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OTD Narratives in American Jewish Culture & Modern Jewish Thought

Tue, December 19, 10:15 to 11:45am, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Gallaudet University Room

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


This roundtable will explore the proliferation of OFF THE DERECH (OTD) narratives in recent American Jewish literature--both fiction and nonfiction--as well as film, journalism and other media. The overarching question guiding this discussion is how such narratives figure in and help shape American Jewish culture and modern Jewish thought and, by extension, what are the ramifications for our ever-shifting conceptions of American Jewish identity? Specific questions for discussion include: What is the significance of reading as a gateway to secularization in these narratives? What are some specific ways in which these narratives grapple with traditionally taboo subjects like intimacy and sexuality? How do these narratives explore the construction of new Jewish identities, and/or help facilitate the construction of such identities? Panelists are scholars of literature, history, education and linguistics engaged in the study of contemporary American Jewry. Naomi Seidman is Koret Professor of Jewish Culture at the Graduate Theological Union, and has written about both Orthodoxy and secularization in 20th century Jewish literature. Ezra Cappell, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Inter-American Jewish Studies Program at the University of Texas at El Paso, works on 20th Century and Contemporary Jewish American Literature. Jessica Lang, Associate professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY and founding Newman Director of the Wasserman Jewish Studies Center, is co-editor, with Cappell, of the forthcoming OFF THE DERECH: JEWISH ORTHODOXY IN THE MODERN WORLD. Matt Williams, a doctoral candidate in education and history at Stanford University, researches how educational media helps produce and shape religious experience in America. Chaya Nove, a doctoral student in the linguistics program at The Graduate Center, CUNY, works on contemporary Hasidic Yiddish and has researched language use in the OTD community as a way of constructing new, mutable, and/or hybrid identities. Shoshana Olidort, a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at Stanford University, researches the performance of Jewishness in 20th century Jewish literature. Drawing on their distinct areas of expertise, the participants will be able to fully explore the proliferation of OFF THE DERECH narratives and its broader ramifications.

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