“I Don’t Care What I Am Called”: Mary Antin and the Boundaries of Religious Identity
Once one of the most famous Jewish women in the United States, writer Mary Antin shaped American conversations about immigration and religious identity with her 1912 autobiography The Promised Land, which depicted her immigration from Russia to the United States as a religious experience. Rachel B. Gross’s new book project uses Antin’s celebrity and her spiritual journeys to explore her religious worlds. Antin’s wide-ranging spiritual explorations tell us about the possibilities of twentieth-century American Jewish women’s identities and the boundaries of religious communities.
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