concepts can also enjoy a more fluid relationship. In honor of Ellenson, editors Michael A. Meyer and David N. Myers have gathered contributors for Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity: Rethinking an Old Opposition to examine the permutations and adaptations of these intertwined forms of Jewish expression. Contributions draw from a range of disciplines and scholarly interests and range in subject from the theological to the liturgical, sociological, and literary. The geographic and historical focus of the volume is on the United States and the State of Israel, both of which have been major sites of inquiry in Ellenson’s work. In twenty-two essays, contributors demonstrate that modernity did not simply replace tradition in Judaism but rather entered into a variety of relationships with it: adopting or adapting certain elements, repossessing rituals that had once been abandoned, or struggling with its continuing influence. In four parts—Law, Ritual, Thought, and Culture—contributors explore a variety of subjects, including the role of reform in Israeli Orthodoxy, traditions of twentieth-century bar/bat mitzvah, end-of-life ethics, tensions between Zionism and American Jewry, and the rise of a 1960s New York Jewish countrerculture. An introductory essay also presents an appreciation of Ellenson's scholarly contribution. Bringing together leading Jewish historians, anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers and liturgists, Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity offers a collective view of a historically and culturally significant issue that will be of interest to Jewish scholars of many discplines.
The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism
In 1965 social scientist Charles S. Liebman published a study that boldly declared the vitality of American Jewish Orthodoxy and went on to guide scholarly investigations of the group for the next four decades. As American Orthodoxy continues to grow in geographical, institutional, and political strength, author Adam S. Ferziger argues in Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism that one of Liebman’s principal definitions needs to be updated. While Liebman proposed that the “committed Orthodox” —observant rather than nominally affiliated—could be divided into two main streams: “church,” or Modern Orthodoxy, and “sectarian,” or Haredi Orthodoxy, Ferziger traces a narrowing of the gap between them and ultimately a realignment of American Orthodox Judaism. Ferziger shows that significant elements within Haredi Orthodoxy have abandoned certain strict and seemingly uncontested norms. He begins by offering fresh insight into the division between the American sectarian Orthodox and Modern Orthodox streams that developed in the early twentieth century and highlights New York’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun as a pioneering Modern Orthodox synagogue. Ferziger also considers the nuances of American Orthodoxy as reflected in Soviet Jewish activism during the 1960s and early 1970s and educational trips to Poland taken by American Orthodox young adults studying in Israel, and explores the responses of prominent rabbinical authorities to Orthodox feminism and its call for expanded public religious roles for women. Considerable discussion is dedicated to the emergence of outreach to nonobservant Jews as a central priority for Haredi Orthodoxy and how this focus outside its core population reflects fundamental changes. In this context, Ferziger presents evidence for the growing influence of Chabad Hasidism – what he terms the “Chabadization of American Orthodoxy.” Recent studies, including the 2013 Pew Survey of U.S. Jewry, demonstrate that an active and strongly connected American Orthodox Jewish population is poised to grow in the coming decades. Jewish studies scholars and readers interested in history, sociology, and religion will appreciate Ferziger’s reappraisal of this important group.
The Story of Maritime Michigan
Beyond the Windswept Dunes takes the reader into a world of maritime adventure as it was experienced by the sailors, passengers, rescue workers, shipping magnates, industrialists, and many other people whose livelihoods revolved around Michigan’s port city of Muskegon. At one time the leading edge of westward expansion, Muskegon was a place where lumbering and lakers merged and where rails met decks, a place situated midway along the coast of a great and sometimes stormy inland sea. Here Elizabeth Sherman offers both a shipping history and a portrait of the city. The events covered range from the visit by the British sloop H.M.S. Felicity in 1779 through Muskegon’s boom years as "Lumber Queen of the World," from the city’s revitalization with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway to its recent establishment of a floating museum complex for historic naval vessels. The book’s focus is on the ships themselves—such as the Lyman M. Davis, Salvor, Highway 16, and Milwaukee Clipper—vessels that were noteworthy for being the first of their kind or for their popularity, unusual and distinctive careers, or tragic losses. A number of ships were lost in Lake Michigan near Muskegon Harbor, and the stories of some of the most notable wrecks and rescue missions appear in this book, including the psychic intervention that led the William Nelson to the exciting rescue of the crew aboard the sinking Our Son. The book offers many first-hand statements of shipwreck survivors and other witnesses, lending an authentic voice to the accounts.
A Narrative Account with Entertaining Passages of the State of Minstrelsy & of America & the True Relation Thereof
A critical look at black identity in American history and popular culture as told from a performative African American perspective.
Inmate #6582 in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp for Women
On February 4, 1941, Nanda Herbermann, a German Catholic writer and editor, was arrested by the Gestapo in Münster, Germany. Accused of collaboration with the Catholic movement, Herbermann was deported to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp for Women in July 1941 and later released upon direct orders from Heinrich Himmler on March 19, 1943. Although she was instructed by the Gestapo not to reveal information about the camp, Herbermann soon began to record her memories of her experiences. The Blessed Abyss was originally published in German under the imprint of the Allied occupation forces in 1946, and it now appears in English for the first time. Hester Baer and Elizabeth Baer include an extensive introduction that situates Herbermann's work within current debates about gender and the Holocaust and provides historical and biographical information about Herbermann, Ravensbrück, and the Third Reich.
The title of Blue-Tail Fly comes from an antebellum song commonly known as “Jimmy Crack Corn.” The blue-tail fly is a supposedly insignificant creature that bites the horse that bucks and kills the master. In this collection, poet Vievee Francis gives voice to “outsiders”-from soldiers and common folk to leading political figures-who play the role of the blue-tail fly in the period of American history between the Mexican American War and the Civil War. Through a diverse range of styles, characters, and emotions, Francis's poems consider the demands of war, protest and resistance to it, and the cross-cultural exchanges of wartime. More than a narrowly themed text, Blue-Tail Fly is a book of balances, weighing the give-and-take of people and cultures in the arena of war. For lovers of poetry and those interested in American history, Blue-Tail Fly will illustrate the complexities of the American past and future.
The early 1900s was a dangerous time for African American men, whether famous or nameless. Punishment from any perceived transgression against the Jim Crow power structure came swiftly in legislative, emotional, or physical form, and it could well take one’s life. Despite this reality, however, a number of African Americans still lifted their heads, straightened their spines, and spoke and acted against the mainstream. In Booker T. & Them: A Blues, poet and playwright Bill Harris examines what he calls “the age of Booker T.” (1900–1915), when America began flexing its imperialistic muscles, D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was released, and Thomas Edison’s many technological innovations set the tone for the United States to be viewed as the nation of the century. In the historical and imaginative narrative of this “bio-poem,” Harris considers several African Americans who sought to be men that mattered in a racist America, including Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, William Monroe Trotter, George Washington Carver, and Jack Johnson, as he traces their effects on history and each other. In tandem, he visits white historical figures like Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, and D. W. Griffiths as well as some invented characters like students and professors at the Tuskegee Institute. Throughout, Harris shows that the rapid pace of early twentieth-century American change, progress, and science coincided with persistent and reinvented forms of white supremacy. Harris’s exciting structure offers varied rhythms and a blues sensibility that showcases his witty lines and vivid imagery. As a follow-up to his 2009 work Birth of a Notion; Or, the Half Ain’t Never Been Told, this book extends Harris’s critical and experimental examination of American history by presenting evidence for a greater understanding of these men and the cultural forces that shaped them. Readers interested in African American studies, American culture, and contemporary poetry will appreciate the unique perspective of Booker T. & Them: A Blues.
Letters from Jewish Migrants in the Early Twentieth Century
Between 1875 and 1924, more than 2.7 million Jews from Eastern Europe left their home countries in the hopes of escaping economic subjugation and religious persecution and creating better lives overseas. Although many studies have addressed how these millions of men, women, and children were absorbed into their destination countries, very little has been written on the process of deciding to migrate. In Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear: Letters from Jewish Migrants in the Early Twentieth Century, author Gur Alroey fills this gap by considering letters written by Eastern European Jews embarking on their migration. Alroey begins with a comprehensive introduction that describes the extent and unique characteristics of Jewish migration during this period, discusses the establishment of immigrant information bureaus, and analyzes some of the specific aspects of migration that are reflected in the letters. In the second part of the book, Alroey translates and annotates 66 letters from Eastern European Jews considering migration. From the letters, readers learn firsthand of the migrants’ fear of making a decision; their desire for advice and information before they took the fateful step; the gnawing anxiety of women whose husbands had already sailed for America and who were waiting impatiently for a ticket to join them; women whose husbands had disappeared in America and had broken off contact with their families; pogroms (documented in real time); and the obstacles and hardships on the way to the port of exit, as described by people who had already set out. Through the letters in Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear readers will follow the dilemmas and predicaments of the ordinary Jewish migrant, the difficulties of migration, and the changes that it brought about within the Jewish family. Scholars of Jewish studies and those interested in American and European history will appreciate this landmark volume.