Synopses & Reviews
Modernity offers people choices about who they want to be and how they want to appear to others. The way in which Jews choose to frame their identity establishes the dynamic of their social relations with other Jews and non-Jews - a dynamic complicated by how non-Jews position the boundaries around what and who they define as Jewish. This book uncovers these processes, historically, as well as in contemporary behavior, and finds explanations for the various manifestations, in feeling and action, of 'being Jewish.' Boundaries and borders raise fundamental questions about the difference between Jews and non-Jews. At root, the question is how 'Jewish' is understood in social situations where people recognize or construct boundaries between their own identity and those of others. The question is important because this is by definition the point at which the lines of demarcation between Jews and non-Jews, and between different groupings of Jews, are negotiated. Collectively, the contributors to the book expand our understanding of the social dynamics of framing Jewish identity. The book opens with an introduction that locates the issues raised by the contributors in terms of the scholarly traditions from which they have evolved. Part I presents four essays dealing with the construction and maintenance of boundaries - two by scholars showing how boundaries come to be etched on an ethnic landscape and two by activists who question and adjust distinctions among neighbors. Part II focuses on expressive means of conveying identity and memory, while, in Part III, the discussion turns to museum exhibitions and festive performances as locations for the negotiation of identity in the public sphere. A lively discussion forum concludes the book with a consideration of the paradoxes of Jewish heritage revival in Poland, and the perception of that revival by Jews and non-Jews.