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Israeli Scholarly Comparative Perspectives on American Jewry and American Jewish Studies

Tue, December 18, 2:30 to 4:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 3 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Abstract

The ongoing tenuous and complicated relationships between American Jewry, Israeli Jewish society and the State of Israel are widely acknowledged. Likewise, the complex relationship between the fields of American Jewish studies and Jewish studies in the Israeli academic setup, as well as between American and Israeli scholars. Different, at times, juxtaposing approaches toward historiography, methods of narrating the past and training scholars, complex professional relationships, struggles over the hegemony in Jewish studies, varying Jewish identities of scholars, are some of many aspects and aforementioned complexities between American and Israeli scholars of Jewish studies and between scholarly approaches.
Marking the Association for Jewish Studies' 50th Anniversary is a fine moment to address various aspects of American Jewry and developments within American Jewish studies, as documented, perceived and analyzed from the point of view of Israeli scholars. These developments reflect on almost all fields and topics within Jewish studies, and one of them, at the center of this session, is American Jewry and American Jewish studies.
This panel offers a comparative view on divergent understandings of the American Jewish experience and its scholarly representations. It focuses on Israeli perspectives, which have largely diverged from those offered by Jewish American historians and thinkers. These different approaches to American Jewry, as well to Jewish history and values in general, will be explored through three complementary prisms and emphases. Gur Alroey will address major representations of American Jewry and its history in Israeli historiography of both Israeli-born scholars and American scholars who immigrated to Israel and developed their academic careers in this country. Kimmy Caplan's presentation focuses on comprehensive historical narratives of American Jewish History, attempting to place them in several broader contexts on the one hand, and comparing between them on the other hand. Omri Asscher's lecture highlights the ideological underpinnings of Israeli responses to critical portrayals of Israel presented by Jewish-American writers. The juxtaposition of these different perspectives on American Jewry will illustrate how historiographical and cultural discourse has often reflected, and played a role in shaping, symbolic collective boundaries of Jewry. It also shows how this discourse received particular significance in the context of the underlying competition between the two major Jewish collectives since the mid-twentieth century, in Israel and the United States.
This panel seeks to encourage a reflective and critical scholarly discourse on an overlooked topic, at times possibly avoided, in many ways, and this unique occasion of the AJS marking 50 years is an opportunity to do so.

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