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Jewish Responses to Modernity: New Voices in America and Eastern Europe

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Facing the dizzying array of changes commonly referred to as modernity, Jews in 19th-century Eastern Europe and early 20th-century America reflected the crises and opportunities of the modern world most eloquently in their speech, culture, and literature. Relying on those spoken and written words as eyewitnesses, Eli Lederhendler illustrates how the self- perceptions of Jews evolved, both in the Old World and among immigrants to America. He focuses on a wide range of subjects to provide an overview of this clash ...

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Overview

Facing the dizzying array of changes commonly referred to as modernity, Jews in 19th-century Eastern Europe and early 20th-century America reflected the crises and opportunities of the modern world most eloquently in their speech, culture, and literature. Relying on those spoken and written words as eyewitnesses, Eli Lederhendler illustrates how the self- perceptions of Jews evolved, both in the Old World and among immigrants to America. He focuses on a wide range of subjects to provide an overview of this clash between old and new and to reveal ways in which cultural conflicts were reconciled.

How, for instance, was messianic language adapted to serve nationalistic goals? What did America signify to Jewish thinkers at the turn of the century? What do Jewish user's guides to the New World tell us about Jewish secular culture and its perspective on sex, love, marriage, etiquette, and health? More generally, what do Jewish letters and literature tell us about how communities adapt to radically new environments?

Jewish Responses to Modernity highlights the manner in which codes and symbols are passed from one generation to the next, reinforcing a group's sense of self and helping to define its relations with other. The book clearly demonstrates the importance of language as a vehicle for minority-group self-expression in the past and in the present.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jewish Responses to Modernity is a model of the scholarly enterprise at its best: highly readable, engaged, informed and informative. Eli Lederhendler's nuanced focus on language and the semiotics of social and political transformations within modern Jewish culture are equally illuminating about the Old World and the New."

-Anita Norich,University of Michigan

"With the support of unfamiliar documents and books, Lederhendler skillfully investigates the interplay of culture and politics in the shaping of modern Jewish nationalism, the developement of new sources of Jewish authority, and the confrontation of Jews with various forms of government. Americanization as he redefines it emerges from this study as one of the most creative and significant Jewish responses to modernity—no simple matter of 'assimilation,' but a symbiotic adjustment that confirms the rich freedom of America in the process of testing it."

-Ruth R. Wisse,Harvard University, author of If I Am Not For Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Eli Lederhendler is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of The Road to Modern Jewish Politics, which won a National Jewish Book Award in 1990.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Language, Culture, and Politics 9
2 Interpreting Messianic Rhetoric in the Russian Haskalah and Early Zionism 23
3 The Making of a Maskil 47
4 Orthodox Jewish Opinion in Turn-of-the-Century Russia and Poland: A Documentary Study in Culture and Politics 67
5 America: A Vision in a Jewish Mirror 104
6 Guides for the Perplexed: Sex, Manners, and Mores for the Yiddish Reader in America 140
7 Against the Tide: The American Hebrew Yearbook, 1930-1949 159
8 Afterword: The Politics of Cultural Transmission, the Legacy of Simon Dubnov, and Jewish Studies 189
Notes 190
Index 229
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