In this paper, a long-time resident of the Lower East Side of New York City reflects on his experiences as an adult “learner” in his neighborhood yeshiva. The questions addressed in this narrative autoethnography include: What are the forms of self-making that shared study of Rabbinic texts affords? What is the range of intellectual freedom, and how does this interact with the formal and informal hierarchies of the place? What is the balance, for a mature male Jewish ethnographer, of anthropological fieldwork and study “for its own sake” in this setting? Throughout, the emphasis is on the commonalities shared by the ethnographer and his fellows at the yeshiva, rather than on the putative process of crossing cultural bridges.
Viewing Christian Pietism as an influential context for Isaac Wetzlar’s Libes briv raises some questions regarding the acquaintance of the Jewish author of this booklet with this religious movement of awakening. This article will give an answer to this question by illuminating the role Pietism and its ideas have played in the environment where Wetzlar lived, worked and wrote. Using new source material, I will show the many points of interaction Wetzlar has had with Pietism as well as his encounters with Pietists, which were the basis for the intellectual exchange which led him to write his Yiddish treatise.
This article demonstrates that Isaac Wetzlar’s Yiddish treatise Libes Briv (1748/49) substantially engages the concepts and initiatives encompassed by Pietist missionary efforts to Jews. As a calculated response to the challenge posed by Pietist missionaries and Christian critiques of Jewish life, the Love Letter should be read as a product of Jewish-Pietist interaction and entanglement. The article suggests that Wetzlar’s call for religious and social renewal competed with contemporaneous Christian Pietists over the preferable vision for eighteenthcentury Central European Jewry.
Isaac Wetzlar’s Libes briv (1748/9) was not printed, but circulated in manuscript form. The manuscript transmission spans a period of at least 65 years. No autograph has survived. Nine manuscripts are known today, some of which have been heavily edited. The article discusses earlier research on the manuscripts, transmission and audience, textual variants, and the different titles under which the text was circulated.
This article evaluates Jewish-Christian difference in the constantly shifting terrain of thirteenth-century medieval England. It reframes this difference in relation to theories of embodiment, feminist materialism, and entanglement theory. To conceptualize how Jews can be marked by race vis-à-vis the body, the article uses the example of Christian Hebraists discussing the Hebrew alphabet and its place in thirteenth-century English bilingual manuscripts.
This article explores the past and present of the concepts of “sovereignty” and “autonomy” in Jewish nationalism. It revisits the play of-and interplay between-the two terms in the current moment of globalizations, when old truths about state sovereignty are being questioned. In particular, it highlights a number of new trends in the historiography of Jewish nationalism that lend prominence to autonomist or diasporist currents; at the same time, it suggests the potential utility of such currents in helping to understand long-standing political conflicts today.
S. H. Mosenthal’s blockbuster drama Deborah, popularized in the English-speaking world as Leah, The Forsaken, delivered generations of nineteenth-century theatergoers fantasies about Jewish women. This paper explores the rich performance history of this work, offering a new perspective on the role of popular culture in launching distinctly liberal forms of philosemitism.
This special section examines Isaac Wetzlar‘s Love Letter, a Yiddish proposal for the improvement of Jewish society, written in 1748/49 in Northern Germany. The articles concentrate on the links between Libes briv and the contours of German Pietism in order to initiate exploration of the complex relationship between Central European Judaism and eighteenth-century Pietism. This largely unrecognized arena of Jewish-Christian encounter is presented as a significant factor in a century that promoted modernity