The Modern Jewish Experience in World Cinema


Most people have seen Exodus, Fiddler on the Roof, Yentl, and Schindler’s List—well-known films with obvious Jewish subjects. But the Jewish experience in film is far richer than this. Over the past century, Jewish-themed films have emerged from the Americas, Europe, Israel, and North Africa. This remarkable anthology brings together 54 new and classic essays by 49 scholars in 8 countries to analyze the Jewish presence in world cinema.

Opening with a survey of the approaches ...

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Most people have seen Exodus, Fiddler on the Roof, Yentl, and Schindler’s List—well-known films with obvious Jewish subjects. But the Jewish experience in film is far richer than this. Over the past century, Jewish-themed films have emerged from the Americas, Europe, Israel, and North Africa. This remarkable anthology brings together 54 new and classic essays by 49 scholars in 8 countries to analyze the Jewish presence in world cinema.

Opening with a survey of the approaches employed to study historical films and how they have been applied to Jewish cinema, the book then moves on to several thematic sections containing essays on films grouped by period and region or organized around a central event or issue. These include European Jewry’s acculturation; responses to oppression and belated emancipation; the American Jewish immigrant experience; the Zionist experiment; the Holocaust; postwar American Jewish life; Jewish international films; and contemporary Israeli and American Jewish cinema. An appendix offers a supplementary listing of films.

Designed for classroom use, as well as for programming at film festivals, JCCs, and synagogues, the volume provides resources to help teachers and program organizers select from a broad range of movies. It includes chapter-based bibliographies of additional readings and links to appropriate web resources.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The book is a fine addition to any bookshelf containing material on the Jewish experience in film, particularly given that Baron has taken care to ensure that it at least attempts to cover the global span of Jewish film rather than, as many have done before him, uncritically assuming that the only Jewish films of note emanate from America or Israel and stopped at reports of Woody Allen’s directorial decline.” —The Forward

“Baron manages to give each writer enough space to offer close readings of the films in question and to locatethem in their national, cultural, and aesthetic contexts. And if you happen not to like the movies that Baron chose in consultation with his contributors, he includes an appendix listing another hundred or so alternatives.” —Tablet

“For those looking for an intelligent collection of film criticism for a course on the image of the Jew in motion pictures of the past 80 years, this is it. Baron . . . required a textbook, and in providing for his own needs, he created a useful collection for anyone interested. . . . Film selection is impeccable; there is plenty of Woody Allen. Knowing that he could not include every favorite film in the anthology, Baron provides an "alternative films" list to calm the reader who finds a favorite film omitted. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

“This excellent collection of essays on Jewish characters in world cinema over the past ninety years . . . are at last available in a single source. [Modern Jewish Experience in World Cinema] will enhance courses on Jewish cinema. It will encourage that very rubric in current film studies and film history courses.”—Cinema Post Script

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611681994
  • Publisher: Brandeis University Press
  • Publication date: 12/13/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 7.04 (w) x 9.88 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

LAWRENCE BARON is the Nasatir Chair in Modern Jewish History, San Diego State University, and the author of Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations: DVD Rental and Purchase Sources
Introduction: Wandering Views – Lawrence Baron
One of Us? Contesting Disraeli’s Jewishness and Englishness in the Twentieth Century – Tony Kushner
Representing the Past and Present in The Life of Emile Zola – Nico Carpentier
The Dreyfus Affair According to HBO – Lawrence Baron
Renoir’s La Grande Illusion and the “Jewish Question” –Maurice Samuels
Bigotry, Manhood, and Moral Certitude in an Age of Individualism – Ellis Cashmore
Fiddling with Sholem Aleichem: A History of Fiddler on the Roof – Stephen J. Whitfield
Yentl: From Yeshiva Boy to Syndrome – Pamela S. Nadell
Redressing the Commissar: Thaw Cinema Revises Soviet Structuring Myths – Elena Monastireva-Ansdell
Cinema as Site of Memory: The Dybbuk and the Burden of Holocaust Commemoration – Zehavit Stern
From Hollywood to Hester Street: Ghetto Film, Melodrama, and the Image of the Assimilated Jew in Hungry Hearts – Delia Caparoso Konzett
The Right Film at the Right Time: Hester Street as a Reflection of Its Era – Hasia Diner
Cultural Erosion and the (Br)other at the Gateway of Sound Cinema – Joel Rosenberg
Ethnic and Discursive Drag in Woody Allen’s Zelig – Ruth D. Johnston
Uncle Moses: The First Artistic Yiddish Sound Film – Hannah Berliner Fischthal
The Birth of a Language, or the Man Who Loved Hebrew – Yvonne Koslovsky Golan
Zionism, Trauma, and New Identity: They Were Ten Revisited – Eldad Kedem and Benjamin Ben-David
Jews of Steel – J. Hoberman
Muffled Music – Lawrence Baron
“There Has Never Been Anti-Semitism in Italy”: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis – Giacomo Lichtner
“All Men Are Jews”: Tragic Transcendence in Kadár’s The Shop on Main Street – Jeffrey Saperstein
History, Memory, and Art in Louis Malle’s Au revoir les enfants – Christopher Shorley
A Reel Witness: Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List – Frank Manchel
The Pianist and Its Contexts: Polanski’s Narration of Holocaust Evasion and Survival – Michael Stevenson
A Hungarian Holocaust Saga: Fateless – Catherine Portuges
Filming the Text of Witness: Francesco Rosi’s The Truce – Millicent Marcus
Our Children: Responding to the Holocaust – Ira Konigsberg
“Teach Me Gold”: Pedagogy and Memory in The Pawnbroker – Alan Rosen
“What Is the Way?” Finding Meaning and Purpose after the Holocaust – Asher Z. Milbauer
Filming the Israeli War of Independence – Ariel Feldestein
Screening the Birth of a Nation: Exodus Revisited – Yosefa Loshitzky
Women, Zionism, and Persecution in Iraq: The Story of Herzlia Lokai and Her Imprisonment in Baghdad – Daphne Tsimhoni
From Black to White: Changing Images of Mizrahim in Israeli Cinema – Yaron Peleg
The Chosen: The Jew as Both American and Alien – Michael W. Rubinoff
Jew and Not-Jew: Anti-Semitism and the Postwar Hollywood Social Problem Film – Steven Alan Carr
Southern Jewishness on Screen – Eliza R. L. McGraw
Jewish Women and the Dilemmas of America’s Postwar Middle Class – Riv-Ellen Prell
Of Lox and Columbus: Jewish and American Themes in Goodbye, Columbus – Joellyn Wallen Zollman
A Serious Film – Norbert Samuelson
When Chippewa Falls Meets Manhattan – Sylvia Barack Fishman
Like a Bride: The Chicken and the Egg – Elissa Rashkin
The American Dream on St. Urbain Street: Richler’s Duddy Kravitz and Canadian Cinema – Scott Henderson
Jewish Assimilation in Hungary, the Holocaust, and Epic Film: Reflections on Szabó’s Sunshine – Susan Rubin Suleiman
Burman's Ode to El Once Neighborhood: The Lost Embrace – Tamara L. Falicov
Sexuality, Orthodoxy, and Modernity in France: North African Jewish Immigrants in Karin Albou’s La Petite Jérusalem – Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall
Munich: A Bitter Fruit on the Olive Branch – Nigel Morris
Dancing Solo in the Lebanese Mud – Ilan Avisar
Beta Israel in the State of Israel – Lawrence Baron
Love in Search of Belief, Belief in Search of Love – Shai Ginsburg
The Arrangement: Time of Favor – Yvonne Koslovsky-Golan
Jewish New York in Crossing Delancey – David I. Grossvogel
Torch Song Trilogy: Gay and Jewish Foundations – Jonathan C. Friedman
Against Tribalism: David Mamet’s Homicide – Philip Hanson
Self-Criticism in Public – David Kraemer
Keeping the Faith: A Multicultural Jazz Singer – Lawrence Baron
Appendix: Alternate Films
Contributor Biographies
Image Credits

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