At a time of heightened interest in Jewish supplementary schooling, this volume offers a path-breaking examination of how ten diverse schools have remade themselves to face the new challenges of the twenty-first century. Each written by an academic observer with the help of an experienced educator, the chapters bring these schools vividly to life by giving voice to students, parents, teachers, school directors, lay leaders, local rabbis and other key participants. The goal of the book is to uncover the building blocks each school put into place to improve its delivery of a Jewish education. Employing qualitative research, Learning and Community is filled with moving and inspiring human-interest stories. Collectively, these portraits offer models of how schools of different sizes and configurations can maximize their impact, and in the process revitalize the form of religious and cultural education that engages the majority of Jewish children in the United States.
When Christ, wearied by the heavy burden of the cross, leaned for a moment against a stranger’s doorway, the stranger drove him away and cried, “Walk faster!” To this, Christ replied, “I go, but you will walk until I come again!” So began the legend of the Wandering Jew, which has recurred in many forms of literature and folklore ever since. George K. Anderson, in a book first published in 1965 and immediately hailed as a classic, traces this enduring legend through the ages, from St. John through the Middle Ages to Shelley, Eugène Sue, and the antisemitism of Hitler to recent movies and novels. Though the main elements of the legend are a constant, Anderson shows how changes in emphasis and meaning reflect civilization’s shifting concerns and attitudes over time.
The office of rabbi is the most visible symbol of power and prestige in Jewish communities. Rabbis both interpret to their congregations the requirements of Jewish life and instruct congregants in how best to live this life.
Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation documents a monumental change in Jewish life as eighteen lesbian rabbis reflect on their experiences as trailblazers in Judaism's journey into an increasingly multicultural world. In frank and revealing essays, the contributors discuss their decisions to become rabbis and describe their experiences both at the seminaries and in their rabbinical positions. They also reflect on the dilemma whether to conceal or reveal their sexual identities to their congregants and superiors, or to serve specifically gay and lesbian congregations. The contributors consider the tensions between lesbian identity and Jewish identity, and inquire whether there are particularly "lesbian" readings of traditional texts. These essays also ask how the language of Jewish tradition touches the lives of lesbians and how lesbianism challenges traditional notions of the Jewish family.
"'Today I am completely 'out' personally and professionally, and yet I have learned that the 'coming out' process never ends. Even today, I find myself in professional situations in which yet again I must reveal that I am a lesbian, yet again I must prove myself worthy of functioning professionally in the 'straight' world. I still encounter moments of awkwardness, some hostility, and some sense of exclusion as I negotiate the pathways of my professional life."-Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, from Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation
The Holocaust in the Twenty-First Century: Relevance and Challenges in the Digital Age challenges a number of key themes in Holocaust studies with new research. Essays in the section “Tropes Reconsidered” reevaluate foundational concepts such as Primo Levi’s gray zone and idea of the muselmann. The chapters in “Survival Strategies and Obstructions” use digital methodologies to examine mobility and space and their relationship to hiding, resistance, and emigration. Contributors to the final section, “Digital Methods, Digital Memory,” offer critical reflections on the utility of digital methods in scholarly, pedagogic, and public engagement with the Holocaust.
Although the chapters differ markedly in their embrace or eschewal of digital methods, they share several themes: a preoccupation with the experiences of persecution, escape, and resistance at different scales (individual, group, and systemic); methodological innovation through the adoption and tracking of micro- and mezzohistories of movement and displacement; varied approaches to the practice of Saul Friedländer’s “integrated history”; the mainstreaming of oral history; and the robust application of micro- and macrolevel approaches to the geographies of the Holocaust. Taken together, these chapters incorporate gender analysis, spatial thinking, and victim agency into Holocaust studies. In so doing, they move beyond existing notions of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders to portray the Holocaust as a complex and multilayered event.
In this study, Weisberg uses levirate marriage (an institution that involves the union of a man and the widow of his childless brother) as described in biblical law and explicated in rabbinic Judaism as a lens to examine the status of women and attitudes toward marriage, sexuality, and reproduction in early Jewish society. While marriage generally marks the beginning of a new family unit, levirate comes into play when a family’s life is cut short. As such, it offers an opportunity to study the family at a moment of breakdown and restructuring. With her discussion rooted in rabbinic sources and commentary, Weisberg explores kinship structure and descent, the relationship between a family unit created through levirate marriage and the extended family, and the roles of individuals within the family. She also considers the position of women, asking whether it is through marriage or the bearing of children that a woman becomes part of her husband’s family, and to what degree a married woman remains part of her natal family. She argues that rabbinic responses to levirate suggest that a family is an evolving entity, one that can preserve itself through realignment and redefinition.
This well-crafted family memoir is about the stories that are told and the ones that are not told, and about the ways the meanings of the stories change down the generations. It is about memory and the spaces between memories, and about alienation and reconciliation.
All of Amy Hoffman's grandparents came to the United States during the early twentieth century from areas in Poland and Russia that are now Belarus and Ukraine. Like millions of immigrants, they left their homes because of hopeless poverty, looking for better lives or at the least a chance of survival. Because of the luck, hard work, and resourcefulness of the earlier generations, Hoffman and her five siblings grew up in a middle-class home, healthy, well fed, and well educated. An American success story? Not quite—or at least not quite the standard version. Hoffman's research in the Ellis Island archives along with interviews with family members reveal that the real lives of these relatives were far more complicated and interesting than their documents might suggest.
Hoffman and her siblings grew up as observant Jews in a heavily Catholic New Jersey suburb, as political progressives in a town full of Republicans, as readers in a school full of football players and their fans.
As a young lesbian, she distanced herself from her parents, who didn't understand her choice, and from the Jewish community, with its organization around family and unquestioning Zionism. However, both she and her parents changed and evolved, and by the end of this engaging narrative, they have come to new understandings, of themselves and one another.
Hans Jonas (1903–1993) is one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. Born in a German Jewish community in the Rhineland, Jonas’s mentors included Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Rudolf Bultmann. The committed Zionist fled Germany in 1933 for Jerusalem, fought in the British Army against Hitler, and then left Israel for North America in 1949. Much of Jonas’s philosophy responds to contemporary historical and political challenges: mass society, totalitarianism, the Holocaust, “nuclearism,” environmental devastation (Chernobyl), and, later, the risks of genetic engineering. Wiese’s study examines how Jonas’s Jewish background influenced his intellectual development. Wiese shows how philosophical ethics and Jewish identity were two inseparable aspects of his thinking, with the fight against Nihilism as the most important link. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished material and exploring momentous encounters with major figures of 20th century life and letters like Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt, Wiese demonstrates how Jonas combined religious and philosophical elements in his thought, and offers new insights into the work of this eminent thinker.
Like a warm family album, this lively book heralds and documents the rich and vibrant traditions of Yiddish-speaking immigrants and their children in “the golden land,” from the first arrivals to the Second World War.
Meet the famous, the infamous, and the unknown—from hotelier Jenny Grossinger to mobster Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik to Moses Solomon, the would-be “Jewish Babe Ruth;” from anarchist Emma Goldman to entertainer Eddie Cantor.
Share the struggles and the triumphs of the labor unions, of Yiddish playwrights and poets. Enter the sweatshops of New York’s Lower East Side and the first Jewish settlements in Los Angeles and Chicago. Taste pastrami from Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, knishes from Yonah Shimmel’s in New York City, and the famous “smookmit” of the Montreal ghetto.
Lavishly illustrated with photos, cartoons, theater posters, and song sheets, here is a book to delight and inform. It is a joyous celebration of life.
Located on the Dnieper River at the crossroads of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, the town of Rechitsa had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Belarus, dating back to medieval times. By the late nineteenth century, Jews constituted more than half of the town’s population. Rich in tradition, Jewish Rechitsa was part of a distinctive Lithuanian-Belorussian culture full of stories, vibrant personalities, achievement, and epic struggle that was gradually lost through migration, pogroms, and the Holocaust. Now, in Albert Kaganovitch’s meticulously researched history, this forgotten Jewish world is brought to life.
Based on extensive use of Soviet and Israeli archives, interviews, memoirs, and secondary sources, Kaganovitch’s acclaimed work, originally published in Russian, is presented here in a significantly revised English translation by the author. Details of demographic, social, economic, and cultural changes in Rechitsa’s evolution, presented over the sweep of centuries, reveal a microcosm of daily Jewish life in Rechitsa and similar communities. Kaganovitch looks closely at such critical developments as the spread of Chabad Hasidism, the impact of multiple political transformations and global changes, and the mass murder of Rechitsa’s remaining Jews by the German army in November to December 1941.
Kaganovitch also documents the evolving status of Jews in the postwar era, starting with the reconstitution of a Jewish community in Rechitsa not long after liberation in 1943 and continuing with economic, social, and political trends under Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, and finally emigration from post-Soviet Belarus. The Long Life and Swift Death of Jewish Rechitsa is a major achievement.
Winner, Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award for Scholarship, Koffler Centre of the Arts
The Strashun Library was among the most important Jewish public institutions in Vilna, and indeed in Eastern Europe, prior to its destruction during World War II. Mattityahu Strashun, descended from a long and distinguished line of rabbis, bequeathed his extensive personal library of 5,753 volumes to the Vilna Jewish community on his death in 1885, with instructions that it remain open to all. In the summer of 1941, the Nazis came to Vilna, plundered the library, and shipped many of its books to Germany for deposition at a future Institute for Research into the Jewish Question. When the war ended, the recovery effort began. Against all odds, a number of the greatest treasures of the library could be traced. However, owing to its diverse holdings and its many prewar patrons, a custody battle erupted over the remaining holdings. Who should be heir to the Strashun Library? This book tells the story of the Strashun Library from its creation through the contentious battle for ownership following the war until present day. Pursuant to a settlement in 1958, the remnants of the greatest prewar library in Europe were split between two major institutions: the secular YIVO in the United States and the rabbinic library of Hechal Shlomo in Israel, a compromise that struck at the heart of the library’s original unifying mission.
Louis Bamberger (1855–1944) was the epitome of the merchant prince as public benefactor. Born in Baltimore, this son of German immigrants built his business—the great, glamorous L. Bamberger & Co. department store in Newark, N.J.—into the sixth-largest department store in the country. A multimillionaire by middle age, he joined the elite circle of German Jews who owned Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Filene’s. Despite his vast wealth and local prominence, Bamberger was a reclusive figure who shunned the limelight, left no business records, and kept no diaries. He remained a bachelor and kept his private life and the rationale for his business decisions to himself. Yet his achievements are manifold. He was a merchandising genius whose innovations, including newspaper and radio ads and brilliant use of window and in-store displays, established the culture of consumption in twentieth-century America. His generous giving, both within the Jewish community and beyond it, created institutions that still stand today: the Newark YM-YWHA, Beth Israel Hospital, and the Newark Museum. Toward the end of his career, he financed and directed the creation of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, which led to a friendship with Albert Einstein. Despite his significance as business innovator and philanthropist, historians of the great department stores have paid scant attention to Bamberger. This full-length biography will interest historians as well as general readers of Jewish history nationally, New Jerseyans fascinated by local history, and the Newarkers for whom Bamberger’s was a beloved local institution.
In 1961, famed architect Louis I. Kahn (1901–1974) received a commission to design a new synagogue. His client was one of the oldest Sephardic Orthodox congregations in the United States: Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel. Due to the loss of financial backing, Kahn’s plans were never realized. Nevertheless, the haunting and imaginative schemes for Mikveh Israel remain among Kahn’s most revered designs. Susan G. Solomon uses Kahn’s designs for Mikveh Israel as a lens through which to examine the transformation of the American synagogue from 1955 to 1970. She shows how Kahn wrestled with issues that challenged postwar Jewish institutions and evaluates his creative attempts to bridge modernism and Judaism. She argues that Kahn provided a fresh paradigm for synagogues, one that offered innovations in planning, decoration, and the incorporation of light and nature into building design.
The concepts of gender, love, and family—as well as the personal choices regarding gender-role construction, sexual and romantic liaisons, and family formation—have become more fluid under a society-wide softening of boundaries, hierarchies, and protocols. Sylvia Barack Fishman gathers the work of social historians and legal scholars who study transformations in the intimate realms of partnering and family construction among Jews. Following a substantive introduction, the volume casts a broad net. Chapters explore the current situation in both the United States and Israel, attending to what once were considered unconventional household arrangements—including extended singlehood, cohabitating couples, single Jewish mothers, and GLBTQ families—along with the legal ramifications and religious backlash. Together, these essays demonstrate how changes in the understanding of male and female roles and expectations over the past few decades have contributed to a social revolution with profound—and paradoxical—effects on partnering, marriage, and family formation. This diverse anthology—with chapters focusing on demography, ethnography, and legal texts—will interest scholars and students in Jewish studies, women’s and gender studies, Israel studies, and American Jewish history, sociology, and culture.