New Article: Katz, Niagara, Primitivism, and the Hebrew Literary Imagination

Katz, Stephen. “Power and Powerlessness: Niagara, Primitivism, and the Hebrew Literary Imagination.” Modern Judaism 34.2 (2014): 233-56.

URL: http://mj.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/2/233

 

Excerpt

Despite the impression of having attained tranquility and a stable existence, the Jews in Semel’s novel have not found their proper rest, not even on their IsraIsland by the Niagara River. The Falls, just a hop-skip-and-jump downstream, issue forth a foreboding mushroom-like pillar of vapor that rises into the air taking the form that evokes a nuclear explosion (pp. 80, 176, 203, 225–26), a force that threatens to annihilate all of humanity. The metaphor stands as a constant reminder of the violence lurking behind human affairs, from the destruction of Native American culture to the events of September 11, 2001. In addition, it is a threat to Jewish existence as its relatively pristine homogeneous culture gives rise to an Americanized hybridity, as is the life of all who reside in this place.

The image of the Falls resembling the mushroom-shaped aftermath of a nuclear explosion resembles an analogous image frequently applied to Israel. As opposed to life on the precipice of a torrential waterfall, Israel’s condition has often been likened to existence on the edge of a volcano. Nava Semel merely substitutes water for fire. The Falls, it turns out, become a harbinger for the devastations of September 11 as a mark of the end of things, and perhaps some new beginnings.

[…]

At the time when Jews migrating to Eretz Israel were occupied with learning the lay of the land (yedi‘at ha’aretz, knowledge of the land), Hebrew writers in America were also making the acquaintance of the Golden Land. Assimilation into America—whether by those dwelling in America literally, or figuratively for those Hebraists demonstrating their worldliness by writing of vistas other than their own—was also a process of yedi‘at ha’aretz for America’s Hebraists. Their writings testify to an act of inscribing America, of acculturation and internationalization, an adoption of the New World, its environment and myths. In this process, Niagara was but one of many sites of intersection, of American places introduced to the Hebrew reader. As we see, more than a few works in prose or verse were preoccupied with this project, either directly or as an incidental setting of the plot in a new milieu. In so doing, these poems and tales were making the American landscape part of the Jewish experience, fixing it within the reader’s conscience, as a “coming out” of Hebrew literature from the cocoon of self-absorption to an exploration and adaptation to the world.

We might even detect in these American-centered vistas a legacy of the haskalah, when Hebrew writing was praised for the attention devoted to the intricacies of nature and the natural world or was criticized for not doing so. In their fixation on Niagara, writers were inevitably challenged to add their own powers of observation, replication, and metaphorizing, when needed, to broaden it for the host of uses in the Hebrew literary canon.

New Book: Sasson, The New American Zionism

Sasson, Theodore. The New American Zionism. New York: New York University Press, 2013.

 

9780814760864

Click here for Table of Contents.

Is American Jewish support for Israel waning?
As a mobilized diaspora, American Jews played a key role in the establishment and early survival of the modern state of Israel. They created a centralized framework to raise funds, and a powerful, consensusoriented political lobby to promote strong U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support. But now, as federation fundraising declines and sharp differences over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process divide the community, many fear that American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel.
In The New American Zionism, Theodore Sasson argues that at the core, we are fundamentally misunderstanding the new relationship between American Jews and Israel. Sasson shows that we are in the midst of a shift from a “mobilization” approach, which first emerged with the new state and focused on supporting Israel through big, centralized organizations, to an “engagement” approach marked by direct and personal relations with the Jewish state as growing numbers of American Jews travel to Israel, consume Israeli news and culture, and connect with their Israeli peers via cyberspace and through formal exchange programs.
American Jews have not abandoned their support for Israel, Sasson contends, but they now focus their philanthropy and lobbying in line with their own political viewpoints for the region and they reach out directly to players in Israel, rather than going through centralized institutions. As a result, American Jews may find Israel more personally meaningful than ever before. Yet, at the same time, their ability to impact policy will diminish as they no longer speak with a unified voice.

Cite: Chertok et al, A Case Study of Educator Teams Within American-Israeli School Twinning

Chertok, Fern, David Mittelberg, Dinah Laron, and Annette Koren. “Identical, Fraternal, or Separated at Birth: A Case Study of Educator Teams Within American-Israeli School Twinning.” Journal of Jewish Education 79.4 (2013): 414-431.

 

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15244113.2013.844559

Abstract

School-to-school collaboration has emerged as a key paradigm for fostering personal and institutional connections between Israeli and Diaspora youth, educators, and schools. Using the findings of a multi-year case study of a high school level twinning initiative, this article describes the challenges to this form of transnational collaboration and takes the first steps to articulating a theory of intervention of Israeli-Diaspora school twinning at the organizational level. The article suggests two processes, collaborative capacity and cultural competence, critical to development of positive and productive relationships in school partnerships. Institutional twinning is suggested as the goal of these interventions at the organizational level.

ToC: Journal of Israeli History 31.2 (2012)

Journal of Israeli History: Politics, Society, Culture

Volume 31, Issue 2, 2012

 

Articles

Political aspects of the literature of the Israeli War of Independence

Avner Holtzman
pages 191-215
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710770

 

The influence of Abba Hillel Silver’s diaspora Zionism on his decision not to immigrate to Israel

Ofer Shiff
pages 217-233
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710771

 

Creating a socialist canon for children: Lea Goldberg dictates a revolutionary dualism in labor movement children’s literature in the 1940s and 1950s

Yael Darr
pages 235-248
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710772

 

 

Funeral at the edge of a cliff: Israel bids farewell to David Ben-Gurion

Michael Feige & David Ohana
pages 249-281
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710773

Motherhood and nation: The voice of women artists in Israel’s bereavement and memorial discourse

Yael Guilat
pages 283-318
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710774

Book Reviews

 
British Pan-Arab Policy, 1915–1922: A Critical Appraisal

Asher Susser
pages 319-321
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710775

 

Evolving Nationalism: Homeland, Identity and Religion in Israel, 1925–2005

Stuart Cohen
pages 321-324
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710776

Nation and History: Israeli Historiography between Zionism and Post-Zionism

Eran Kaplan
pages 324-328
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710777

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Changing Women, Changing Society

Sharon Halevi
pages 328-330
  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.710778

 

Miscellany

Editorial Board

  • DOI:10.1080/13531042.2012.734055