Rutgers University Press

Key Words in Jewish Studies

Edited by Deborah Dash Moore, MacDonald Moore, Andrew Bush

Published by: Rutgers University Press

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Key Words in Jewish Studies

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Haskalah

The Romantic Movement in Judaism

Olga Litvak

Commonly translated as the “Jewish Enlightenment,” the Haskalah propelled Jews into modern life. Olga Litvak argues that the idea of a Jewish modernity, championed by adherents of this movement, did not originate in Western Europe’s age of reason. Litvak contends that the Haskalah spearheaded a Jewish cultural revival, better understood against the background of Eastern European Romanticism. Based on imaginative and historically grounded readings of primary sources, Litvak presents a compelling case for rethinking the most important concepts that currently inform the positioning of the Haskalah within the context of Jewish emancipation, nationalism, and secularization. Most importantly, she challenges the prevailing view that the Haskalah was the political and philosophical mainspring of Jewish liberalism.In Litvak’s ambitious rereading, nineteenth-century Eastern European intellectuals emerge as the authors of a Jewish Romantic revolution. Fueled by unfulfilled longings for community, spiritual perfection, and historical authenticity, the poets and scholars associated with the Haskalah were ambivalent about the contemporary struggle for Jewish equality and the quest for material improvement. Their skepticism about the universal promise of Enlightenment continues to shape Jewish political and religious values.

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Jew

Cynthia M. Baker

Jew.  The word possesses an uncanny power to provoke and unsettle. For millennia, Jew has signified the consummate Other, a persistent fly in the ointment of Western civilization’s grand narratives and cultural projects. Only very recently, however, has Jew been reclaimed as a term of self-identification and pride.  
 
With these insights as a point of departure, this book offers a wide-ranging exploration of the key word Jew—a term that lies not only at the heart of Jewish experience, but indeed at the core of Western civilization. Examining scholarly debates about the origins and early meanings of Jew, Cynthia M. Baker interrogates categories like “ethnicity,” “race,” and “religion” that inevitably feature in attempts to define the word. Tracing the term’s evolution, she also illuminates its many contradictions, revealing how Jew has served as a marker of materialism and intellectualism, socialism and capitalism, worldly cosmopolitanism and clannish parochialism, chosen status, and accursed stigma.
 
Baker proceeds to explore the complex challenges that attend the modern appropriation of Jew as a term of self-identification, with forays into Yiddish language and culture, as well as meditations on Jew-as-identity by contemporary public intellectuals. Finally, by tracing the phrase new Jews through a range of contexts—including the early Zionist movement, current debates about Muslim immigration to Europe, and recent sociological studies in the United States—the book provides a glimpse of what the word Jew is coming to mean in an era of Internet cultures, genetic sequencing, precarious nationalisms, and proliferating identities.
 

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Jewish Families

Jonathan Boyarin

From stories of biblical patriarchs and matriarchs and their children, through the Gospel’s Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and to modern Jewish families in fiction, film, and everyday life, the family has been considered key to transmitting Jewish identity. Current discussions about the Jewish family’s supposed traditional character and its alleged contemporary crisis tend to assume that the dynamics of Jewish family life have remained constant from the days of Abraham and Sarah to those of Tevye and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof and on to Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint.

Jonathan Boyarin explores a wide range of scholarship in Jewish studies to argue instead that Jewish family forms and ideologies have varied greatly throughout the times and places where Jewish families have found themselves. He considers a range of family configurations from biblical times to the twenty-first century, including strictly Orthodox communities and new forms of family, including same-sex parents. The book shows the vast canvas of history and culture as well as the social pressures and strategies that have helped shape Jewish families, and suggests productive ways to think about possible futures for Jewish family forms.

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Jewish Peoplehood

An American Innovation

Noam Pianko

Although fewer American Jews today describe themselves as religious, they overwhelmingly report a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Indeed, Jewish peoplehood has eclipsed religion—as well as ethnicity and nationality—as the essence of what binds Jews around the globe to one another. In Jewish Peoplehood, Noam Pianko highlights the current significance and future relevance of “peoplehood” by tracing the rise, transformation, and return of this novel term. 
 
The book tells the surprising story of peoplehood. Though it evokes a sense of timelessness, the term actually emerged in the United States in the 1930s, where it was introduced by American Jewish leaders, most notably Rabbi Stephen Wise and Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, with close ties to the Zionist movement. It engendered a sense of unity that transcended religious differences, cultural practices, geographic distance, economic disparity, and political divides, fostering solidarity with other Jews facing common existential threats, including the Holocaust, and establishing a closer connection to the Jewish homeland. But today, Pianko points out, as globalization erodes the dominance of nationalism in shaping collective identity, Jewish peoplehood risks becoming an outdated paradigm. He explains why popular models of peoplehood fail to address emerging conceptions of ethnicity, nationalism, and race, and he concludes with a much-needed roadmap for a radical reconfiguration of Jewish collectivity in an increasingly global era.
 
Innovative and provocative, Jewish Peoplehood provides fascinating insight into a term that assumes an increasingly important position at the heart of American Jewish and Israeli life.
 
 
 

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Jewish Studies

A Theoretical Introduction

Andrew Bush

Jewish Studies, the first volume in a groundbreaking new series, Key Words in Jewish Studies, introduces the basic approach of the series by organizing discussion around key concepts in the field that have emerged over the last two centuries: history and science, race and religion, self and community, identity and memory. The book is oriented by contemporary critical theory, especially feminist and postcolonial studies, and the multidisciplinary approaches of cultural studies.

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Space and Place in Jewish Studies

Barbara E. Mann

Scholars in the humanities have become increasingly interested in questions of how space is produced and perceived—and they have found that this consideration of human geography greatly enriches our understanding of cultural history. This “spatial turn” equally has the potential to revolutionize Jewish Studies, complicating familiar notions of Jews as “people of the Book,” displaced persons with only a common religious tradition and history to unite them.

Space and Place in Jewish Studies embraces these exciting critical developments by investigating what “space” has meant within Jewish culture and tradition—and how notions of “Jewish space,” diaspora, and home continue to resonate within contemporary discourse, bringing space to the foreground as a practical and analytical category. Barbara Mann takes us on a journey from medieval Levantine trade routes to the Eastern European shtetl to the streets of contemporary New York, introducing readers to the variety of ways in which Jews have historically formed communities and created a sense of place for themselves. Combining cutting-edge theory with rabbinics, anthropology, and literary analysis, Mann offers a fresh take on the Jewish experience.

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