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Gender and Jewish Inter/Nationalism across the Twentieth Century

Tue, December 18, 12:45 to 2:15pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Backbay 2 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel takes gender as a category of historical analysis and applies it to the study of Jewish political activity, particularly Jewish nationalism and Jewish internationalism. Through three case studies of Jewish women active on an international stage, the panelists place women within major currents of twentieth century political history and also complicate interpretations of that history by discussing gendered patterns within those currents. Zionism, Israel, and the tensions between nationalist and internationalist commitments will appear as a central themes in all three papers, as each paper locates Jewish nationalism within a spectrum of Jewish political activism seen through a gender lens. Yet the papers illuminate three quite different realms: humanitarianism, the international feminist movement, and Israeli soft diplomacy.
Jaclyn Granick genders the health work of the Joint, Hadassah, and WIZO in Interwar Poland and Palestine, and through this comparative discussion, analyzes the limits and possibilities for Jewish women of that era participating in organized Jewish political activity across geopolitical borders. She relates this analysis to broader insights about Jewish national and international politics. Harriet Feinberg discusses the tensions between international feminism and Zionism, describing a rift between Jewish feminist Rosa Manus and Arab feminist Huda Sha’arawi over Jewish immigration to Palestine in 1939. She then looks backward to struggles of the l920s and forward to the present to contextualize that conflict. Daniel Heller presents on the politics behind the Israeli government's forays into "women's advancement" in the developing world in the 1960s and 1970s. Focusing on the Kenya-Israel School of Social Work, one of Israel’s earliest initiatives in East Africa, he traces the efforts of Israeli officials and educators to present Zionism as a model for African women’s advancement, and examines the tensions and conflicts that emerged between them and the UN representatives and Kenyan government officials involved in the school’s creation and operation. Lisa Leff, an expert on French imperialism and Jewish internationalism, will chair, and Arie Dubnov, an expert on Jewish nationalism and internationalism and its connection to the British empire and Israel, will respond to the panel.

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