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Journal ArticleDOI

The Holocaust and Jewish Identity in America: Memory, the Unique, and the Universal

01 Jan 2012-Jewish Social Studies (Indiana University Press)-Vol. 18, Iss: 2, pp 100-135
TL;DR: This paper explored the Holocaust as part of American history and its implications for contemporary American Jewish identity from three vantage points: the institutionalization of the Holocaust and as a Jewish "event" in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Abstract: The often-unspoken idea that the Holocaust was a unique event has become a key feature of American Jewish identity. As a result, universalizing the Holocaust is a complicated matter for those who feel Jewish "ownership" of the event must remain paramount. This essay explores the Holocaust as part of American history and its implications for contemporary American Jewish identity from three vantage points: the institutionalization of the Holocaust as part of American history and as a Jewish "event" in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Holocaust as seen through the lens of various recent readings of The Diary of Anne Frank , and the image of the Holocaust in American popular culture. Through these three lenses I suggest that the Holocaust will remain an important source of identity, but in order for it to do so, it must become a broader and more complex model for Jewish survival and for Jewish flourishing in an increasingly globalized world.
Citations
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01 Jan 1974

16 citations

01 Jan 2019
TL;DR: The Colby College theses as discussed by the authors are protected by copyright and can be viewed or downloaded from this site for the purposes of research and scholarship, and they can be found at https://digitalcommons.colby.edu/honorstheses.
Abstract: Follow this and additional works at: https://digitalcommons.colby.edu/honorstheses Part of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Commons, and the Jewish Studies Commons Colby College theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed or downloaded from this site for the purposes of research and scholarship. Reproduction or distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the author.

15 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Apr 2015-Shofar
TL;DR: The Boyarins' diasporic thinking can be applied to diverse contemporary Jewish comedic texts like Roth's "The Conversion of the Jews,” Englander's "What We Talk About When We Talk about Anne Frank", and Auslander's "Hope, A Tragedy".
Abstract: In their 1993 essay on diaspora and identity, Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin reject “diaspora” as a site of persecution and fear and instead argue that “the [new] lesson of Diaspora, namely, that peoples and lands are not naturally and organically connected . . . can teach us that it is possible for a people to maintain its distinctive culture, its difference, without controlling land, a fortiori without controlling other people.” I argue that the Boyarins’ new “diaspora” has been incorporated into contemporary Jewish American humor and provides assimilated Jews a way to create humor in a multicultural world. The Boyarins’ diasporic thinking can be applied to diverse contemporary Jewish comedic texts like Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews,” Englander’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” and Auslander’s Hope, A Tragedy. Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David also reject traditional forms of Jewish comedy (the need for group identity and solidarity in the face of suffering, persecution, genocide, powerlessness) in favor of an emancipated diaspora that maintains identity while it is outer directed and engages the Other. Although Jewish “diaspora” humor is traditionally associated with disenfranchisement, vulnerability and persecution, Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin view it as an opportunity for an increasingly powerful Jewish identity that benefits from what was once a liability: diaspora or geographical dis persion. By separating communal identity from land acquisition, Jews are able to maintain a sense of group particularity without the domination of the Other, thereby substituting cultural collaboration for confrontation. This version of diasporic thinking complements American egalitarianism at the same time that it expands the scope and affect of traditional Jewish humor. Although, in 1951, Irving Howe could not imagine how the traditional Jewish humor of the embattled European diaspora would translate into an enfranchised, empowered American idiom, I argue that in the hands of Philip Roth, Nathan Englander, and Shalom Auslander as well as popular artists like Jerry Seinfeld, Woody Allen, Larry David, and others, a new form of Jewish diasporic humor is not only thriving in America but

13 citations

References
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Book
01 Jan 1989
TL;DR: In this paper, a sociological theory of Morality rationality and shame is proposed for the post-Holocaust world, based on the uniqueness and normality of the Holocaust.
Abstract: Foreword. 1. Introduction: Sociology after the Holocaust. 2. Modernity, Racism, Extermination - I. 3. Modernity, Racism, Extermination - II. 4. On the Uniqueness and Normality of the Holocaust. 5. Soliciting Cooperation of the Victims. 6. The Ethics of Obedience (reading Milgram). 7. Towards a Sociological Theory of Morality Rationality and Shame. Index.

2,443 citations

Book
01 Jan 1973
TL;DR: Metahistory as mentioned in this paper was the first work in the history of historiography to concentrate on historical writing as writing, and it was one of the seminal works in the field of history.
Abstract: Since its initial publication in 1973, Hayden White's Metahistory has remained an essential book for understanding the nature of historical writing. In this classic work, White argues that a deep structural content lies beyond the surface level of historical texts. This latent poetic and linguistic content - which White dubs the "metahistorical element" - essentially serves as a paradigm for what an "appropriate" historical explanation should be. To support his thesis, White analyzes the complex writing styles of historians like Michelet, Ranke, Tocqueville, and Burckhardt, and philosophers of history such as Marx, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Croce. The first work in the history of historiography to concentrate on historical writing as writing, Metahistory sets out to deprive history of its status as a bedrock of factual truth, to redeem narrative as the substance of historicality, and to identify the extent to which any distinction between history and ideology on the basis of the presumed scientificity of the former is spurious. This fortieth-anniversary edition includes a new preface in which White explains his motivation for writing Metahistory and discusses how reactions to the book informed his later writing. In a new foreword, Michael S. Roth, a former student of White's and the current president of Wesleyan University, reflects on the significance of the book across a broad range of fields, including history, literary theory, and philosophy. This book will be of interest to anyone-in any discipline-who takes the past as a serious object of study.

2,007 citations

Journal Article
TL;DR: Novick as discussed by the authors argues that the Holocaust became more ubiquitous in American cultural and political life after 1968 than it had been in the postwar years, rejecting psychoanalytically informed accounts that explain this lag in terms of "trauma" or "repression."
Abstract: The Holocaust in American Life. By Peter Novick. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. Pp. 1, 373. Cloth, $27.00) In this engaging and important study, Peter Novick undertakes two primary tasks: to offer an historical account of how the Holocaust became such a prominent feature of American cultural and political life, and to question the widely held assumption that this prominence is an inherently good thing. In addition to these goals, Novick seeks to debunk the claim that the Holocaust stands apart from other atrocities as a unique purveyor of moral lessons. Indeed, he takes his case one step further by contending that, in the end, the Holocaust may actually offer no moral lessons at all. In tracing the history of the Holocaust in American life, Novick is largely successful. Like other recent scholarship on this themes, Novick argues that, while Americans were not silent about Nazi atrocities during and immediately after the war, the "Holocaust" was not recognized as a discrete historical event until decades later. In contending that the Holocaust became more ubiquitous in American cultural and political life after 1968 than it had been in the postwar years, Novick rejects psychoanalytically informed accounts that explain this lag in terms of "trauma" or "repression." Drawing on a wide range of published and unpublished sources, Novick argues that in the years following World War II, public discussion of the Holocaust was muted because it ran counter not only to the aims of organized American Jewry, but to the broader cultural and political climate of postwar America. The demands of the Cold War and the new alliance between Germany and the United States required that Stalinism, rather than the Holocaust, be cast as the most damning crime of the modern age. Leaders of the American Jewish community promulgated this view and were largely silent about the Holocaust in an attempt to dispel stereotypes that identified Jews with both Bolshevism and eternal victimhood. An excessive public preoccupation with the Holocaust was seen as incompatible with a rapidly assimilating American Jewish community, determined to participate fully in euphoric postwar prosperity. While the destruction of European Jewry was surely a "widely shared Jewish sorrow" during these years, it was, according to Novick, a sorrow shared largely in private. By the mid-1960s, this had begun to change. Novick cites the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and the subsequent publication of Hannah Arendt's controversial Eichmann in Jerusalem as two of the major catalysts for a growing public discussion of the Holocaust. A less obvious claim is that the heightened public preoccupation with the Holocaust in the late 1960s and 1970s coincided with the birth of identity politics, reflecting both a broader shift away from an integrationist ethos to a particularist one, and the growth of a "victim culture" that increasingly valorized oppression and suffering over heroism. While not everyone may agree with Novick's implicitly critical definition of identity politics, this is an important dimension of his argument, for it offers a compelling, if only partial explanation for the ubiquity of the Holocaust in contemporary American life. It was only within a political culture that valorized victimization that the Holocaust could become the locus of so many strong and contradictory feelings, including possessiveness, proprietariness, envy, and resentment. Novick is also interested in how, by the late 1960s, a growing public Holocaust discourse reflected the shifting priorities of organized American Jewry, and here, too, he offers an illuminating account of how Jewish leaders once reticent about the Holocaust were now placing it at the top of their political agendas. In their concern over escalating rates of intermarriage and waning interest in organized Judaism, leaders now seized on the Holocaust in order to shore up a sense of American Jewish identity and to caution American Jews against the dangers of complacency. …

736 citations

Book
01 Jan 1999

680 citations