THE JEWISH ROLE IN AMERICAN LIFE: An Annual Review // Volume 5


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ISBN 978-1-55753-446-0
ISSN 1934-7529

What role do Jews and Jewish Institutions play in American society? How has being Jewish contributed to the accomplishments of American Jews? In what ways have America's Jewish communities changed with each new generation? This fifth volume of the Casden Institute's annual review continues the Institute's investigation into how Jewish culture has helped shape modern America and vice versa.

Organized along five broad themes--politics, values, image, education and culture--the 2006 edition of the Jewish Role in American Life spotlights a rich sampling of thought-provoking and under-examined issues. It presents brand new essays by leading thinkers from USC and around the country, who together offer a broad, interdisciplinary view of American Jewry.

In a chapter on politics, USC historian Steven J. Ross, an expert on Hollywood's emergence as a major player in American politics, examines how some of the industry's most prominent stars and producers, many of them Jewish, struggled against government, colleagues and public opinion to alert the nation to the dangers of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Historian Andrew R. Heinze's chapter on values demonstrates how Jewish scholars have helped to "de-Christianize the public square" and infuse the Humanities with an appreciation of the importance of Jewish and Hebraic texts alongside the more traditional Christian canon.

In the following chapter, R. B. Kitaj, one of the world's most well-known living easel painters, discusses his life as a Jewish artist, the Jewish writers and thinkers who have influenced him, and his own fascination with the Jewish people. Kitaj's self-exploration is then complemented with an essay by historian David N. Myers, who delves further into Kitaj as both an artist and intellectual afflicted with "Jew-on-the-brain."

Next, anthropologist Riv-Ellen Prell shares her research on how Jewish leaders and educators in the mid twentieth century went about shaping a new generation of Jews by sending them to that quintessential rite of passage for American youth: the summer camp. Finally, in a chapter on culture, sociologist Bruce A. Phillips, a leading expert on American Jewish demography, challenges old assumptions and offers new insight into how to demarcate the various Jewish communities of Los Angeles, how they differ from one another, and how they are evolving.

About the Authors

Andrew R. Heinze is Professor of History and Director of the Swig Judaic Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. He teaches a variety of classes in U.S. history with a focus on the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and he has special interests in ethnicity and religion, race and immigration, popular culture and thought. He has published Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the Twentieth Century and Adapting to Abundance: Jewish Immigrants,Mass Consumption and the Search for American Identity. He is one of a group of authors of Race and Ethnicity in America: A Concise History and the Columbia Documentary History of Race and Ethnicity in America, and his articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the American Quarterly, Religion and American Culture, and many other professional journals, as well as in newspapers, magazines and on-line publications.

R. B. Kitaj is a renowned figure in contemporary art. His paintings and drawings can be found in the collections of most major art museums throughout the United States and Europe, and his seminal book, First Diasporist Manifesto, explores issues of Jewish identity in a post-Holocaust world. He is the recipient of five honorary doctorates, a Golden Lion at the 1995 Venice Biennale, and the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1996. The Tate Gallery in London mounted a major retrospective of Kitaj's work in 1994, which then traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in 1999 the National Gallery, London, presented the show Kitaj in the Aura of CÚzanne and Other Masters. In 2001, Kitaj began to write his confessions, How to Reach X Years in Jewish Art.

David N. Myers is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has written extensively in the fields of modern Jewish intellectual and cultural history, with a particular interest in the history of Jewish historiography. He has authored Re-Inventing the Jewish Past: European Jewish Intellectuals and the Zionist Return to History and Resisting History: Historicism and its Discontents in German-Jewish Thought. He has edited five books, including The Jewish Past Revisited and Enlightenment and Diaspora: The Armenian and Jewish Cases. At present, Myers is working on books on the Diaspora Hebraist thinker Simon Rawidowicz and (together with Nomi Stolzenberg of the USC Gould School of Law) the Satmar Hasidic community of Kiryas Yoel, New York. He is also actively involved in a major project on the history of Jews in Los Angeles. Since 2003, he has served as co-editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review.

Bruce A. Phillips has been Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Los Angeles Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for over twenty- five years and was formerly the research director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He is among the leading sociologists studying the contemporary Jewish community, specializing in the sociology and demography of American Jewry. His books include Brookline: The Evolution of a Jewish American Suburb and Re-examining Intermarriage: Trends, Textures, and Strategies. He co-edited and contributed to Perspectives in Jewish Population Research, and his papers have appeared in several journals and edited volumes. Phillips has also designed and conducted numerous Jewish population studies for cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, Houston, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Denver.

Riv-Ellen Prell, an anthropologist, is Professor and Chair of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, where she is affiliated with the faculties of Jewish Studies and Women's Studies. She is the author of Fighting to Become Americans: Jews, Gender and the Anxiety of Assimilation and Prayer and Community: the Havurah in American Judaism, which was awarded the 1990 National Jewish Book Award for contemporary Jewish life. She is co-editor of Interpreting Women's Lives: Personal Narratives and Feminist Theory (awarded the Critics Award of the American Educational Association), and editor of the forthcoming Women Remaking American Judaism, as well as Perspectives, the newsletter of the Association for Jewish Studies. Prell writes and teaches about twentieth and twenty-first-century American Jewish culture, particularly about the ways in which gender and class shape that culture and memory, and has conducted both historical and ethnographic research.

Steven J. Ross is Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at the University of Southern California. He has written extensively in the areas of workingclass history, social history and film history.His first book, Workers On the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788-1890 was made into an educational video entitled "They Build the City: The Working People of Cincinnati." His second book,Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America, received the prestigious Theater Library Association Book Award for 1999. It was also named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the "Best Books of 1998" and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in History. Ross' current project, Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics, received a Film Scholars Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Jeremy Schoenberg is Assistant Director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life at the University of Southern California, where he previously served as Assistant Director of Thematic Option, the noted undergraduate general education honors program. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal arts from USC (where he also minored in ancient Greek) and a Master of Music degree in voice/opera from California State University, Northridge. He has sung opera all over the United States and can be heard as a soloist throughout the Los Angeles area.

Bruce Zuckerman is the Myron and Marian Casden Director of the Casden Institute and a Professor of Religion at USC, where he teaches courses in the Hebrew Bible, the Bible in western literature, the ancient Near East, and archaeology. A specialist in photographing and reconstructing ancient texts, he is involved in numerous projects related to the Dead Sea Scrolls. On ancient topics, his major publications are Job the Silent: A Study in Biblical Counterpoint and The Leningrad Codex: A Facsimile Edition, for which he and his brother Kenneth did the principal photography. Zuckerman also has a continuing interest in modern Jewish thought, often looking at modern issues from an ancient perspective. He most recently co-authored Double Takes: Thinking and Rethinking Issues of Modern Judaism in Ancient Contexts with Zev Garber and contributed a chapter to Garber's book, Mel Gibson's Passion: The Film, the Controversy, and Its Implications.




Steven J. Ross
The Politicization of Hollywood before World War II:
Anti-Fascism, Anti-Communism, and Anti-Semitism

Andrew R. Heinze
"Farther Away from New York":
Jews in the Humanities after World War II

R. B. Kitaj
How to Reach 71 in Jewish Art

David N.Myers
R. B. Kitaj and the State of "Jew-on-the-Brain"

Riv-Ellen Prell
Summer Camp, Postwar American Jewish Youth
and the Redemption of Judaism

Bruce A. Phillips
Faultlines: The Seven Socio-Ecologies of
Jewish Los Angeles