The wide-ranging portrayal of modern Jewishness in artistic
terms invites scrutiny into the relationship between creativity and
the formation of Jewish identity and into the complex issue of what
makes a work of art uniquely Jewish. Whether it is the provenance
of the artist, as in the case of popular Israeli singer Zehava Ben,
the intention of the iconography, as in Ben Shahn's antifascist
paintings, or the utopian ideals of the Jewish Palestine Pavilion
at the 1939 New York World's Fair, clearly no single formula for
defining Jewish art in the diaspora will suffice.
The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times is the first work
to analyze modern Jewry's engagement with the arts as a whole,
including music, theater, dance, film, museums, architecture,
painting, sculpture, and more. Working with a broad conception of
what counts as art, the book asks the following questions: What
roles have commerce and politics played in shaping Jewish artistic
agendas? Who determines the Jewishness of art and for what
purposes? What role has aesthetics played in reshaping religious
traditions and rituals?
This richly illustrated volume illuminates how the arts have helped
Jews confront the various challenges of modernity, including
cultural adaptation and self-preservation, economic
diversification, and ritual transformation. There truly is an art
to being Jewish in the modern world-or, alternatively, an art to
being modern in the Jewish world-and this collection fully captures
its range, diversity, and historical significance.
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