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The Modern Jewish Experience

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The Modern Jewish Experience

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The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism

The Menorah Association and American Diversity

Daniel Greene

Daniel Greene traces the emergence of the idea of cultural pluralism to the lived experiences of a group of Jewish college students and public intellectuals, including the philosopher Horace M. Kallen. These young Jews faced particular challenges as they sought to integrate themselves into the American academy and literary world of the early 20th century. At Harvard University, they founded an influential student organization known as the Menorah Association in 1906 and later the Menorah Journal, which became a leading voice of Jewish public opinion in the 1920s. In response to the idea that the American melting pot would erase all cultural differences, the Menorah Association advocated a pluralist America that would accommodate a thriving Jewish culture while bringing Jewishness into mainstream American life.

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Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire

Jeffrey Veidlinger

In the midst of the violent, revolutionary turmoil that accompanied the last decade of tsarist rule in the Russian Empire, many Jews came to reject what they regarded as the apocalyptic and utopian prophecies of political dreamers and religious fanatics, preferring instead to focus on the promotion of cultural development in the present. Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire examines the cultural identities that Jews were creating and disseminating through voluntary associations such as libraries, drama circles, literary clubs, historical societies, and even fire brigades. Jeffrey Veidlinger explores the venues in which prominent cultural figures -- including Sholem Aleichem, Mendele Moykher Sforim, and Simon Dubnov -- interacted with the general Jewish public, encouraging Jewish expression within Russia's multicultural society. By highlighting the cultural experiences shared by Jews of diverse social backgrounds -- from seamstresses to parliamentarians -- and in disparate geographic locales -- from Ukrainian shtetls to Polish metropolises -- the book revises traditional views of Jewish society in the late Russian Empire.

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The Jewish Revolution in Belorussia

Economy, Race, and Bolshevik Power

Andrew Sloin

Jewish life was changed fundamentally as Jews joined the Bolshevik movement and populated the front lines of the revolutionary struggle. Andrew Sloin’s story follows the arc of Bolshevik history but shows how the broader movement was enacted in factories and workshops, workers’ clubs and union meetings, and on the Jewish streets of White Russia. The protagonists here are shoemakers, speculators, glassmakers, peddlers, leatherworkers, needleworkers, soldiers, students, and local party operatives who were swept up, willingly or otherwise, into the Bolshevik project. Sloin stresses the fundamental relationship between economy and identity formation as party officials grappled with the Jewish Question in the wake of the revolution.

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Jewish Youth and Identity in Postwar France

Rebuilding Family and Nation

Daniella Doron

At the end of World War II, French Jews faced a devastating demographic reality: thousands of orphaned children, large numbers of single-parent households, and families in emotional and financial distress. Daniella Doron suggests that after years of occupation and collaboration, French Jews and non-Jews held contrary opinions about the future of the nation and the institution of the family. At the center of the disagreement was what was to become of the children. Doron traces emerging notions about the postwar family and its role in strengthening Jewish ethnicity and French republicanism in the shadow of Vichy and the Holocaust.

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Judaism's Encounter with American Sports

Jeffrey S. Gurock

Judaism's Encounter with American Sports examines how sports entered the lives of American Jewish men and women and how the secular values of sports threatened religious identification and observance. What do Jews do when a society -- in this case, a team -- "chooses them in," but demands commitments that clash with ancestral ties and practices?

Jeffrey S. Gurock uses the experience of sports to illuminate an important mode of modern Jewish religious conflict and accommodation to America. He considers the defensive strategies American Jewish leaders have employed in response to sports' challenges to identity, such as using temple and synagogue centers, complete with gymnasiums and swimming pools, to attract the athletically inclined to Jewish life. Within the suburban frontiers of post--World War II America, sports-minded modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis competed against one another for the allegiances of Jewish athletes and all other Americanized Jews. In the present day, tensions among Jewish movements are still played out in the sports arena.

Today, in a mostly accepting American society, it is easy for sports-minded Jews to assimilate completely, losing all regard for Jewish ties. At the same time, a very tolerant America has enabled Jews to succeed in the sports world, while keeping faith with Jewish traditions. Gurock foregrounds his engaging book against his own experiences as a basketball player, coach, and marathon runner. By using the metaphor of sports, Judaism's Encounter with American Sports underscores the basic religious dilemmas of our day.

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Kiev, Jewish Metropolis

A History, 1859--1914

Natan M. Meir

Populated by urbane Jewish merchants and professionals as well as new arrivals from the shtetl, imperial Kiev was acclaimed for its opportunities for education, culture, employment, and entrepreneurship but cursed for the often pitiless persecution of its Jews. Kiev, Jewish Metropolis limns the history of Kiev Jewry from the official readmission of Jews to the city in 1859 to the outbreak of World War I. It explores the Jewish community's politics, its leadership struggles, socioeconomic and demographic shifts, religious and cultural sensibilities, and relations with the city's Christian population. Drawing on archival documents, the local press, memoirs, and belles lettres, Natan M. Meir shows Kiev's Jews at work, at leisure, in the synagogue, and engaged in the activities of myriad Jewish organizations and philanthropies.

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Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia

Rebekah Klein-Pejšová

In the aftermath of World War I, the largely Hungarian-speaking Jews in Slovakia faced the challenge of reorienting their political loyalties from defeated Hungary to newly established Czechoslovakia. Rebekah Klein-Pejšová examines the challenges Slovak Jews faced as government officials, demographers, and police investigators continuously tested their loyalty. Focusing on "Jewish nationality" as a category of national identity, Klein-Pejšová shows how Jews recast themselves as loyal citizens of Czechoslovakia. Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia traces how the interwar state saw and understood minority loyalty and underscores how loyalty preceded identity in the redrawn map of east central Europe.

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My Life as a Radical Jewish Woman

Memoirs of a Zionist Feminist in Poland

Puah Rakovsky. Edited and with an introduction by Paula E. Hyman. Translated from the Yiddish by Barbara Harshav with Paula E. Hyman

"... vital to understanding this period of East European Jewish history. As Hyman promises, the memoir... read[s] like a novel." -- Russian Review

In this striking autobiography Puah Rakovsky (1865-1955) tells of her experiences as a Jewish woman in late 19th- and early 20th-century Poland who broke with her traditional upbringing to become a professional educator, Zionist activist, and feminist leader. Her passionate account offers unprecedented entrée into the life experience of East European Jewry in a period of massive social change. Published in the original Yiddish in 1954, the work appears here in English for the first time, annotated and with a historical introduction by Paula E. Hyman. Born into a rabbinic family in 1865 in Bialystok, then within the Russian Empire, Rakovsky witnessed the flourishing of a variety of radical political movements, the birth of Zionism, and the devastation of World War I. No mere bystander, she was an activist who assumed leadership roles in the public arenas of education and politics: she founded a pioneering Jewish girls' school in Warsaw and a national Jewish women's organization in 1920s Poland. In her memoir Rakovsky reflects on the position of Jewish women in her time and gives her personal and political perspective on central events of modern Jewish history from her childhood until her emigration to the Land of Israel in 1935.

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Orientalizing the Jew

Religion, Culture, and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century France

Julie Kalman

Orientalizing the Jew shows how French travelers depicted Jews in the Orient and then brought these ideas home to orientalize Jews living in their homeland during the 19th century. Julie Kalman draws on narratives, personal and diplomatic correspondence, novels, and plays to show how the "Jews of the East" featured prominently in the minds of the French and how they challenged ideas of the familiar and the exotic. Portraits of the Jewish community in Jerusalem, romanticized Jewish artists, and the wealthy Sephardi families of Algiers come to life. These accounts incite a necessary conversation about Jewish history, the history of anti-Jewish discourses, French history, and theories of Orientalism in order to broaden understandings about Jews of the day.

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Orthodox Jews in America

Jeffrey S. Gurock

Jeffrey S. Gurock recounts the history of Orthodox Jews in America, from the time of the early arrivals in the 17th century to the present, and examines how Orthodox Jewish men and women coped with the personal, familial, and communal challenges of religious freedom, economic opportunity, and social integration. His absorbing narrative portrays the varied lifestyles of Orthodox Jews and exposes the historical tensions that have pitted the pious against the majority of their co-religionists who have disregarded Orthodox teachings and practice. Exploring Orthodox reactions to alternative Jewish religious movements that have flourished in a pluralistic America, Gurock illuminates contemporary controversies about the compatibility of modern culture with a truly pious life, providing a nuanced view of the most intriguing present-day intra-Orthodox struggle -- the relationship of feminism to traditional faith. The book exposes the hypocrisy of Jews who, while outwardly devout in their careful observance of religious ritual, have behaved as moral miscreants. Anyone seeking to understand the American Jewish experience will find Orthodox Jews in America to be essential reading.

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