New Jews

New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora

Caryn Aviv
David Shneer
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 215
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  • Book Info
    New Jews
    Book Description:

    For many contemporary Jews, Israel no longer serves as the Promised Land, the center of the Jewish universe and the place of final destination. In New Jews, Caryn Aviv and David Shneer provocatively argue that there is a new generation of Jews who don't consider themselves to be eternally wandering, forever outsiders within their communities and seeking to one day find their homeland. Instead, these New Jews are at home, whether it be in Buenos Aires, San Francisco or Berlin, and are rooted within communities of their own choosing. Aviv and Shneer argue that Jews have come to the end of their diaspora; wandering no more, today's Jews are settled.In this wide-ranging book, the authors take us around the world, to Moscow, Jerusalem, New York and Los Angeles, among other places, and find vibrant, dynamic Jewish communities where Jewish identity is increasingly flexible and inclusive. New Jews offers a compelling portrait of Jewish life today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0536-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: From Diaspora Jews to New Jews
    (pp. 1-25)

    On the first day of a class David teaches on Zionism and nationalism, a student asked him, “Where’s the diaspora? And when writing my papers, should I capitalize it or not? Do you say that Jews in the United States areindiaspora or arethediaspora?” David explained that much of the class would be asking those very questions and, when possible, figuring out some answers. He asked her where she learned the word.

    “In Hebrew school and from my parents. We’re diaspora Jews.”

    “Well, then do you have an answer to the question ‘Where is the diaspora?’”


  6. 1 Let My People Stay: Moscow’s Jews after the Exodus
    (pp. 26-49)

    In the summer of 2004, Caryn joined David on one of his annual research trips to Moscow. The two of us went in order to examine together how Moscow Jews define themselves in an era when the state is no longer intimately involved in shaping identity, as had been the case in the Soviet Union for seventy years. We chose to focus on Moscow because it is the home of a wide range of local and international Jewish organizations and is by far the largest urban center in the former Soviet Union (the city of Moscow is home to nearly...

  7. 2 Encounters with Ghosts: Youth Tourism and the Diaspora Business
    (pp. 50-71)

    In 1999, Caryn attended an Ascent weekend, a program for English-speaking tourists and students in Israel offered by Livnot U’lehibanot, a Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic program that conducts outreach among unaffiliated Jews. The following is excerpted from her field notes:

    On Friday evening, our group of twelve young women walked into the dark, cramped, and tiny women’s section of the Beit Knesset Kosov in Tzfat (a town in northern Israel, famous for its history of Jewish mystics). The women’s section was bounded by a dark wooden trellismechitzah(partition to separate women from men) covered with thick white lace doilies. It...

  8. 3 Temples of American Identity: Jewish Museums in Los Angeles
    (pp. 72-106)

    Over the past thirty to forty years, museums have become central places where American Jews constitute their identity and publicly display themselves to broad audiences. One critic has suggested that “museums are becoming synagogues,” in that they serve not just as a place to display artifacts as they once might have but also as cultural, culinary, and community centers, children’s day care providers, and concert halls. The religion professor Deborah Dash Moore argues that “Jews seem to be fascinated with looking at representations of themselves and their culture.”¹ Synagogues used to be the places in which Jews constituted their communal...

  9. 4 Castro, Chelsea, and Tel Aviv: Queer Jews at Home
    (pp. 107-136)

    We have spent many years living at and studying the intersections of sexuality and Jewish community. In our bookQueer Jews, we showed how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews are expanding Jewish communities and changing howallJews understand such foundational relationships as family, community, and nation. It was not an accident that, although we did a worldwide search for contributions to the anthology, nearly all of our submissions came from the United States, where queers are claiming space for themselves in Jewish communities. The few submissions we received from Israel focused less on Jewish community and identity than...

  10. 5 Our Kind of Town: New York Is a Center of the Jewish Universe
    (pp. 137-171)

    In the New York area, the public schools are closed for Jewish holidays. It’s one of the few places in the United States where an African American administrative assistant for an investment bank sends off employees with “Have a goodShabbes” on Friday afternoon and “Be sure you get home quickly. The sun is setting.” Seeing people in Hasidic garb or a play in Yiddish, hearing Hebrew and Russian on the streets or the bestklezmermusic in the world, readingThe Forwardat a newsstand, eating a bagel with a schmear, training as a rabbi, participating in an Orthodox...

  11. Epilogue: The End of the Jews
    (pp. 172-176)

    After a few glasses of wine in a dingy airport bar, a place we found ourselves all too often while doing research for this book, Caryn jokingly said, “I’ve got the title! Trust me, it will create conversation.” She grinned mischievously. “How aboutIsrael: Who Needs It?It’s perfect!” After talking her down from her giddy excitement, David suggested that such a polemical title might scare too many people off. Not to mention that this potential title simply put Israel back at the center of the Jewish map.

    The question is not “Who needs Israel?” Each chapter of this book...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 177-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-214)
  14. About the Authors
    (pp. 215-215)