You Should See Yourself: Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture

You Should See Yourself: Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture

You Should See Yourself: Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture

You Should See Yourself: Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture

Synopsis

The past few decades have seen a remarkable surge in Jewish influences on American culture. Entertainers and artists such as Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Allegra Goodman, and Tony Kushner have heralded new waves of television, film, literature, and theater; a major klezmer revival is under way; bagels are now as common-place as pizza; and kabbalah has become as cool as crystals. Does this broad range of cultural expression accurately reflect what it means to be Jewish in America today?

Excerpt

Vincent Brook

Two Jews, three opinions notwithstanding, this much is indisputable: the quantitative level of American Jewish cultural production has surged remarkably in the past fifteen to twenty years. New waves of film and literature have been heralded in various Jewish journals, a major klezmer revival is underway, bagels have become as commonplace as pizza, kabbalah as cool as crystals, and as the 1976 "Too Jewish?" exhibit and my own book Something Ain't Kosher Here:The Rise of the "Jewish" Sitcom (2003) indicate, similar trends have marked the fine arts and television as well. As the titles of the exhibit and my book also suggest, however, the qualitative level of this cultural accretion, especially as it relates to Jewish identity, is less assured—and less reassuring.

In response both to the palpable rise in American Jewish culture and its evaluative disparities, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC) in 2002 assembled a Commission on the Future of Jewish Culture to examine the phenomenon. Leading Jewish artists and intellectuals participated, including scholars Daniel Bell, Jonathan Sarna, Michael Walzer, and Ruth Wisse; novelist Allegra Goodman; film critic J. Hoberman; painter R. B. Kitaj; playwrights Tony Kushner and Wendy Wasserstein; dancer/choreographer Liz Lerman; writer/Ms. magazine co-founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin; composer Steve Reich; graphic novelist Art Spiegelman; and writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellie Wiesel. in response to the commission's overarching question— Are we experiencing a Jewish cultural renaissance or decline in America?— there was surprising consensus among the prestigious group. "Both," the participants unanimously concluded;"there is evidence of decline and renaissance at the same time." the commission's grounds for pessimism, weighted more toward the social than the cultural, are by now familiar: "intermarriage, late marriage, low birth rates, Jewish illiteracy, emotional distancing from Israel . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.