Recovering Jewishness: Modern Identities Reclaimed

Recovering Jewishness: Modern Identities Reclaimed

by Frederick S. Roden


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Judaism and Jewish life reflect a diversity of identity after the past two centuries of modernization. This work examines how the early reformers of the 19th century and their legacy into the 20th century created a livable, liberal Jewish identity that allowed a reinvention of what it meant to be Jewish—a process that continues today.

Many scholars of the modern Jewish identity focus on the ways in which the past two centuries have resulted in the loss of Jewishness: through "assimilation," intermarriage, conversion to other faiths, genocide (in the Holocaust), and decline in religious observance. In this work, author Frederick S. Roden presents a decidedly different perspective: that the changes in Judaism throughout the 19th and 20th centuries resulted in a malleable, welcoming, and expanded Jewish identity—one that has benefited from intermarriage and converts to Judaism.

The book examines key issues in the modern definition of Jewish identity: who is and is not considered a Jew, and why; issues of Jewish "authenticity"; and the recent history of the debate. Attention is paid to the experiences of individuals who came to Judaism from outside the tradition: through marrying into Jewish families and/or choosing Judaism as a religion. In his consideration of the tragedy of the Holocaust, the author examines how a totalitarian regime's racial policing of Jewish identity served to awaken a connection with and reconfiguration of what that Jewish identity meant for those who retrospectively realized their Jewishness in the postwar era.

• Documents how modern Judaism and the modern Jewish identity was built on diversity resulting from intermarriage and converts to Judaism over the course of two centuries

• Describes how individuals with remote connections to Judaism and Jewish identity are reclaiming those connections and reinventing what it means to be "Jew-ish," and are providing new models for those seeking to reconnect with Judaism

• Uniquely offers insightful critical analysis of the literature by converts to Judaism

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440837746
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/22/2016
Pages: 277
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Frederick S. Roden, PhD, is associate professor of English at the University of Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Authentically Jewish? Of Marranos, Mischlinge, and Gerim 1

Part 1 The Making of Modern Jewish Identity: "Race" versus "Religion" and the Mission of Judaism 15

1 Jews and Modernity: German and American Contexts 17

2 The Development of a Reform Theology and Practice 31

3 The Mission of Judaism: Proselytism and Conversion at the Turn of the Century 53

Part 2 Modernity Redefined: Nazism's Ethnic and Cultural Legacies 75

4 Mischlingkeit: Nazi Racial Law and the Invention of Mixed Identity 77

5 Contested Identities and Christian Representations 105

6 Reluctant Awakenings: Imperatives to Jewishness 131

Part 3 Post-Holocaust Jewish Identities 159

7 Being and Believing in the Aftermath of the Shoah 161

8 The New Proselytes and "Jews by Choice": From Mission of Israel to Missionary Judaism 177

9 Turns and Returns to Judaism: Modern and Postmodern Possibilities 197

Epilogue: Revisiting "The Jew" and "The Other" 215

Notes 221

Bibliography 259

Index 271

What People are Saying About This

Steven F. Kruger

"Frederick S. Roden's Recovering Jewishness: Modern Identities Reclaimed examines the complex ways in which modern Jewishness has been experienced, rethought, and reconfigured, from the elaboration of Reform Judaism in the nineteenth century to the coercive invention of Jewish and 'mixed' racial identities by the Nazis to post-Holocaust embraces of Jewishness, both traditional and experimental. Roden's account is original especially in its emphasis not on a modern loss or fading of Jewish identity but on the expansion of possibilities for Jewishness that modernity brings, even if those possibilities also often entail losses and violence. Examining an impressively broad body of texts—historical writing, autobiography and memoir, theology, and fiction—Roden makes an extremely valuable, always thoughtful and thought-provoking, contribution to the exploration of that perpetual and thorny question: 'What is a Jew?'"

S.I. Salamensky

"Jewish identity has always dwelled within extremes of dialectic: religion and ethnicity, tradition and invention, East and West, isolation and assimilation, purity and mixing, more. In this wide-ranging and important study, Frederick S. Roden grapples with the continual shifting of axes within Jewish doctrine and culture, as well as in views of Jews from the outside. Engaging and affecting, Recovering Jewishness is essential reading for scholars and readers concerned with issues of longing, belonging, difference, and self-difference—Jewish and beyond. A necessary book."

Joy Ladin

"Frederick Roden sensitively and insightfully maps the complexities and shifting formulations of modern and post-modern Jewish identity. Combining sophisticated scholarly reflection with vivid, empathetic voicings of the lives of a breathtaking range of people who have identified themselves as Jews, Roden's work gives new meaning to the well-worn phrase 'the Jewish people.'"

Rabbi Howard A. Berman

"As Professor Roden notes, the struggle to define and exemplify a distinctive Jewish identity—whether religious, ethnic, cultural, or even racial—in the midst of a non-Jewish world is hardly a phenomenon of modernity, but rather dates back to Moses himself. Born a Hebrew, given an Egyptian name and raised in the Pharaoh's Court, the 'great Liberator and Lawgiver' who remains at the symbolic center of Jewish history embodied the dilemmas that continue to confront Jews today. In the apparent tension between particularity and universality, separatism and acculturation, Recovering Jewishness makes a compelling case for the universalist impulse in Jewish thought and experience that offers a confident, creative, and fruitful encounter and can lead to a promising future for Jewish hopes, dreams, and destiny."

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