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Diasporas and Exiles

Diasporas and Exiles: Varieties of Jewish Identity

EDITED BY Howard Wettstein
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 300
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  • Book Info
    Diasporas and Exiles
    Book Description:

    Diaspora, considered as a context for insights into Jewish identity, brings together a lively, interdisciplinary group of scholars in this innovative volume. Readers needn't expect, however, to find easy agreement on what those insights are. The concept "diaspora" itself has proved controversial;galut,the traditional Hebrew expression for the Jews' perennial condition, is better translated as "exile." The very distinction between diaspora and exile, although difficult to analyze, is important enough to form the basis of several essays in this fine collection. "Identity" is an even more elusive concept. The contributors toDiasporas and Exilesexplore Jewish identity-or, more accurately, Jewish identities-from the mutually illuminating perspectives of anthropology, art history, comparative literature, cultural studies, German history, philosophy, political theory, and sociology. These contributors bring exciting new emphases to Jewish and cultural studies, as well as the emerging field of diaspora studies.Diasporas and Exilesmirrors the richness of experience and the attendant virtual impossibility of definition that constitute the challenge of understanding Jewish identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92689-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    This volume represents and extends the work of a fall 1997 University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) residential research group on Jewish identity in the diaspora. The group was multidisciplinary; members represented anthropology, art history, comparative literature, cultural studies, German, history, philosophy, political theory, and sociology. General agreement within the group was rare, even on the nature of our topic. The disagreements, however, proved to be a source of great stimulation. This introduction will be something of a roadmap of the terrain covered by our papers.

    Our topic was Jewish identity, which one can hardly mention without reference to...

  5. 1 Diaspora and Homeland
    (pp. 18-46)
    Erich S. Gruen

    Diaspora lies deeply rooted in Jewish consciousness. It existed in one form or another almost from the start, and it persists as an integral part of the Jews’ experience of history. The status of absence from the center has demanded time and again that Jews confront and, in some fashion, come to terms with a seemingly inescapable concomitant of their being.¹ The images of uprootedness, dispersal, and wandering haunt Jewish identity throughout. Jews have written about it incessantly, lamented it or justified it, dismissed it or grappled with it, embraced it or deplored it.

    At a theoretical level, that experience...

  6. 2 Coming to Terms with Exile
    (pp. 47-59)
    Howard Wettstein

    “Diaspora” is a relatively new English word and has no traditional Hebrew equivalent.¹ It seems closely related to the more traditional concept,galut,exile. Indeed, they might seem to be expressions for the same idea. Nevertheless, reflection on the two concepts reveals crucial differences.²

    “Diaspora” is a political notion; it suggests geopolitical dispersion. It may further suggest—this is more controversial but, I think, correct—involuntary dispersion from a center, typically a homeland.³ With changes in circumstances like the coming of new generations, new social conditions, and movement from one diasporic location to another, a diasporic population may come to...

  7. 3 A Politics and Poetics of Diaspora: Heine’s “Hebräische Melodien”
    (pp. 60-77)
    Bluma Goldstein

    Heinrich Heine’s “Hebräische Melodien,” whose three long poems comprise the third and final part ofRomanzero (Romancero,1851), has long been scanned by critics for evidence of alterations in his views of religion and his affiliation with Judaism. The overall meaning(s) and structure of the text are often identified and assessed by referring to the religious and psychological changes that resulted from Heine’s reaction to his debilitating illness, which confined him to what he called his “mattress-grave.” Alternatively, the poetic text becomes the evidential source for ascertaining revisions to his religious orientation. As interesting and informative as interpretations may be...

  8. 4 Dancing at Two Weddings: Mazel between Exile and Diaspora
    (pp. 78-112)
    Murray Baumgarten

    My essay is informed by a question: why have the Jews and modern Jewish writers persisted in their love affair with city life? The folk proverb “die Stadtluft macht frei” [the city air liberates] suggests one kind of explanation. Episodes ranging from the Book of Esther—“The city of Shushan was perplexed”— to scenes and works from the contemporary Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar, the Israeli A. B. Yehoshua, and the North Americans Saul Bellow, Grace Paley, Philip Roth, and Rebecca Goldstein reinforce the claim.¹ But our fascination has not been limited to cities and, especially in recent years, has extended...

  9. 5 Portraiture and Assimilation in Vienna: The Case of Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat
    (pp. 113-149)
    Catherine M. Soussloff

    A mimetic regime of representation dominates painting and sculpture in Europe from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. The genre of portraiture developed relatively late, “almost like an unexpected gift brought by a visitor no longer waited for,” as it was put by the famous cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt in 1898.¹ If, as Burckhardt and every other twentieth-century student of portraiture insists, this genre succeeds above all others in giving us a portrayal that resembles a historical person, where can a portrait be claimed to fail? How does a specific portrait signify a particular human being, including their social-historical...

  10. 6 A Different Road to Modernity: Jewish Identity in the Arab World
    (pp. 150-163)
    Daniel J. Schroeter

    Agadir is a southern Moroccan Atlantic resort city with a predominantly Berber population. The Jewish community has dwindled to less than two hundred and its synagogue during most the months of the years rarely has more than a handful of congregants. But during the summer, Moroccan Jews from many countries vacation in Agadir and elsewhere in the country. In August 1997, during the Shabbat morning prayers, the synagogue was filled with visitors, many of whom were en route to pilgrimage sites. During the service, the rabbi asked in which language he should deliver his sermon: French, Hebrew, or Arabic? In...

  11. 7 Remaking Jewish Identity in France
    (pp. 164-190)
    Irwin Wall

    On October 2, 1997, the Socialist government of France, headed by Lionel Jospin, opened the archives of the period of the Vichy regime to historians with the following explanation: “It is the duty of the Republic to perpetuate the memory of the events which took place in our country between 1940 and 1945. Historical research is in this respect essential. The works and the publications of historians provide an effective weapon with which to struggle against forgetfulness, distortions of history, and the alteration of memory. They thus help permit the recollection of the period to remain vivid and truthful.”¹ In...

  12. 8 “This Is Not What I Want”: Holocaust Testimony, Postmemory, and Jewish Identity
    (pp. 191-220)
    Diane L. Wolf

    The past several years has seen a burst of Holocaust testimonials—both in written and oral forms—in great part due to survivors’ reaching the end of their lives and feeling a sense of obligation to record these histories (Bartov, 1993).¹ Although many survivors recount that they felt that no one wanted to hear their stories after the war, there is now a great demand for them.² After living with their stories for fifty years, it is not uncommon for Holocaust survivors to decide to finally speak in reaction to the denials of Holocaust revisionists or after seeingSchindler’s List....

  13. 9 The Ideology of Affliction: Reconsidering the Adversity Thesis
    (pp. 221-233)
    Bernard Susser

    A Jew walks along the streets of Minsk (or was it Pinsk?). A bird flying above relieves itself right on his head. He looks up plaintively and says, “far de goyim zingen zey” [for the goyim they sing].

    This sense of being embattled and beset—the perennial victim—is perhaps the most prevalent and familiar of Jewish attitudes. It can be found on all levels of Jewish discourse: in the most sophisticated theology, in daily prayer, in folk wisdom, and in the familiar bittersweet character of Jewish humor. Jewish religiosity is often understood to be at its purestwhenit vindicates itself...

  14. 10 Jewish Identity Writ Small: The Everyday Experience of Baalot Teshuvah
    (pp. 234-252)
    Louise E. Tallen

    During one of mymany conversations with Penina, a Lubavitcherbaalat teshuvah,she reflected on the importance of a Jewish identity, saying, “in the religious life you are a Jew as your primary identity before you’re a woman or a man. If things sway you through your second identity as a woman or a man you have to go back to your primary identity to decide what to do about it. But what does it mean to be . . . a Jew as your primary identity?” What does it mean to be a Jew in America at the close of...

  15. 11 Contesting Identities in Jewish Philanthropy
    (pp. 253-278)
    Kerri P. Steinberg

    In a 1997 essay called “The Politics of Philanthropy,” David Biale takes to task the United Jewish Appeal’s fundraising strategy of linking Jewish identity to an illusory sense of Jewish unity. The UJA’s slogan, “We are one,” proclaims the theme of unity and agreement against which Biale reacts. Instead, Biale argues in favor of promoting the diversity of American Jewish opinion. He invokes the New Israel Fund as a philanthropy that works toward the more progressive goals of religious pluralism, democracy, and Jewish-Arab relations. Biale illustrates his argument with an advertisement from theNew York Timesfeaturing a child with...

    (pp. 279-280)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 281-292)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)