Yehuda Amichai is one of the twentieth century’s (and Israel’s) leading poets. In this remarkable book, Nili Scharf Gold offers a profound reinterpretation of Amichai’s early works and reconstructs his poetic biography. Her close reading of his oeuvre, untapped notebooks, and a cache of unpublished letters to a woman identified as Ruth Z. that Gold discovered convincingly demonstrates how the poet’s German past infused his work, despite his attempts to conceal it as he adopted an Israeli identity.
Passover is among the most widely observed holidays for American Jews. During this festival of redemption, Jewish families retell the biblical story of Exodus using a ritual book known as a haggadah, often weaving modern tales of oppression through the biblical narrative. References to the Holocaust are some of the most common additions to contemporary haggadot. However, the parallel between ancient and modern oppression, which seems obvious to some, raises troubling questions for many others. Is it possible to find any redemptive meaning in the Nazi genocide? Are we adding value to this unforgivable moment in history?
Liora Gubkin critiques commemorations that violate memory by erasing the value of everyday life that was lost and collapse the diversity of responses both during the Shoah and afterward. She recounts oral testimonies from Holocaust survivors, cites references to the holiday in popular American culture, and analyzes examples of actual haggadot. Ultimately, Gubkin concludes that it is possible and important to make a space for Holocaust commemoration, all the time recognizing that haggadot must be constantly revisited and “performed.”
The past few decades have seen a remarkable surge in Jewish influences on American culture. Entertainers and artists such as Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Allegra Goodman, and Tony Kushner have heralded new waves of television, film, literature, and theater; a major klezmer revival is under way; bagels are now as commonplace as pizza; and kabbalah has become as cool as crystals. Does this broad range of cultural expression accurately reflect what it means to be Jewish in America today?
Bringing together fourteen new essays by leading scholars, You Should See Yourself examines the fluctuating representations of Jewishness in a variety of areas of popular culture and high art, including literature, the media, film, theater, music, dance, painting, photography, and comedy. Contributors explore the evolution that has taken place within these cultural forms and how we can best explain these changes. Are variations in our understanding of Jewishness the result of general phenomena such as multiculturalism, politics, and postmodernism, or are they the product of more specifically Jewish concerns such as the intermarriage/continuity crisis, religious renewal, and relations between the United States and Israel?
Accessible to students and general readers alike, this volume takes an important step toward advancing the discussion of Jewish cultural influences in this country.