Feeling Jewish: Nostalgia and American Jewish Religion
American Jews tell stories about who they are and where they come from through a range of everyday objects and supposedly secular organizations. In her book Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice, religious studies professor Rachel B. Gross examines the longing of many American Jews for Eastern European heritage expressed through artisanal delis, children’s books and dolls, historic synagogues, and Jewish genealogy. She argues that these nostalgic activities should be understood as religious practices, illuminating how many American Jews are finding and making meaning within American Judaism today. Because not all of that Jewish world is Ashkenazi, this analysis also provides tools for identifying the challenges in embracing the diversity within American Judaism.
Rachel B. Gross is Associate Professor and John and Marcia Goldman Chair in American Jewish Studies in the Department of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. She is a religious studies scholar who studies twentieth- and twenty-first-century American Jews. Her book, Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice, was a 2021 National Jewish Book Award finalist in American Jewish Studies and received an Honorable Mention for the 2021 Saul Viener Book Prize, given by the American Jewish Historical Society. She is currently working on a religious biography of the twentieth-century Jewish writer Mary Antin.
Cosponsors: Department of History