Fashioning Jews

Fashioning Jews: Clothing, Culture and Commerce (SJC #24)

Editor: Leonard J. Greenspoon
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Purdue University Press
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    Fashioning Jews
    Book Description:

    This volume presents papers delivered at the 24th Annual Klutznick Harris Symposium, held at Creighton University in October 2011. The contributors look at all aspects of the intimate relationship between Jews and clothing, through case studies from ancient, medieval, recent, and contemporary history. Papers explore topics ranging from Jewish leadership in the textile industry, through the art of fashion in nineteenth-century Vienna, to the use of clothing as a badge of ethnic identity, in both secular and religious contexts. Contents: Shmattas in the North, Shmattas in the South: The Civil War and the Birth of the American Clothing Industry (Adam Mendelsohn); Weimar Jewish Chic from Wigs to Furs: Jewish Women and Fashion in 1920s Germany (Kerry Wallach); Jewish Photographers and the Body in the Weimar Republic (Nils Roemer); Female Tallitot: Creating American Jewish Women’s Religious Experience through Fashion (Rachel Gordan); Clothes and the Weaving of American Jewish Comedy (Ted Merwin); The Jewish Badge in Renaissance Italy: The Iconic O, the Yellow Hat, and the Paradoxes of Distinctive Sign Legislation (Flora Cassen); How a Rabbi Should Be Dressed: The Question of Cassock and Clerical Clothing among Italian Rabbis from the Renaissance to Contemporary Times (Asher Salah); The “Disinherited” Priesthood: A Look into Biblical Israel’s Unshod Priest (Christine Palmer); Costume and Identity in the Dura Europos Synagogue Paintings (Steven Fine); Picturing Vienna’s New Woman: Madame d’Ora meets Ella Zwieback-Zirner (Lisa Silverman); Aboriginal Yarmulkes, Ambivalent Attire, and Ironies of Contemporary Jewish Identity (Eric Silverman); Fashioning Jews on the Screen: The Impact of Dress on Crafting the Jewish Image in Film and Television (Brian Amkraut)

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-291-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-ix)
    Leonard J. Greenspoon
  4. Editor’s Introduction
    (pp. x-xiv)
    Leonard J. Greenspoon

    My mother-in-law, Magda Morsel, was born Magda Guttman in a Czechoslovakian village near the Hungarian border. One of eleven children, she was a teenager when World War II began.

    In early 1944, members of her family were taken to Auschwitz. There she was forced to make and mend clothing for the S.S. officers and their families. Together with three of her sisters, Magda survived this concentration camp and other horrors before being liberated by the British at Bergen-Belsen.

    From her earliest days as a young girl, Magda showed interest and aptitude in designing and sewing clothes. In the mid-1950s, Magda,...

  5. Contributors
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Unshod on Holy Ground: Ancient Israel’s “Disinherited” Priesthood
    (pp. 1-18)
    Christine Palmer

    Dress is a prominent motif woven within the writings of the Hebrew Bible. Far from merely covering human nakedness, clothing is a culturally constructed symbolic language that marks ethnicity, signals social status, and even makes a political statement.¹ Nowhere is the symbolic power of dress to communicate ideology more evident than in the ritual attire of Israel’s priesthood.² Since the earliest interpreters of the biblical text, there has been a fascination with the priesthood’s sacral vestments and an attempt to explain their symbolism.³ One aspect of liturgical dress, however, remains untouched—that of footwear.

    The biblical description of priestly dress...

  7. How Do You Know a Jew When You See One? Reflections on Jewish Costume in the Roman World
    (pp. 19-28)
    Steven Fine

    Recently I opened the AmericanWikipediapage for Josephus, to find a sculpture at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen at the top of the page, identified as “Josephus” [Fig. 1].¹ Soon I found that this bust appears in a broad range ofWikipediaarticles on the first-century author, from French to Spanish, Arabic to German. Oddly, a different image, an early modern print, illustrates the Esperanto and Russian pages, and the Danish language article is unillustrated.² This sculpture is well known and appears in a number of scholarly and popular publications as “Josephus.”³ Most recently, a guide to the...

  8. From Iconic O to Yellow Hat: Anti-Jewish Distinctive Signs in Renaissance Italy
    (pp. 29-48)
    Flora Cassen

    In 1516 Cardinal della Rovere forced the famous Hebrew printer Gershom Soncino to print a verse by the Italian poet Battista Guarini. The title and the first line of the poem repeated the same question: “Why the Jews wear the letter O,” and “Why does the Hebrew wear the fourth vowel on his breast.”¹ Guarini’s question was not rhetorical. Starting in the fifteenth century, the governments of northern Italy forced the Jews to wear a yellow circular badge on their clothing. In the documents and edicts that imposed it, the yellow badge of the Jews was not verbally described. Instead,...

  9. How Should a Rabbi Be Dressed? The Question of Rabbinical Attire in Italy from Renaissance to Emancipation (Sixteenth–Nineteenth Centuries)
    (pp. 49-66)
    Asher Salah

    The promulgation of sumptuary laws, regulating specific items of dress that might be worn by various individuals on certain occasions, is a well-known chapter of European social history from the late Middle Ages to the eighteenth century.¹ Within the Jewish communities these decrees were often issued by the rabbis or by the communal authorities and have been used by scholars in order to study different aspects of the material culture of the Jews in early modern Europe.

    From these sources two general conclusions have been drawn, as far as Italy is concerned. First, that the Jews in Italy imitated in...

  10. The Clerks’ Work: Jews, Clerical Work, and the Birth of the American Garment Industry
    (pp. 67-76)
    Adam D. Mendelsohn

    By the end of the nineteenth century, Jews dominated significant portions of the ready-made men’s clothing trade in the United States. Manufacturers in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia drew on a reservoir of recent eastern European Jewish immigrants in a low-wage, high-volume industry focused on the seasonal production of cheap garments. Gimbels, Filene’s, Macy’s, Rich’s, and numerous other Jewish-owned stores great and small carried these fashions to the middle class and those who aspired to join it. While Jews were not new to the garment trade—the collection and sale of secondhand clothing had long allowed impecunious Jews in...

  11. Ella Zirner-Zwieback, Madame d’Ora, and Vienna’s New Woman
    (pp. 77-98)
    Lisa Silverman

    Fashion remembers 1926 as the year Coco Chanel created the “little black dress.” Few may remember that 1926 was also the year the studio of Madame d’Ora (the pseudonym of Vienna-born photographer Dora Kallmus) produced dozens of photographs for Ludwig Zwieback and Brothers, Vienna’s renowned luxury department store. Nevertheless, these photographs, which seem to have been taken for advertising purposes, deserve our attention.¹ Evoking the emancipated, modern, androgynous New Woman, while also referencing more conventional femininities, as well as traditional Austrian motifs, their pointed images make a range of statements about contemporary Austrian women.

    Some of the models wear luxurious,...

  12. Photographers, Jews, and the Fashioning of Women in the Weimar Republic
    (pp. 99-112)
    Nils Roemer

    The Weimar Republic created a new visual culture that permeated the arts and consumer culture, heralding a new way of seeing. Illustrated journals and newspapers as well as the affordability of new cameras transformed the photograph into a central facet of the newly emerging Weimar culture.¹ Men like Erwin Blumenfeld and Martin Munkásci, but particularly women such as Grete Stern, Ellen Auerbach, Ilse Bing, Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon, Florence Henri, and Germaine Krull, excelled professionally in photography. Much of their fashion photography is to this day largely unexplored. Forced exile shortened their careers, gender bias placed them into less visible positions,...

  13. Weimar Jewish Chic: Jewish Women and Fashion in 1920s Germany
    (pp. 113-136)
    Kerry Wallach

    “Judaism has literally come into fashion: everyone’s wearing it again!” This claim was made by German Jewish author Sammy Gronemann in a book of satirical anecdotes from 1927.¹ His assertion hints at the complex relationship between self-fashioning and Jewishness, suggesting that Jewishness itself was worn and displayed on the body in 1920s Germany. Indeed, the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) witnessed renewed interest in Jewish culture as well as significant contributions by Jews to the creation of general Weimar culture, and many of the best-known styles were created or promoted at least in part by Jewish women. Yet it was also...

  14. Unbuttoned: Clothing as a Theme in American Jewish Comedy
    (pp. 137-166)
    Ted Merwin

    Without the massive influx of Jews from Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, two major industries might never have taken root in New York. One was the manufacture of clothing, especially ladies’ ready-to-wear garments. The other was show business, from vaudeville and Broadway to silent film. While these fields might seem related merely in terms of the design and manufacture of costumes for the entertainment industry, they ended up being deeply connected on a metaphoric level.

    Indeed, clothing took on a symbolic dimension in comedy created by Jewish entertainers. These comedy routines helped to refashion Jewish identity...

  15. “What a Strange Power There Is in Clothing”: Women’s Tallitot
    (pp. 167-176)
    Rachel Gordan

    In the early 1970s, a milestone in the history of women wearing tallitot occurred. At the time, the Jewish Theological Seminary considered ordaining women as rabbis and the issue sparked national controversy. During this era of debate, the Jewish women’s study group, Ezrat Nashim, emerged as a powerful feminist voice, and although not invited, they decided to attend the the annual meeting of the Rabbinical Assembly (made up of Conservative rabbis) in 1972, “in order to promote their feminist philosophy.”¹

    In preparation for the event, Ezrat Nashim members made their own tallitot. Their demands to the Assembly included that women...

  16. Aboriginal Yarmulkes, Ambivalent Attire, and Ironies of Contemporary Jewish Identity
    (pp. 177-205)
    Eric K. Silverman

    How should a Jew dress? The question is far from trivial.¹

    Traditionally, Jews—mainly men—prayed in certain distinctive garments. Wearing a skullcap or yarmulke, draped in a prayer shawl [tallit], and, in the morning, enwrapped intefillinor phylacteries, a devotional Jew looked unmistakably Jewish. He dressed for Judaism.

    But what about on the streets? How should a Jew dress in public? In distinctively Jewish attire? Like everybody else? Should a Jew intentionally dress to stand apart—or to blend with the rest of society? Are there certain non-Jewish garments that must be avoided? How, in other words, should...

  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 206-206)