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Jewish Cultural Aspirations

Bruce Zuckerman Editor
Ruth Weisberg Guest Editor
Lisa Ansell Associate Editor
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Purdue University Press
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    Jewish Cultural Aspirations
    Book Description:

    In the late nineteenth century in Europe and to some extent in the United States, the Jewish upper middle class—particularly the more affluent families—began to enter the cultural spheres of public life, especially in major cities such as Vienna, Berlin, Paris, New York, and London. While many aspects of society were closed to them, theater, the visual arts, music, and art publication were far more inviting, especially if they involved challenging aspects of modernity that might be less attractive to Gentile society. Jews had far less to lose in embracing new forms of expression, and they were very attracted to what was regarded as the universality of cultural expression. Ultimately, these new cultural ideals had an enormous influence on art institutions and artistic manifestations in America and may explain why Jews have been active in the arts in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to a degree totally out of proportion to their presence in the US population. Jewish cultural activities and aspirations form the focus of the contributions to this volume. Invited authors include senior figures in the field such as Matthew Baigell and Emily Bilski, alongside authors of a younger generation such as Daniel Magilow and Marcie Kaufman. There is also an essay by noted Los Angeles artist and photographer Bill Aron. The guest editor of the volume, Ruth Weisberg, provides an Introduction that places the individual contributions in context.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-236-0
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Bruce Zuckerman

    With everyAnnual Reviewpublished since I became Director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, we have aimed to view the Jewish impact on America and American culture from new angles and from different perspectives. But—until now—this mandate has been more aspirational than literal. Not this time. This is signaled to the reader right away when she or he compares the cover of our tenth volume of theAnnual Reviewto the covers of all of the previous volumes. This cover photograph, a panoramic image shot by the noted photographer...

  4. Jewish Cultural Aspirations: An Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    The cultural aspirations and accomplishments of the Jewish people in Europe and the Americas in modern times have been highly significant and of an order of magnitude greater than their numbers in the general population. While this volume will concentrate on contributions to the Arts in the United States, I feel it would be helpful to provide an historical context for the rapid changes that have transpired especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I also wish to note that, while the general context I wish to give in this “Introduction” is relevant to all the Arts, in...

  5. We Are Living in a Golden Age of Jewish American Art and We Really Don’t Know It
    (pp. 1-32)
    Matthew Baigell

    Most people do not realize that we are living in a golden age of Jewish art in America. But we are. Beginning in the 1970s, artists all over the country have started creating an amazing number of works based on the Bible, the Talmud, Kabbalah, Jewish legends andmidrashim(explanations of and elaborations on biblical texts usually associated with rabbinical commentaries), the daily and High Holy Day prayer books, as well as certain contemporary events in Jewish history. This is happening now more than at any other time in the nation’s history. Moreover, this is a golden age with a...

  6. Contemporary Jewish Art: An Assessment
    (pp. 33-48)
    Richard McBee

    The idea of “Jewish Art” is such a strange and troubled notion. Long denied even as a possibility, based on an overly simplistic reading of the Torah’s abhorrence of idolatry (cf. Exod 20:4–5; Deut 5:8–10),¹ since the eighteenth century, as noted by Kalman Bland, “Jewish aniconism finally emerged as an unmistakably modern idea.” His deconstruction of Jewish aniconism sees this notion as initially a non-Jewish invention with anti-Semitic undertones—so much so that, “If not for Kant and Hegel the denial of Jewish art would not have been invented” (8). And, in spite of the fact that this...

  7. The Impact and Vitality of New Jewish Art
    (pp. 49-66)
    Marcie Kaufman

    Growing up as a Reform Jew in Palm Springs, California, I always felt as though I had to give a positive impression of Jews in order to counter any latent anti-Semitism that friends and neighbors might have possessed. This may have stemmed from my being accused of killing Jesus as a kindergartener. It may also have been the result of being one of only five practicing Jews in my high school class of five hundred students. Because the desert is a retirement and resort destination, the majority of Jews living there are senior citizens and snowbirds. Having so few young...

  8. Modern Architecture and the Jewish Problem: “Jewish Architecture” Reconsidered
    (pp. 67-88)
    David E. Kaufman

    Though unfamiliar in the past, the phrase “Jewish architecture” has lately been introduced to the lexicon of Jewish culture, popping up in book-titles (and sub-titles) such as:New Jewish Architecture from Berlin to San Francisco(2008);Louis I. Kahn’s Jewish Architecture(2009);Jewish Architecture in Europe(2010); andBuilding After Auschwitz: Jewish Architecture and the Memory of the Holocaust(2011). Beyond focusing on architectural design by and for Jews, such publications have reopened the older and broader debate over the nature of Jewish Art. For example, in introducing the newPosen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, editor James Young...

  9. Jewish Revenge Fantasies in Contemporary Film
    (pp. 89-110)
    Daniel H. Magilow

    Dustin Hoffman almost turned down the role of Thomas Babington, aka “Babe,” Levy, the Jewish graduate student and long-distance runner in John Schlesinger’s 1976 thrillerMarathon Man, because he objected to the original script’s ending. As the narrative unfolds, Levy unwittingly becomes ensnared in an international intrigue involving Nazi war criminals and diamonds stolen from Jews imprisoned at Auschwitz, and, in one memorable scene, Nazi dentist Dr. Christian Szell (villainously played to the hilt by Laurence Olivier) tortures him by extracting his teeth without anesthesia. The original script had Hofmann’s character avenging this torture and shooting Szell at the film’s...

  10. Temporal Shifts in Multi-Image Panoramas of Israel: A Personal Reflection
    (pp. 111-116)
    Bill Aron

    My connection to Judaism has always informed my life and my work. In the 1970s, when I was living in New York City, I was fascinated by the Lower East Side and its history of being one of the principal areas of settlement for Jews as they immigrated to this country around the turn of the last century. The first Jews came in 1650 and by 1920, the area contained the largest Jewish community in the world.

    Equally fascinating for me, while living on the Upper West Side, was a group called the New YorkHavurah. The members of the...

  11. About the Contributors
    (pp. 117-120)
  12. The USC Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life
    (pp. 121-122)
  13. [Plates]
    (pp. None)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 139-139)