Student podcast from UCLA History M182C (Modern Jewish History). Instead of writing a paper as a final project, students produced a short podcast episode about modern Jewish history. The students chose their topics, researched, wrote, and recorded their episodes.
6: Sinai to Seinfeld? Modern Jewish History and Culture
By Lance Cacia and Luis Orendain
How do a people and culture in isolation become mainstream? From antiquity to modernity there have been significant developments such as the Jewish Diaspora, Emancipation, Haskalah, and immigration that have led Jews out of the fringes of society and into popular culture.
5: Rebuilding Jewish Life in Germany after the Holocaust
By Nichola Nati, Commor Smith, and Victoria Wabah
In this episode, we discuss the reconstruction of Jewish life after the Holocaust in Germany. Specifically, we seek to answer two questions. First, we aim to find out why 10,000 to 15,000 Jews chose to stay in Germany after surviving the Holocaust. Second, we want to show why Jewish history matters, especially with regards to the post-Holocaust period in Germany. To answer these questions, we delve into a handful of memoirs from Holocaust survivors that shed light on the reasons why they settled in Germany after the Holocaust. We look at four primary factors that guided German Jews to stay: health, bureaucracy, social welfare, and attachment to German culture. Individuals such as DM and KS were unable to emigrate from Germany when they were faced with health restrictions. Others such as Heinz Galinski saw the need for a Jewish community to be established and decided to take it upon himself to do so. Some German Jews, including Arno Hamburger, chose to stay in Germany after the Holocaust for reasons of cultural affinity or family support.
The events of the Holocaust and the rebuilding of the German Jewish community illustrate why Jewish history matters. First and foremost, German Jewish history from this time teaches us that we must act to prevent another tragedy akin to the Holocaust. Contemporary Germany, by and large, has learned from this chapter of Jewish history and worked to build a more inclusive and tolerant society. Today, German society is multi-religious and multi-ethnic, and a leader in refugee resettlement. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, German Jewish society exhibited admirable resiliency in rebuilding their lives and communities amidst the rubble of the Third Reich. It is valuable for all people to learn from the spirit of regrowth and renewal among Holocaust survivors in Germany.
Michael Brenner, After the Holocaust:Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany (1997)
Hagit Lavksy, New Beginnings: Holocaust Survivors in Bergen-Belsen and the British Zone in Germany, 1945-1950 (2002)
David Cesarani et al., Survivors of Nazi Persecution in Europe after the Second World War (2010) Susanne Urban, Susanne Urban-Fahr, Jews in Germany after 1945: Citizens or “Fellow” Citizens? (2000)
Eva Kolinsky, After the Holocaust: Jewish Survivors in Germany After 1945 (2004)
4: Understanding the Holocaust
By Deeown Shaverdian
Today I discuss major questions: Why the Jews? Was it jealousy that lead to the rise of these antisemitic social norms in Europe? Who were the perpetrators? Who were the victims? Who were the bystanders, if any? My argument would be that there is no such thing as bystanders in times of moral crisis.
3: Jewish Immigration to the U.S.
By Kenny Peterson and Sam Winters
2: Jews, Race, and the Caribbean Cultural Matrix
By Jackie Davis
Today we'll be talking about particular ways the mutable American Jewish identity has been formed by (and forms) race.
Do you know that sound? The heartbeat rhythm, the call to Zion… What comes to your mind when you think of Bob Marley? Jamaica? Rastafarianism? Reggae? Judaism? I’m willing to bet that last one was a bit of a surprise. As it was for me. Iconic Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley (born in 1945) was in fact the son of Norval Marley, a white British-Jamaican with reported Iberian/Syrian Jewish ancestry. His mother was Cedella Booker, an Afro-Jamaican descended from Akan slaves of the African Gold Coast. To be clear, Bob Marley was certainly not a practicing Jew, as far as I can tell, or technically Jewish under matrilineal Halakha law, but his family story does tell an integral tale of Jewish history related to changing conceptions of race in the Americas. And when I say race, I will particularly focus on the construction, performance and utility of whiteness in modern times.
So often in today’s racial discourse race is defined in terms of People of Color, but race is also about whiteness. All people are raced. And when it comes to Jewish identity, with its own complicated, ambivalent connection to race (Think: Is Judaism a race? Is it a religion? A culture? An ethnicity?), looking at Jewishness in relationship to whiteness makes manifest certain aspects of what Jewishness, whiteness and even race mean in specific times. More importantly, differing Jewish histories in the Americas point out what Jewishness, whiteness and racial identity do in certain contexts. Let us think of both Jewishness and whiteness not as static identities, but as elastic categories.
In this podcast we will explore differing attitudes towards race throughout colonial histories, and how the racially malleable Jewish identity is a prime example of an identity that resists a fixed racial categorization. From here we can come to understand subtleties around race, and particularly whiteness as a process. We will compare Laura Liebmans’ research on multi-ethnic, creolized Caribbean Jews to Eric Goldstein’s research on how Jews became white over the course of the 20th century in the United States. By looking at these two scholar’s works side-by-side, we can see, through Jewishness, how whiteness is, first of all, an unstable category and then secondly a homogenizing mode of social control.
Ben-Ur, Aviva. “Atlantic Jewish History: A Conceptual Reorientation.” (2014), from the Selected Works of Aviva Ben-Ur, University of Massachusetts—Amherst (http://works.bepress.com/aviva_benur/20/)
Casteel, Sarah Phillips. Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
Goldstein, Eric. The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.
Laura Leibman interview (https://blogs.brandeis.edu/freshideasfromhbi/interview-with-laura-
Sorkin, David. “The Port Jew: Notes Toward a Social Type.” Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol L,
No. 1, Spring 1999.
By Jasmin Cohan and Danielle Goldsmith
Hasidism is a Jewish religious group that has its origins in the 18th century contemporary Western Ukraine where it started as a spiritual revival movement. Israel Ben Eliezer, also referred to as Baal Shem Tov or Besht was the founding father of Hasidism. The followers of Hasidism, also known as Pious Ones or Hasidim, were distinguished by their exercise of street piety. Hasidism emerged in 12th century Germany before the religious reforms. Its main difference from modern Hasidism is that the modern Hasidism rejects asceticism and the strong emphasis on the sacredness of daily life. Hasidism is influenced by the Kabbalah movement as Besht was part of the movement.
During its inception, Hasidism faced opposition from the Mitnagdim who likened it to Sabbatianism. During this time, Sabbatianism was facing nonstop persecution from the rabbinical orthodoxy. The Mitnagdim perceived Hasidism as unorthodox and Hasidic practices as inconsistent with rationalist Talmudic traditions. There was also tension over authority between the Rabbis and Laymen. The founder of Hasidism, Israel Ben Eliezer was a faith healer, a writer of amulets designed to fight illness, and an exorcist. His earliest followers were his patients. Hasidism merged with the existing traditions and spread to the Volhynia and Podolia regions of Ukraine.
According to the teachings of Besht, all people are equal before God including both the ignorant and the learned. He taught people to express their devotion through intense bodily gestures, singing, shouting, dance, and jumping. He also taught the people that divine grace and communion with God was open to all Jews, even the simplest in the society. The Besht did not leave a written record of his teachings, what is known comes from his disciples. After his death, his disciples developed and further refined Hasidism as taught by the Besht. Followers of Baal Shem Tov had many followers who created and became head of Hasidic dynasties.
The Rabbi was the recognized leader during these centuries. The emergence of new social structures led to the rise of prophets as the new leaders. Then came the Tzadik, whose doctrine was planned by Elimelech of Lizhensk and Jacob Joseph of Polnoy. Tzaddikim are described as emissaries of God who have the ability to sustain the entire world. The tsaddik was believed to exist on a level that is higher than the angels and also; they possess the power to transform divine judgment to mercy.
The Hasidic Shtibl was established as an alternative place of prayer where activities not allowed in the synagogue or prayer houses could be practiced. The Hasidic Shtibl was used as a place for prayer and study. Festivities and other social and recreational activities were also allowed in the shtibl. The shtibl attracted new people to Hasidism as it provided a less formal atmosphere of worship.
As Hasidism grew and spread to new regions, the traditional orthodox practices were abandoned. In the late 19th century, Judaism lost its grip on people as more Jews moved to urban centers. Jews interacted with Christians and other religions, leading to many Jews converting and intermarrying with Christians. Teachings and writings of Martin Buber were influential in the new trend of Neo-Hasidism that emerged. Buber revolted against the practices of 19th century Hasidism which was characterized by mysticism and superstition.
Before the First World War, some Jews had high hopes of the coming transformation which they believed would eliminate classes, parties, and religions. However, the war led to the brutal disillusionment of the Jews. Although their hopes of becoming part of a German Volksgemeinschaft, or community, were destroyed, Jewish leaders called for the formation of new forms of community.
Ariel, Yaakov. “Hasidism in the Age of Aquarius: The House of
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