The Casden Institute at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, supports research that aims to spur dialogue and achieve greater understanding not only about what it means to be Jewish in America, but what it means to be American in a pluralistic society. What can we learn from the historical and contemporary impact of Jews on American life? How have Jews interacted with other ethnic and religious groups? How has Jewish identity changed? What has the cultural expression of those changes been? Such inquiries can lead to a new appreciation for what it means to be Jewish, to be American, and to interact with people of other cultures. Our goal is to shed light, not heat, on topics of relevance and interest.
Series Editor: Steven J. Ross, director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life
Jews and Science
Sander L. Gilman
Jews and Science examines the complicated relationship between Jewish identities and the evolving meanings of science throughout the history of Western academic culture. Jews have been not only the agents for study of things Jewish, but also the subject of examination by “scientists” across a range of disciplines, from biology and bioethics to anthropology and genetics. Even the most recent iteration of Jewish studies as an academic discipline—Israel studies—stresses the global cultural, economic, and social impact of Israeli science and medicine.
The 2022 volume of the Casden Institute’s Jewish Role in American Life series tackles a range of issues that have evolved with the rise of Jewish studies, throughout its evolution from interdisciplinary to transdisciplinary, and now finally as a discipline itself with its own degrees and departments in universities across the world. This book gathers contributions by scholars from various disciplines to discuss the complexity in defining “science” across multiple fields within Jewish studies. The scholars examine the role of the self-defined “Jewish” scholar, discerning if their identification with the object of study (whether that study be economics, criminology, medicine, or another field entirely) changes their perception or status as scientists. They interrogate whether the myriad ways to study Jews and their relationship to science—including the role of Jews in science and scientific training, the science of the Jews (however defined), and Jews as objects of scientific study—alter our understanding of science itself. The contributors of Jews and Science take on the challenge to confront these central problems.
The Impact of the Presidency of Donald Trump on American Jewry and Israel
Steven F. Windmueller
The Trump presidency has resulted in a fundamentally disruptive moment in this nation’s political culture. Not only were there different policy options and directions, but the cultural artifacts of politics changed because of how this president dramatically challenged the existing norms of political behavior and action. As we have shifted from a period of American liberalism to a time of political populism, deep fissures are dividing Americans in general and Jews in particular.
The Impact of the Presidency of Donald Trump on American Jewry and Israel unpacks President Donald Trump’s distinctive and unique relationship with the American Jewish community and the State of Israel. Addressing the various dimensions of his personal and political connections with Jews and Israel, this publication is designed to provide an assessment of how the Trump presidency has influenced and altered American Jewish political behavior. Writers from different backgrounds and political orientations bring a broad range of perspectives designed to examine various aspects of this presidency, including Trump’s particular impact on Israel-US relations, his special connection with Orthodox Jews, and his complex and uneven relationship with Jewish Republicans.
For liberal American Jews, these four years represented a fundamental revolution, overturning and challenging much that a generation of activists had fought to achieve and protect. For Trump’s supporters, it afforded them an opportunity to advance their priorities, while joining the forty-fifth president in changing the American political landscape. The “Trump effect” will extend well beyond his four-year tenure, creating an environment that has fomented the politics of hate and exposed a deeply embedded presence of anti-Semitism. How Americans understand this moment in time and the ways society will adapt can be reflected through the prism of the Jewish encounter with Trumpism that this volume seeks to explore.
Wandering Jews: Global Jewish Migration
Steven J. Gold
Despite the importance of historical and contemporary migration to the American Jewish community, popular awareness of the diversity and complexity of the American Jewish migration legacy is limited and largely focused upon Yiddish-speaking Jews who left the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1920 to settle in eastern and midwestern cities.
Wandering Jews provides readers with a broader understanding of the Jewish experience of migration in the United States and elsewhere. It describes the record of a wide variety of Jewish migrant groups, including those encountering different locations of settlement, historical periods, and facets of the migration experience. While migrants who left the Pale of Settlement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are discussed, the volume’s authors also explore less well-studied topics. These include the fate of contemporary Jewish academics who seek to build communities in midwestern college towns; the adaptation experience of recent Jewish migrants from Latin America, Israel, and the former Soviet Union; the adjustment of Iranian Jews; the experience of contemporary Jewish migrants in France and Belgium; the return of Israelis living abroad; and a number of other topics. Interdisciplinary, the volume draws upon history, sociology, geography, and other fields.
Written in a lively and accessible style, Wandering Jews will appeal to a wide range of readers, including students and scholars in Jewish studies, international migration, history, ethnic studies, and religious studies, as well as general-interest readers.
New Perspectives on Kristallnacht: After 80 Years, the Nazi Pogrom in Global Comparison
Wolf Gruner and Steven J. Ross
On November 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi leadership unleashed an unprecedented orchestrated wave of violence against Jews in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland, supposedly in response to the assassination of a Nazi diplomat by a young Polish Jew, but in reality to force the remaining Jews out of the country. During the pogrom, Stormtroopers, Hitler Youth, and ordinary Germans murdered more than a hundred Jews (many more committed suicide) and ransacked and destroyed thousands of Jewish institutions, synagogues, shops, and homes. Thirty thousand Jews were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps.
Volume 17 of the Casden Annual Review includes a series of articles presented at an international conference titled “New Perspectives on Kristallnacht: After 80 Years, the Nazi Pogrom in Global Comparison.” Assessing events 80 years after the violent anti-Jewish pogrom of 1938, contributors to this volume offer new cutting-edge scholarship on the event and its repercussions. Contributors include scholars from the United States, Germany, Israel, and the United Kingdom who represent a wide variety of disciplines, including history, political science, and Jewish and media studies. Their essays discuss reactions to the pogrom by victims and witnesses inside Nazi Germany as well as by foreign journalists, diplomats, Jewish organizations, and Jewish print media. Several contributors to the volume analyze postwar narratives of and global comparisons to Kristallnacht, with the aim of situating this anti-Jewish pogrom in its historical context, as well as its place in world history.
Doing Business in America: A Jewish History
Purdue University Press
American and Jewish historians have long shied away from the topic of Jews and business. Avoidance patterns grew in part from old, often negative stereotypes that linked Jews with money, and the perceived ease and regularity with which they found success with money, condemning Jews for their desires for wealth and their proclivities for turning a profit. A new, dauntless generation of historians, however, realizes that Jewish business has had and continues to have a profound impact on American culture and development, and patterns of immigrant Jewish exploration of business opportunities reflect internal, communal, Jewish-cultural structures and their relationship to the larger non-Jewish world. As such, they see the subject rightly as a vital and underexplored area of study.
Doing Business in America: A Jewish History, edited by Hasia R. Diner, rises to the challenge of taking on the long-unspoken taboo subject, comprising leading scholars and exploring an array of key topics in this important and growing area of research.
Tastes of Faith: Jewish Eating in the United States
"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are," wrote the 18th Century French politician and musician Jean Brillat-Savarin, giving expression to long held assumptions about the role of food, taste, and eating in the construction of cultural identities.
Foodways—the cultural, religious, social, economic, and political practices related to food consumption and production—unpack and reveal the meaning of what we eat, our tastes. They explain not just our flavor profiles, but our senses of refinement and judgment. They also reveal quite a bit about the history and culture of how food operates and performs in society.
More specifically, Jewish food practices and products expose and explain how different groups within American society think about what it means to be Jewish and the values (as well as the prejudices) people have about what "Jewish" means. Food—what one eats, how one eats it, when one eats it—is a fascinating entryway into identity; for Jews, it is at once a source of great nostalgia and pride, and the central means by which acculturation and adaptation takes place.
In chapters that trace the importance and influence of the triad of bagels, lox, and cream cheese, southern kosher hot barbecue, Jewish vegetarianism, American recipes in Jewish advice columns, the draw of eating treyf (nonkosher), and the geography of Jewish food identities, this volume explores American Jewish foodways, predilections, desires, and presumptions.
From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood
Vincent Brook and Michael Renov
The outsized influence of Jews in American entertainment from the early days of Hollywood to the present has proved an endlessly fascinating and controversial topic, for Jews and non-Jews alike. From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood takes an exciting and innovative approach to this rich and complex material. Exploring the subject from a scholarly perspective as well as up close and personal, the book combines historical and theoretical analysis by leading academics in the field with inside information from prominent entertainment professionals. Essays range from Vincent Brook’s survey of the stubbornly persistent canard of Jewish industry “control” to Lawrence Baron and Joel Rosenberg’s panel presentations on the recent brouhaha over Ben Urwand’s book alleging collaboration between Hollywood and Hitler. Case studies by Howard Rodman and Joshua Louis Moss examine a key Coen brothers film, A Serious Man (Rodman), and Jill Soloway’s groundbreaking television series, Transparent (Moss). Jeffrey Shandler and Shaina Hamermann train their respective lenses on popular satirical comedians of yesteryear (Allan Sherman) and those currently all the rage (Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, and Sarah Silverman). David Isaacs relates his years of agony and hilarity in the television comedy writers’ room, and interviews include in-depth discussions by Ross Melnick with Laemmle Theatres owner Greg Laemmle (relative of Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle) and by Michael Renov with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. In all, From Shtetl to Stardom offers a uniquely multifaceted, multimediated, and up-to-the-minute account of the remarkable role Jews have played over the centuries and ongoing in American popular culture.
Beyond Stereotypes: American Jews and Sports
Ari F. Sclar
In the decades after the Civil War, sports slowly gained a prominent position within American culture. This development provided Jews with opportunities to participate in one of the few American cultures not closed off to them. Jewish athleticism challenged anti-Semitic depictions of Jews supposed physical inferiority while helping to construct a modern American Jewish identity. An Americanization narrative emerged that connected Jewish athleticism with full acceptance and integration into American society. This acceptance was not without struggle, but Jews succeeded and participated in the American sporting culture as athletes, coaches, owners, and fans.
The diversity of topics in this volume reflect that the field of the history of American Jews and sports is growing and has moved beyond the need to overcome the idea that Jews are simply People of the Book. The contributions to this volume paint a broad picture of Jewish participation in sports, with essays written by respected historians who have examined specific sports, individuals, leagues, cities, and the impact of sport on Judaism. Despite the continued belief that Jewish religious or cultural identity remains somehow distinct from the American idea of the athlete, the volume demonstrates that American Jews have had a tremendous contribution to American sports and conversely, that sports have helped construct American Jewish culture and identity.
Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in America
Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in America includes academics, artists, writers, and civic and religious leaders who contributed chapters focusing on the Sephardi and Mizrahi experience in America. Topics will address language, literature, art, diaspora identity, and civic and political engagement.
When discussing identity in America, one contributor will review and explore the distinct philosophy and culture of classic Sephardic Judaism, and how that philosophy and culture represents a viable option for American Jews who seek a rich and meaningful medium through which to balance Jewish tradition and modernity. Another chapter will provide a historical perspective of Sephardi/Ashkenazi Diasporic tensions. Additionally, contributors will address the term "Sephardi" as a self-imposed, collective, "ethnic" designation that had to be learned and naturalized-and its parameters defined and negotiated-in the new context of the United States and in conversation with discussions about Sephardic identity across the globe.
This volume also will look at the theme of literature, focusing on Egyptian and Iranian writers in the United States. Continuing with the Iranian Jewish community, contributors will discuss the historical and social genesis of Iranian-American Jewish participation and leadership in American civic, political, and Jewish affairs. Another chapter reviews how art is used to express Iranian Diaspora identity and nostalgia.
The significance of language among Sephardi and Mizrahi communities is discussed. One chapter looks at the Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jewish population of Seattle, while another confronts the experience of Judeo-Spanish speakers in the United States and how they negotiate identity via the use of language. In addition, scholars will explore how Judeo-Spanish speakers engage in dialogue with one another from a century ago, and furthermore, how they use and modify their language when they find themselves in Spanish-speaking areas today.
American Politics and the Jewish Community
At its broadest level, politics is the practice of making a community a better, safer, and more tolerant place to live. So it should be of no surprise that America's Jews have devoted themselves to civic engagement and the democratic process. From before the Revolutionary War to the early 21st century, when America saw the first Jewish vice presidential nominee of a major party and the first Jewish Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Jewish community has always devoted itself to public service, issue advocacy, and involvement in politics and government at every level. While strong support for the safety and security of the state of Israel has been a hallmark of US foreign policy since Israel's founding, it is by no means the only policy area in which American Jews are involved. Nor are American Jews monolithic in their politics. Although the Jewish community has become a reliable part of the Democratic Party's base in most partisan elections, American Jews represent a wide range of ideologies on most economic and foreign policy matters. In addition to becoming leaders in business and labor, in academia and in philanthropy, Jewish Americans have always helped shape the discussion over the issues that shape the country's future. In this volume, a mix of professors, graduate students, and lay people in the field of politics with a breadth of experience debate some central questions: Is Israel still the most important policy concern for American Jews? Why does the Jewish community vote Democratic in such overwhelming numbers? Can American Jews balance economic, security and human rights concerns in a rapidly changing international community? And how will such profound transformations affect the role of America's Jewish community as the United States seeks out its own role in domestic and global politics?
Jewish Cultural Aspirations
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.
Beyond Alliances: The Jewish Role in Reshaping the Racial Landscape of Southern California
George J. Sanchez
This volume focuses on the special role that Jews played in reshaping the racial landscape of southern California in the twentieth century. Rather than considering this issue in terms of broad analyses of organizations or communities, each contribution instead approaches it by examining the activity of a single Jewish individual, and how he or she navigated the social terrain of a changing southern California. In particular, this volume is one of the first to take seriously the unique racial/ethnic makeup of southern California for Jewish activism, with a particular focus on the relationship between Jews and Mexican Americans in the area around Los Angeles. The Jewish individuals who are this volume's subjects represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives, ranging from an elected official to an activist lawyer, and from a local businessman to a Democratic Party organizer. The volume culminates with an interview with one of the most beloved of local university rabbis, who has been operating in the ever-changing environment of higher education in Los Angeles over the past thirty years. While its overall message is one of optimism, the volume does not shy away from taking on some of the more vexed issues in the scholarship of racial/ethnic interaction. While Jewish activism in shaping local civil rights is thoroughly discussed, the specific and unequal dynamics of power within the civil rights community is also analyzed. The changing relationship of Jews to whiteness in southern California during the late twentieth century, in both geographic and political terms, shapes many of these ongoing relationships. Finally, the volume provides a unique historical perspective on our understanding of contemporary Los Angeles in all its ethnic complexity, and specifically in thinking through the future of Jewish role in urban southern California.
The Song Is Not the Same: Jews and American Popular Music
There has been a long-standing relationship between Jewish Americans and the world of American popular music. The essays in this volume blend surveys of music making as a whole with profiles of single artists. This is volume 8 of the annual publication, The Jewish Role in American Life (ISSN 1934-7529), produced by the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life at the University of Southern California.
A Cultural History of Jews in California
William F. Deverell
The aim of this collection of essays is to stress the cultural aspects of the Jewish experience of coming to, and living in, the Golden State. The contributors explore how the Jews who settled in California helped shape the state's culture and were, in turn, molded by cultural influences that were uniquely Californian. While this volume looks at the Jewish experience in California in general, particular emphasis is placed on Southern California where the Casden Institute, originators of The Jewish Role in American Life series of annual reviews, is based. The collection presents choice snapshots of how life developed and changed for Jews in California as California itself evolved and grew.
The Impact of the Holocaust in America
The contributions to this volume consider topics such as the immigrant experience in coming to America after the trauma of the Holocaust; how the Shoah has shaped more recent interpretation of the Hebrew Bible; the role that survivors have fulfilled in educating American youth not only about the Holocaust itself, but also about how values - especially in regard to tolerance - can and must be shaped by eye-witness testimony on the Shoah; the impact of Holocaust in film, especially in "third-generation" cinema; the issues and difficulties of presenting the Shoah in children's literature; the dialogue between Christians and Jews, especially in America, and how that dialogue has been constructively influenced and shaped by the Holocaust; the way in which Jewish business activities have altered in the post-World War II environment and in the aftermath of the Holocaust and how the lessons of the Shoah have facilitated the change from nationalist to global economy; how the image and awareness of the Holocaust developed in the American media. For all the range that these articles encompass, throughout them all runs a common theme: that the Holocaust has indelibly marked almost every aspect of American culture. We cannot think of America, American ideals and values, America's role in the world today and the future of America in an increasingly dangerous world, without recognizing that the Shoah casts a long shadow across all these concerns and serves as one of the primary points of horrific historical reference by which we, as Americans, must measure ourselves.
The Jewish Role in American Life
The relationship between Jews and the United States is necessarily complex: Jews have been instrumental in shaping American culture and, of course, Jewish culture and religion have likewise been profoundly recast in the United States, especially in the period following World War II. A major focus of this work is to consider the Jewish role in American life as well as the American role in shaping Jewish life. This fifth volume of the Casden Institute's annual review is organized along five broad themes: politics, values, image, education and culture.