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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.
Mordecai M. Kaplan, a pioneering figure in the reinterpretation and redefinition of Judaism in the 20th century, embraced religious liberalism, naturalism, and empiricism, and gave expression to a unique American attitude in philosophy and theology. This volume, the first comprehensive treatment of Kaplan since his death in 1983 . . . illustrates Kaplan's links to traditional Jewish roots and demonstrates his evolutionary philosophy of Jewish culture, his Zionist orientation, and the vast range of his thought and action. The volume also features a complete bibliography of Kaplan's writings.
A must for every serious thinker probing American Jewish culture, history and theology.
-- Alfred GottschalkPresident, Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion
These highly knowledgeable essays provide us with a new and more complex image of a central personality in 20th century American Jewish life. They are indispensable for understanding the influences that helped shape Mordecai Kaplan's thought and personality, the nature of his relationships with significant contemporaries, and the various aspects of his ideology and practical program for American Jewry.
-- Professor Michael A. MeyerDepartment of Jewish HistoryHebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion
This leading American Jewish thinker of the pre-war period is still the point of departure for any attempt to construct a Judaism for this new age in the history of the Jewish people. The volume brings them an and this thought to life.
-- Dr. Arthur GreenPresident, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Its Roots and Offshoots
Klezmer, the Yiddish word for a folk instrumental musician, has come to mean a person, a style, and a scene. This musical subculture came to the United States with the late-nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Although it had declined in popularity by the middle of the twentieth century, this lively music is now enjoying recognition among music fans of all stripes. Today, klezmer flourishes in the United States and abroad in the world music and accompany Jewish celebrations. The outstanding essays collected in this volume investigate American klezmer: its roots, its evolution, and its spirited revitalization.
The contributors to American Klezmer include every kind of authority on the subject--from academics to leading musicians--and they offer a wide range of perspectives on the musical, social, and cultural history of klezmer in American life. The first half of this volume concentrates on the early history of klezmer, using folkloric sources, records of early musicians unions, and interviews with the last of the immigrant musicians. The second part of the collection examines the klezmer "revival" that began in the 1970s. Several of these essays were written by the leaders of this movement, or draw on interviews with them, and give firsthand accounts of how klezmer is transmitted and how its practitioners maintain a balance between preservation and innovation.
Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society
How do American Jews identify as both Jewish and American? American Post-Judaism argues that Zionism and the Holocaust, two anchors of contempoary American Jewish identity, will no longer be centers of identity formation for future generations of American Jews. Shaul Magid articulates a new, post-ethnic American Jewishness. He discusses pragmatism and spirituality, monotheism and post-monotheism, Jesus, Jewish law, sainthood and self-realization, and the meaning of the Holocaust for those who have never known survivors. Magid presents Jewish Renewal as a movement that takes this radical cultural transition seriously in its strivings for a new era in Jewish thought and practice.
A Chaplain's Journey in the Forgotten War
During the height of the Korean conflict, 1950-51, Orthodox Jewish chaplain Milton J. Rosen wrote 19 feature-length articles for Der Morgen Zhornal, a Yiddish daily in New York, documenting his wartime experiences as well as those of the servicemen under his care. Rosen was among those nearly caught in the Chinese entrapment of American and Allied forces in North Korea in late 1950, and some of his most poignant writing details the trying circumstances that faced both soldiers and civilians during that time.
As chaplain, Rosen was able to offer a unique account of the American Jewish experience on the frontlines and in the United States military while also describing the impact of the American presence on Korean citizens and their culture. His interest in Korean attitudes toward Jews is also a significant theme within these articles.
Stanley R. Rosen has translated his father's articles into English and provides background on Milton Rosen's military service before and after the Korean conflict. He presents an introductory overview of the war and includes helpful maps and photographs. The sum is a readable account of war and its turmoil from an astute and compassionate observer.
The Cultural Work of Jewish American Fiction
Looks at the role of Jewish American fiction in the larger context of American culture. 'In American Talmud, Ezra Cappell redefines the genre of Jewish American fiction and places it squarely within the larger context of American literature. Cappell departs from the conventional approach of defining Jewish American authors solely in terms of their ethnic origins and sociological constructs, and instead contextualizes their fiction within the theological heritage of Jewish culture. By deliberately emphasizing historical and ethnographic links to religions, religious texts, and traditions, Cappell demonstrates that twentieth-century and contemporary Jewish American fiction writers have been codifying a new Talmud, an American Talmud, and argues that the literary production of Jews in America might be seen as one more stage of rabbinic commentary on the scriptural inheritance of the Jewish people.
Scent and Seduction in Rabbinic Life and Literature
In The Aroma of Righteousness, Deborah Green explores images of perfume and incense in late Roman and early Byzantine Jewish literature. Using literary methods to illuminate the rabbinic literature, Green demonstrates the ways in which the rabbis’ reading of biblical texts and their intimate experience with aromatics build and deepen their interpretations. The study uncovers the cultural associations that are evoked by perfume and incense in both the Hebrew Bible and midrashic texts and seeks to understand the cultural, theological, and experiential motivations and impulses that lie behind these interpretations. Green accomplishes this by examining the relationship between the textual traditions of the Hebrew Bible and Midrash, the surviving evidence from the material culture of Palestine in the late Roman and early Byzantine periods, and cultural evidence as described by the rabbis and other Roman authors.
The wide-ranging portrayal of modern Jewishness in artistic terms invites scrutiny into the relationship between creativity and the formation of Jewish identity and into the complex issue of what makes a work of art uniquely Jewish. Whether it is the provenance of the artist, as in the case of popular Israeli singer Zehava Ben, the intention of the iconography, as in Ben Shahn's antifascist paintings, or the utopian ideals of the Jewish Palestine Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, clearly no single formula for defining Jewish art in the diaspora will suffice.
The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times is the first work to analyze modern Jewry's engagement with the arts as a whole, including music, theater, dance, film, museums, architecture, painting, sculpture, and more. Working with a broad conception of what counts as art, the book asks the following questions: What roles have commerce and politics played in shaping Jewish artistic agendas? Who determines the Jewishness of art and for what purposes? What role has aesthetics played in reshaping religious traditions and rituals?
This richly illustrated volume illuminates how the arts have helped Jews confront the various challenges of modernity, including cultural adaptation and self-preservation, economic diversification, and ritual transformation. There truly is an art to being Jewish in the modern world—or, alternatively, an art to being modern in the Jewish world—and this collection fully captures its range, diversity, and historical significance.
Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual
Conventional wisdom holds that Judaism is indifferent or even suspiciously hostile to the visual arts due to the Second Commandment's prohibition on creating "graven images," the dictates of monotheism, and historical happenstance. This intellectual history of medieval and modern Jewish attitudes toward art and representation overturns the modern assumption of Jewish iconophobia that denies to Jewish culture a visual dimension.
Kalman Bland synthesizes evidence from medieval Jewish philosophy, mysticism, poetry, biblical commentaries, travelogues, and law, concluding that premodern Jewish intellectuals held a positive, liberal understanding of the Second Commandment and did, in fact, articulate a certain Jewish aesthetic. He draws on this insight to consider modern ideas of Jewish art, revealing how they are inextricably linked to diverse notions about modern Jewish identity that are themselves entwined with arguments over Zionism, integration, and anti-Semitism.
Through its use of the past to illuminate the present and its analysis of how the present informs our readings of the past, this book establishes a new assessment of Jewish aesthetic theory rooted in historical analysis. Authoritative and original in its identification of authentic Jewish traditions of painting, sculpture, and architecture, this volume will ripple the waters of several disciplines, including Jewish studies, art history, medieval and modern history, and philosophy.
Pillars, Lines, Ladders
Ascensions on high took many forms in Jewish mysticism and they permeated most of its history from its inception until Hasidism. The book surveys the various categories, with an emphasis on the architectural images of the ascent, like the resort to images of pillars, lines, and ladders. After surveying the variety of scholarly approaches to religion, the author also offers what he proposes as an eclectic approach, and a perspectivist one. The latter recommends to examine religious phenomena from a variety of perspectives. The author investigates the specific issue of the pillar in Jewish mysticism by comparing it to the archaic resort to pillars recurring in rural societies. Given the fact that the ascent of the soul and pillars constituted the concerns of two main Romanian scholars of religion, Ioan P. Culianu and Mircea Eliade, Idel resorts to their views, and in the Concluding Remarks analyzes the emergence of Eliade's vision of Judaism on the basis of neglected sources.