Jewish Peoplehood: An American Innovation

Jewish Peoplehood: An American Innovation

by Noam Pianko


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Winner of the 2017 Saul Viener Book Prize from the American Jewish Historical Society​

Although fewer American Jews today describe themselves as religious, they overwhelmingly report a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Indeed, Jewish peoplehood has eclipsed religion—as well as ethnicity and nationality—as the essence of what binds Jews around the globe to one another. In Jewish Peoplehood, Noam Pianko highlights the current significance and future relevance of “peoplehood” by tracing the rise, transformation, and return of this novel term. 
The book tells the surprising story of peoplehood. Though it evokes a sense of timelessness, the term actually emerged in the United States in the 1930s, where it was introduced by American Jewish leaders, most notably Rabbi Stephen Wise and Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, with close ties to the Zionist movement. It engendered a sense of unity that transcended religious differences, cultural practices, geographic distance, economic disparity, and political divides, fostering solidarity with other Jews facing common existential threats, including the Holocaust, and establishing a closer connection to the Jewish homeland. But today, Pianko points out, as globalization erodes the dominance of nationalism in shaping collective identity, Jewish peoplehood risks becoming an outdated paradigm. He explains why popular models of peoplehood fail to address emerging conceptions of ethnicity, nationalism, and race, and he concludes with a much-needed roadmap for a radical reconfiguration of Jewish collectivity in an increasingly global era.
Innovative and provocative, Jewish Peoplehood provides fascinating insight into a term that assumes an increasingly important position at the heart of American Jewish and Israeli life.
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813563640
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 07/13/2015
Series: Key Words in Jewish Studies Series , #6
Pages: 186
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

NOAM PIANKO is the Samuel N. Stroum Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Washington and directs the Stroum Jewish Studies Center there. He is the author of Zionism and the Roads Not Taken: Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn.

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Deborah Dash Moore, MacDonald Moore, and Andrew Bush
Introduction: A Deceptively Simple Key Word
1   Terms of Debate: Jewish Nationhood and American Peoplehood

What Is a Nation?: Peoplehood’s European Precursors
The Emergence of Peoplehood
1948, Israel, and a Crisis of Terminology
From Critique to Code Word
Into the American Mainstream
2   State of the Question: Enduring Entity or Constructed Community
Unity, Solidarity, Statehood
Nationalism, Globalization, and the Limits of Peoplehood
Race, Ethnicity, and Peoplehood Studies
Jewish Studies and Jewish Peoplehood
3   In a New Key: Can Peoplehood Speak to a Global Era?
Jewish: From Periphery to Center, From Describing to Defining
Neighborhood: From National to Local, From Core to Cohort
Project: From Being to Doing, From Essence to Action
Jewishhood Project(s)

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