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New Jewish Neighborhoods in the Early Twentieth Century: Class, Gender, and Community

Mon, December 19, 8:30 to 10:00am, Sheraton Boston Commonwealth 3rd Floor (AV)

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


In the first decades of the twentieth century and into the interwar period, the growth of cities along with the desire for a healthier life and ideas of modern living generated new design and planning approaches to housing. These years were the height of modern urban planning and architecture around the world, and affordable housing was one of the most urgent needs of the period. This panel explores housing complexes and urban spaces, either entirely new or new to Jews, and their relationship to Jewish identity from both historic and architectural perspectives.

Cecile E. Kuznitz discusses two projects of affordable housing in early twentieth century Warsaw initiated by a Polish Jewish philanthropist for both Jewish and Christian residents. She describes how new visions of home and community challenged existing models of the private and urban spheres. Ruthie Kaplan explores the urban space of Łódź's Jewish middle-class during the interwar period, when the Jewish population concentrated in a single neighborhood had already dispersed. She uses methods of spatial analysis from architecture, urban studies and geography to characterize the Jewish middle-class settlement of Łódź and presents its urban Jewish life. Sigal Davidi discusses the ‘Kiryat Meir’ neighbourhood, a first attempt to build a cooperative housing complex for middle-class residents in Mandatory Palestine. She analyses its modern architectural approach as well as issues of gender and community belonging of the first neighborhood designed by a woman architect in Tel Aviv.

This panel incorporates a variety of perspectives that together shed new light on Jewish urban life in the early twentieth century. The speakers bring a background in the practice of architecture as well as history. In addition the chair and respondent, Vladimir Levin, is an expert in the field of Jewish art and architecture. Thus the panel will take an interdisciplinary approach that will reveal new insights into the development of urban spaces and housing complexes both in Poland and in Mandatory Palestine and the ways in which they relate to Jewish identity, class, and gender.

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