Jewish Studies at the Crossroads of Anthropology and History

This volume explores forms of Jewish experience that span the period from antiquity to the present and encompass a wide range of textual, ritual, spatial, and visual materials. Chapters devote sustained attention to three key concepts—authority, diaspora, and tradition—that have long been central to the study of Jews and Judaism.

Jewish Studies at the Crossroads of Anthropology and History
Authority, Diaspora, Tradition

Edited by Ra'anan S. Boustan, Oren Kosansky, and Marina Rustow

2011 | 448 pages | Cloth $69.95
Religion | Anthropology | History
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Table of Contents

—David B. Ruderman
Introduction: Anthropology, History, and the Remaking of Jewish Studies
—Ra'anan S. Boustan, Oren Kosansky, and Marina Rustow

Chapter 1. "How Do You Know That I Am a Jew?": Authority, Cultural Identity, and the Shaping of Postwar American Judaism
—Riv-Ellen Prell
Chapter 2. Rabbis and Their (In)Famous Magic: Classical Foundations, Medieval and Early Modern Reverberations
—J. H. Chajes
Chapter 3. Dreamers in Paradise: The Rise and Fall of a New Holy Site in Beit She'an, Israel
—Yoram Bilu
Chapter 4. Words, Images, and Magic: The Protection of the Bride and Bridegroom in Jewish Marriage Contracts
—Shalom Sabar

Chapter 5. The Dislocation of the Temple Vessels: Mobile Sanctity and Rabbinic Rhetorics of Space
—Ra'anan S. Boustan
Chapter 6. Sacred Space, Local History, and Diasporic Identity: The Graves of the Righteous in Medieval and Early Modern Ashkenaz
—Lucia Raspe
Chapter 7. Detours in a "Hidden Land": Samuel Romanelli's Masa' ba'rav
—Andrea Schatz
Chapter 8. The Rhetoric of Rescue: "Salvage Immigration" Narratives in
Israeli Culture
—Tamar Katriel

Chapter 9. Judaism and Tradition: Continuity, Change, and Innovation
—Albert I. Baumgarten and Marina Rustow
Chapter 10. In the Path of Our Fathers: On Tradition and Time from Jerusalem to Babylonia and Beyond
—Sylvie Anne Goldberg
Chapter 11. Prayer, Literacy, and Literary Memory in the Jewish Communities of Medieval Europe
—Ephraim Kanarfogel
Chapter 12. A Temple in Your Kitchen: Hafrashat @Hallah—The Rebirth of a Forgotten Ritual as a Public Ceremony
—Tamar El-Or
Chapter 13. Judaism and the Idea of Ancient Ritual Theory
—Michael D. Swartz
Epilogue. Toward an Integrative Approach in Jewish Studies: A View from Anthropology
—Harvey E. Goldberg

List of Contributors

Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


This volume of important essays emerged from the yearlong deliberations of a talented group of scholars invited in 2003-4 to what is now the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Their charge was to explore the theme "Prescriptive Traditions and Lived Experience in the Jewish Religion: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives." As always, the year was devoted to interdisciplinary scholarship of the highest order, to the rigorous discussion of differing academic perspectives, and to a breaking down of the barriers set up by specialized training and circumscribed fields of study. In this instance, historians with specialties ranging from antiquity to the present were partnered with anthropologists, folklorists, and sociologists, for an invigorating conversation about how their methods of scholarly inquiry could intermesh. How might a focus on texts complement or clash with a focus based on lived experience? And how might this fascinating dialectic play out in the traditionally text-oriented fields of Jewish studies?

The exciting results of much of this conversation are now before the reader. It would not be an exaggeration to consider the volume at hand as field-defining, even as expanding and moving Jewish studies into a new era and into a new self-perception of what constitutes Jewish learning. It would also not be an exaggeration to say that just as the conversations upon which it was based were not easy to stage, this volume was not easy to produce. It is one thing to encourage a dialogue between historians and anthropologists; it is quite another to reach a consensus and a common language about the subject of these inquiries. The credit for this achievement rests in the prodigious efforts of the volume's three editors: Ra'anan Boustan, a scholar of rabbinic literature and ancient Jewish history; Marina Rustow, a historian of medieval Jewish culture and society; and Oren Kosansky, an anthropologist who works on Jewish communities in Muslim North Africa. Besides their efforts to shape a coherent volume, their introduction stands as a bold and thoughtful statement about their respective disciplines and places within the study of Jewish culture and society. I wish to thank these three individuals for their achievement; I also wish to thank the other contributors to this volume as well as the fellows who are not represented in the book but who contributed significantly to the intellectual community from which it has emerged.

David B. Ruderman
Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History
Ella Darivoff Director, Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies