Through most of Western European history, Jews have been a numerically tiny or entirely absent minority, but across that history Europeans have nonetheless worried a great deal about Judaism. Why should that be so? This short but powerfully argued book suggests that Christian anxieties about their own transcendent ideals made Judaism an important tool for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized by prizing soul over flesh, the spiritual over the literal, the heavenly over the physical world—came to terms with the inescapable importance of body, language, and material things in this world. Nirenberg shows how turning the Jew into a personification of worldly over spiritual concerns, surface over inner meaning, allowed cultures inclined toward transcendence to understand even their most materialistic practices as spiritual. Focusing on art, poetry, and politics—three activities especially condemned as worldly in early Christian culture—he reveals how, over the past two thousand years, these activities nevertheless expanded the potential for their own existence within Christian culture because they were used to represent Judaism. Nirenberg draws on an astonishingly diverse collection of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the roles played by representations of Jewish “enemies” in the creation of Western art, culture, and politics, from the ancient world to the present day. This erudite and tightly argued survey of the ways in which Christian cultures have created themselves by thinking about Judaism will appeal to the broadest range of scholars of religion, art, literature, political theory, media theory, and the history of Western civilization more generally.
After Representation? explores one of the major issues in Holocaust studiesùthe intersection of memory and ethics in artistic expression, particularly within literature.
As experts in the study of literature and culture, the scholars in this collection examine the shifting cultural contexts for Holocaust representation and reveal how writersùwhether they write as witnesses to the Holocaust or at an imaginative distance from the Nazi genocideùarticulate the shadowy borderline between fact and fiction, between event and expression, and between the condition of life endured in atrocity and the hope of a meaningful existence. What imaginative literature brings to the study of the Holocaust is an ability to test the limits of language and its conventions. After Representation? moves beyond the suspicion of representation and explores the changing meaning of the Holocaust for different generations, audiences, and contexts.
In 1921 and 1924, the United States passed laws to sharply reduce the influx of immigrants into the country. By allocating only small quotas to the nations of southern and eastern Europe, and banning almost all immigration from Asia, the new laws were supposed to stem the tide of foreigners considered especially inferior and dangerous. However, immigrants continued to come, sailing into the port of New York with fake passports, or from Cuba to Florida, hidden in the holds of boats loaded with contraband liquor. Jews, one of the main targets of the quota laws, figured prominently in the new international underworld of illegal immigration. However, they ultimately managed to escape permanent association with the identity of the “illegal alien” in a way that other groups, such as Mexicans, thus far, have not.
In After They Closed the Gates, Libby Garland tells the untold stories of the Jewish migrants and smugglers involved in that underworld, showing how such stories contributed to growing national anxieties about illegal immigration. Garland also helps us understand how Jews were linked to, and then unlinked from, the specter of illegal immigration. By tracing this complex history, Garland offers compelling insights into the contingent nature of citizenship, belonging, and Americanness.
This narrative history surveying one thousand years of Jewish life integrates the Jewish experience into the context of the overall culture and society of medieval Europe. It presents a new picture of the interaction between Christians and Jews in this tumultuous era.Alienated Minority shows us what it meant to be a Jew in Europe in the Middle Ages. The story begins in the fifth century, when autonomous Jewish rule in Palestine came to a close, and when the papacy, led by Gregory the Great, established enduring principles regarding Christian policy toward Jews. Kenneth Stow examines the structures of self-government in the European Jewish community and the centrality of emerging concepts of representation. He studies economic enterprise, especially banking; constructs a clear image of the medieval Jewish family; and portrays in detail the very rich Jewish intellectual life.Analyzing policies of Church and State in the Middle Ages, Stow argues that a firmly defined legal and constitutional position of the Jewish minority in the earlier period gave way to a legal status created expressly for Jews, who in the later period were seen as inimical to the common good. It was this special status that paved the way for the royal expulsions of Jews that began at the end of the thirteenth century.
In May 1941, Gertrude van Tijn arrived in Lisbon on a mission of mercy from German‐occupied Amsterdam. She came with Nazi approval to the capital of neutral Portugal to negotiate the departure from Hitler's Europe of thousands of German and Dutch Jews. Was this middle‐aged Jewish woman, burdened with such a terrible responsibility, merely a pawn of the Nazis, or was her journey a genuine opportunity to save large numbers of Jews from the gas chambers? In such impossible circumstances, what is just action, and what is complicity?
A moving account of courage and of all-too-human failings in the face of extraordinary moral challenges, The Ambiguity of Virtue tells the story of Van Tijn's work on behalf of her fellow Jews as the avenues that might save them were closed off. Between 1933 and 1940 Van Tijn helped organize Jewish emigration from Germany. After the Germans occupied Holland, she worked for the Nazi‐appointed Jewish Council in Amsterdam and enabled many Jews to escape. Some later called her a heroine for the choices she made; others denounced her as a collaborator.
Bernard Wasserstein's haunting narrative draws readers into the twilight world of wartime Europe, to expose the wrenching dilemmas that confronted Jews under Nazi occupation. Gertrude van Tijn's experience raises crucial questions about German policy toward the Jews, about the role of the Jewish Council, and about Dutch, American, and British responses to the persecution and mass murder of Jews on an unimaginable scale.
An incisive memoir of Rachel M. Brownstein’s seemingly quintessential Jewish mother, a resilient and courageous immigrant in New York.
When she arrived alone in New York in 1924, eighteen-year-old Reisel Thaler resembled the other Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Eastern Europe who accompanied her. Yet she already had an American passport tucked in her scant luggage. Reisel had drawn her first breath on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1905, then was taken back to Galicia (in what is now Poland) by her father before she turned two. She was, as she would boast to the end of her days, “American born.”
The distinguished biographer and critic Rachel M. Brownstein began writing about her mother Reisel during the Trump years, dwelling on the tales she told about her life and the questions they raised about nationalism, immigration, and storytelling. For most of the twentieth century, Brownstein’s mother gracefully balanced her identities as an American and a Jew. Her values, her language, and her sense of timing inform the imagination of the daughter who recalls her in her own old age. The memorializing daughter interrupts, interprets, and glosses, sifting through alternate versions of the same stories using scenes, songs, and books from their time together.
But the central character of this book is Reisel, who eventually becomes Grandma Rose—always watching and judging, singing, baking, and bustling. Living life as the heroine of her own story, she reminds us how to laugh despite tragedy, find our courage, and be our most unapologetically authentic selves.
Presenting the American Jewish historical experience from its communal beginnings to the present through documents, photographs, and other illustrations, many of which have never before been published, this entirely new collection of source materials complements existing textbooks on American Jewish history with an organization and pedagogy that reflect the latest historiographical trends and the most creative teaching approaches. Ten chapters, organized chronologically, include source materials that highlight the major thematic questions of each era and tell many stories about what it was like to immigrate and acculturate to American life, practice different forms of Judaism, engage with the larger political, economic, and social cultures that surrounded American Jews, and offer assistance to Jews in need around the world. At the beginning of each chapter, the editors provide a brief historical overview highlighting some of the most important developments in both American and American Jewish history during that particular era. Source materials in the collection are preceded by short headnotes that orient readers to the documents’ historical context and significance.
What is the role of Judaism and Jewish existence in America? And what role does America play in matters Jewish? This anthology considers these questions and offers a look at how the diverse body of Jewish thought developed within the historical and intellectual context of America.
In this volume, editors Michael Marmur and David Ellenson bring together the distinctive voices of those who have shaped the bold and shifting soundscape of American Jewish thought over the last few generations. The contributors tackle an array of topics including theological questions; loyalty and belonging; the significance of halakhic, spiritual, and ritual practice; secularization and its discontents; and the creative recasting of Jewish peoplehood. The editors are careful to point out how a plurality of approaches emerged in response to the fundamental ruptures and challenges of continuity posed by the Holocaust, the establishment of the state of Israel, and the civil rights movement in the twentieth century.
This volume also includes a wide swath of the most distinctive currents and movements over the last eighty years: post-Holocaust theology, secular forms of Jewish spirituality, ultra-orthodoxy, American neo-orthodoxy, neo-Hasidism, feminism and queer theory, diasporist critiques of Zionism, and Zionist militancy. This collection will serve as both a testament to the creativity of American Jewish thought so far, and as an inspiration for the new thinkers of its still unwritten future.
... And Heaven Shed No Tears
Henry Armin Herzog University of Wisconsin Press, 2005 Library of Congress DS135.P63H494 2005 | Dewey Decimal 940.5318092
Henry Herzog survived the liquidation of the Rzeszow ghetto in Poland and endured terrible hardships in forced labor camps. He documents the increasing severity of Nazi rule in Rzeszow and the complicity of the Jewish council (the Judenrat) and Jewish police in the round-ups for deportation to the Belzec concentration camp. One of these deportations took his parents to their deaths. His brothers were caught, tortured, and killed by the Gestapo. Herzog and his sister escaped to Hungary where—although she found refuge—he was betrayed, arrested, and finally put on a train to the concentration camps. Escaping by jumping off the train and fleeing into the Tatra Mountains, he joined a group of Russian partisans to fight the Nazis.
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Halina Nelken was a precocious fifteen-year-old, living a middle-class life in Krakow. Like other girls her age, she recorded her personal observations and feelings in a diary. As conditions in Krakow deteriorated and her family was forced into the Jewish ghetto, she continued to write, eventually smuggling her diary out with a Catholic friend. This remarkable book tells the story of Nelken's experiences in the ghetto and later in eight Nazi concentration camps, including Plaszow, Auschwitz, and RavensbrÃ¶ck. Her diary entries, written between 1938 and 1943, form the core of the volume and are supplemented by recollections written shortly after the war, and by later commentaries and explanatory notes which she added in the mid-1980s. Although there exist numerous published and unpublished memoirs by Holocaust survivors, Nelken's book presents one of the few extant diaries written at the time. Already released in Polish and German editions, it has been hailed as one of the finest works of its kind. Now it is available in English for the first time.
And Yet I Still Have Dreams is a departure from many Holocaust memoirs and biographies. Based on interviews with "Alex," an anonymous survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and three concentration camps, the story follows him from his assimilated childhood to his coming to terms with his memories of the Holocaust as an older man. Alex is angry, pugnacious, and contemptuous of the stereotypes found in some survivor literature and honest about the shortcomings of other works.
The book provides a connection to seldom discussed aspects of the Holocaust: the gulf between rich and poor Jews and how this translated into everyday survival; the refusal by Alex to see himself or Jews in general as heroes or victims; his own self-absorption as a teen in the ghetto; and his "priviliged" family's near-indifference to the suffering of those around them. Alex paints a picture of complex and diverse Jewish society in prewar Poland, revealing how, many years later and despite his determine to leave it in the past, the burdens of memory--and the dreams--linger.
In 1898, the Dreyfus Affair plunged French society into a yearlong frenzy. In Paris and provincial villages throughout the country, angry crowds paraded through the streets, threatening to attack Jews and destroy Jewish-owned businesses. Anger about the imagined power of Jewish capital, as well as fears of treason and racial degeneration, made anti-Semitism a convenient banner behind which social and political factions could fall in line. Anti-Semitic feelings that had been simmering in France for decades came boiling to the surface.
Here Pierre Birnbaum guides readers on a tour of France during this crisis. He shows that in the midst of violence, Jewish citizens bravely and effectively defended themselves and were aided by a police force determined to maintain order. Birnbaum paints a vivid portrait of French Jewish culture at the time and explains why the French state remained strong in this time of widespread unrest.
Lutheran preacher and theologian Andreas Osiander (1498–1552) played a critical role in spreading the Lutheran Reformation in sixteenth-century Nuremberg. Besides being the most influential ecclesiastical leader in a prominent German city, Osiander was also a well-known scholar of Hebrew. He composed what is considered to be the first printed treatise by a Christian defending Jews against blood libel. Despite Osiander’s importance, however, he remains surprisingly understudied. The Apocalypse in Reformation Nuremberg: Jews and Turks in Andreas Osiander’s World is the first book in any language to concentrate on his attitudes toward both Jews and Turks, and it does so within the dynamic interplay between his apocalyptic thought and lived reality in shaping Lutheran identity. Likewise, it presents the first published English translation of Osiander’s famous treatise on blood libel. Osiander’s writings on Jews and Turks that shaped Lutherans’ identity from cradle to grave in Nuremberg also provide a valuable mirror to reflect on the historical antecedents to modern antisemitism and Islamophobia and thus elucidate how the related stereotypes and prejudices are both perpetuated and overcome.
Among the Nazi leaders, Heinrich Himmler was, as Richard Breitman observes in this ground- breaking study, an easy man to underestimate—short, pudgy, near-sighted, chinless. Yet Himmler holds a peculiarly memorable place in the roster of Nazi war criminals: he was the man most closely associated with the creation and operation of the Final Solution, the programme of formal mass murder responsible for the deaths of six million Jews in death camps. Thus, to understand the Holocaust it is first necessary to understand Himmler, and it is this The Architect of Genocide at last permits us to do. Drawing on thousands of published and unpublished sources—ranging from the Nuremburg War Crimes trial records to papers held in the Central State Archives of the October Revolution of the Ukrainian SSR in Kiev—Breitman shows us the man himself, growing from unlikeable boyhood to be the perfect bureaucrat, seemingly the antithesis of the mad policies he espoused. At the same time, with unchallengeable authority, he presents us with the hitherto mysterious and much—debated facts about the origins of those policies, establishing among other things that before the war, Himmler had plans to murder all German Jews who would not- or could not—leave the country and that as early as 1939, Himmler was considering the use of gas chambers and crematoriums.
Traces the shifting patterns of Jewish immigration and Argentine immigration policy
Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in the Hispanic world, the second largest in the Western hemisphere. During successive political and social regimes, Argentina alternately barred Jews from entering the country and recruited them to immigrate, persecuted Jews as heretics or worse and welcomed them as productive settlers, restricted Jews by law and invested them with the fullest rights of citizenship. This volume traces the shifting patterns of Jewish immigration and Argentine immigration policy, both as manifestations of cultural and historical processes and as forces shaping the emergence of a large and energetic Jewish community.
Within Argentina, many Jews followed traditional immigration strategies by consolidating communities and institutions in Buenos Aires and other cities. But many others settled on the land, in agricultural colonies sponsored by Baron Maurice de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association, a group with far-reaching impact that is examined closely in this book. The Israeli kibbutz movement drew strength from the Argentine farming colonies, when beginning in 1949 groups of Argentine Jews immigrated to Israel to found kibbutzes. Eventually, in the face of political and economic upheavals with anti-Semitic undercurrents, almost 40,000 Jews left Argentina for Israel. A country of absorption became a country of exodus, and Zionism became a central focus of Argentine Jewry, interlocking families and fates separated by oceans and continents.
One of Norway’s most celebrated literary figures of the nineteenth century, Henrik Wergeland worked tirelessly for the civil rights of Jews in Norway. He used the words and structure of his poetry to enliven the ideals of truth, freedom, and equality. This translated volume, containing several of Wergeland’s most prominent poems, beautifully encapsulates the compelling force of his message, allowing its enduring influence to benefit a wider contemporary audience.
Anzia Yezierska Duke University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3547.E95A89 1996 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
The target of intense critical comment when it was first published in 1927, Arrogant Beggar’s scathing attack on charity-run boardinghouses remains one of Anzia Yezierska’s most devastating works of social criticism. The novel follows the fortunes of its young Jewish narrator, Adele Lindner, as she leaves the impoverished conditions of New York’s Lower East Side and tries to rise in the world. Portraying Adele’s experiences at the Hellman Home for Working Girls, the first half of the novel exposes the “sickening farce” of institutionalized charity while portraying the class tensions that divided affluent German American Jews from more recently arrived Russian American Jews. The second half of the novel takes Adele back to her ghetto origins as she explores an alternative model of philanthropy by opening a restaurant that combines the communitarian ideals of Old World shtetl tradition with the contingencies of New World capitalism. Within the context of this radical message, Yezierska revisits the themes that have made her work famous, confronting complex questions of ethnic identity, assimilation, and female self-realization. Katherine Stubbs’s introduction provides a comprehensive and compelling historical, social, and literary context for this extraordinary novel and discusses the critical reaction to its publication in light of Yezierska’s biography and the once much-publicized and mythologized version of her life story. Unavailable for over sixty years, Arrogant Beggar will be enjoyed by general readers of fiction and be of crucial importance for feminist critics, students of ethnic literature. It will also prove an exciting and richly rewarding text for students and scholars of Jewish studies, immigrant literature, women’s writing, American history, and working-class fiction.
In The Art of the Jewish Family, Laura Arnold Leibman examines five objects owned by a diverse group of Jewish women who all lived in New York in the years between 1750 and 1850: a letter from impoverished Hannah Louzada seeking assistance; a set of silver cups owned by Reyna Levy Moses; an ivory miniature owned by Sarah Brandon Moses, who was born enslaved and became one of the wealthiest Jewish women in New York; a book created by Sarah Ann Hays Mordecai; and a family silhouette owned by Rebbetzin Jane Symons Isaacs. These objects offer intimate and tangible views into the lives of Jewish American women from a range of statuses, beliefs, and lifestyles—both rich and poor, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, slaves and slaveowners.
Each chapter creates a biography of a single woman through an object, offering a new methodology that looks past texts alone to material culture in order to further understand early Jewish American women’s lives and restore their agency as creators of Jewish identity. While much of the available history was written by men, the objects that Leibman studies were made for and by Jewish women. Speaking to American Jewish life, women’s studies, and American history, The Art of the Jewish Family sheds new light on the lives and values of these women, while also revealing the social and religious structures that led to Jewish women being erased from historical archives.
The Art of the Jewish Family was the winner of three 2020 National Jewish Book Awards: the Celebrate 350 Award for American Jewish Studies, the Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award for History, and the Barbara Dobkin Award for Women's Studies.
The Ascension of Authorship traces the history of the idea of the author in the ancient world, beginning with the attribution practices of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Jed Wyrick explores the testimony of Josephus on the succession of prophetic scribes and their superiority to Greek historiographers, and interprets the formation of the biblical canon in this light. The Ascension of Authorship also examines the Greek scholarly methodology that questioned traditional connections between names and texts, a methodology perfected by Hellenistic grammarians and inherited by early Christian scholars. Wyrick argues that the fusion of Jewish and Hellenistic approaches toward attribution helped lead to St. Augustine's reinvention of the writer of scripture as an author whose texts were governed by both divine will and human intent.
Finalist for 2012 National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust category
David Koker's diary is one of the most notable accounts of life in a German concentration camp written by a Jew during the years of the Holocaust. First brought to attention when the Dutch historian Jacob Presser-Koker's history teacher in high school-quoted from Koker's diary in his monumental history, published in English as The Destruction of the Dutch Jews (1968), the diary itself became a part of the Dutch literary canon when it was published in 1977 as Dagboek geschreven in Vught (Diary Written in Vught). It has remained in print ever since, and is notable for its literary qualities, weaving poetry and powerful observations of the emotional life of a camp prisoner, including reflections after an in-person visit by Heinrich Himmler. Surprisingly, the book has never before been translated into English.
During his time in the Vught concentration camp, the 21-year-old David recorded on an almost daily basis his observations, thoughts, and feelings. He mercilessly probed the abyss that opened around him and, at times, within himself. David's diary covers almost a year, both charting his daily life in Vught as it developed over time and tracing his spiritual evolution as a writer. Until early February 1944, David was able to smuggle some 73,000 words from the camp to his best friend Karel van het Reve, a non-Jew.
With an informative introduction, annotation, and list of dramatis personae by Robert Jan van Pelt, At the Edge of the Abyss offers an immediate and wholly original look into the life of a concentration camp prisoner.
The first account of the August Trials, in which postwar Poland confronted the betrayal of Jewish citizens under Nazi rule but ended up fashioning an alibi for the past.
When six years of ferocious resistance to Nazi occupation came to an end in 1945, a devastated Poland could agree with its new Soviet rulers on little else beyond the need to punish German war criminals and their collaborators. Determined to root out the “many Cains among us,” as a Poznań newspaper editorial put it, Poland’s judicial reckoning spawned 32,000 trials and spanned more than a decade before being largely forgotten.
Andrew Kornbluth reconstructs the story of the August Trials, long dismissed as a Stalinist travesty, and discovers that they were in fact a scrupulous search for the truth. But as the process of retribution began to unearth evidence of enthusiastic local participation in the Holocaust, the hated government, traumatized populace, and fiercely independent judiciary all struggled to salvage a purely heroic vision of the past that could unify a nation recovering from massive upheaval. The trials became the crucible in which the Communist state and an unyielding society forged a foundational myth of modern Poland but left a lasting open wound in Polish-Jewish relations.
The August Trials draws striking parallels with incomplete postwar reckonings on both sides of the Iron Curtain, suggesting the extent to which ethnic cleansing and its abortive judicial accounting are part of a common European heritage. From Paris and The Hague to Warsaw and Kyiv, the law was made to serve many different purposes, even as it failed to secure the goal with which it is most closely associated: justice.
Few places in the world carry as heavy a burden of history as Auschwitz. Recognized and remembered as the most prominent site of Nazi crimes, Auschwitz has had tremendous symbolic weight in the postwar world.
Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration is a history of the Auschwitz memorial site in the years of the Polish People’s Republic. Since 1945, Auschwitz has functioned as a memorial and museum. Its monuments, exhibitions, and public spaces have attracted politicians, pilgrims, and countless participants in public demonstrations and commemorative events.
Jonathan Huener’s study begins with the liberation of the camp and traces the history of the State Museum at Auschwitz from its origins immediately after the war until the 1980s, analyzing the landscape, exhibitions, and public events at the site.
Based on extensive research and illustrated with archival photographs, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration accounts for the development and durability of a Polish commemorative idiom at Auschwitz. Emphasis on Polish national “martyrdom” at Auschwitz, neglect of the Shoah as the most prominent element of the camp’s history, political instrumentalization of the grounds and exhibitions—these were some of the more controversial aspects of the camp’s postwar landscape.
Professor Huener locates these and other public manifestations of memory at Auschwitz in the broad scope of Polish history, in the specific context of postwar Polish politics and culture, and against the background of Polish-Jewish relations. Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration will be of interest to scholars, students, and general readers of the history of modern Poland and the Holocaust.
This book analyzes the different conceptions of authenticity that are behind conflicts over who and what should be recognized as authentically Jewish. Although the concept of authenticity has been around for several centuries, it became a central focus for Jews since existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre raised the question in the 1940s. Building on the work of Sartre, later Jewish thinkers, philosophers, anthropologists, and cultural theorists, the book offers a model of Jewish authenticity that seeks to balance history and tradition, creative freedom and innovation, and the importance of recognition among different groups within an increasingly multicultural Jewish community.
Author Stuart Z. Charmé explores how debates over authenticity and struggles for recognition are a key to understanding a wide range of controversies between Orthodox and liberal Jews, Zionist and diaspora Jews, white Jews and Jews of color, as well as the status of intermarried and messianic Jews, and the impact of Jewish genetics. In addition, it discusses how and when various cultural practices and traditions such as klezmer music, Israeli folk dance, Jewish yoga and meditation, and others are recognized as authentically Jewish, or not.