Jews of the Dutch Caribbean: Exploring Ethnic Identity on Curacao

Jews of the Dutch Caribbean: Exploring Ethnic Identity on Curacao

Jews of the Dutch Caribbean: Exploring Ethnic Identity on Curacao

Jews of the Dutch Caribbean: Exploring Ethnic Identity on Curacao

Synopsis

Jews of the Dutch Caribbean addresses identity and ethnicity, through a detailed study of a little-known group in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. It asks readers to take a broad perspective on the contexts that play a role in ethnicity including, for example, ecology, history, kinship, commerce and language use in everyday life and, crucially, rituals. It asks readers to take a broad perspective on the contexts that play a role in ethnicity and draws on ethnographic research to analyze ethnic identities and look at how it is shaped and negotiated.

Excerpt

This book is about how people draw lines between themselves and others. Specifically, it is about two communities of Jews in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. My hope, though, is that the boundary-drawing processes discussed will be thought to be applicable to many people. At the root of what I argue is that how we draw these lines is shaped by our history in a particular place, continually changing, and expressed in different ways.

Growing up Jewish in a midwestern city in the United States, the themes of social boundaries and social affiliations - their meanings and their consequences - long have occupied my thoughts. in what sense was I Jewish and in what sense American? How would that affect my friendships and whom I could date? in what ways was I different from others and in what ways alike? in what ways were difference and similarity displayed?

I wondered, for example, what Jews thought about Christmas and what we were “supposed” to do on that day. Most of our regular options were not available. Stores and libraries were closed. Friends were otherwise occupied. What was a Jew to do when there was no special ritual, nor any regular, secular activity in which to spend the day? Christmas was a day during which one might feel different from people with whom one normally felt quite similar. My friends were doing things with their families. As a child, I thought they were gathering to engage in private, familial activities that I never would understand and in which I never would share. What, I wondered, did they tell each other? What insights did they acquire by participating in the experience? How did it affect relationships between the members of those families, and their relationships with Jews? a major thrust of this volume is that drawing social boundaries permeates experience in similarly pervasive - and similarly trivial - ways for many people in any large, sub-divided social group or nation. How we distinguish ourselves from others and how we affiliate with others - the social boundaries that we draw - affect us in many ways.

Social boundaries may affect one's sense of right and wrong. the unthinkable terror of the Holocaust of Jews in Europe during World War II did not affect any of my near relatives - it was personally distant. However, it was a presence in my life, a presence that needed to be interpreted. How would, and how should, it affect my personal decisions? the social boundary between Jews and non-Jews that the

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