This talk will focus on the American Jewish cinematic tradition that is much more diverse and pluralistic than most people realize. In this rich tradition of fiction films and documentaries, folks who consider themselves just Jews reside alongside those who are traditionally—or sometimes untraditionally–observant. This tradition not only represents Jews onscreen but also makes them offscreen: directors and actors often discuss the impact of their work on their Jewish being and practice, while watching Jewish movies helps to shape viewers’ perceptions of themselves as Jews. The American Jewish cinematic tradition does a great deal of cultural work. This work includes exposing and resisting antisemitism as well as promoting alliance politics. In this way, American Jewish movies make not only Jews but also Jewish allies.
Helene Meyers is Professor Emerita of English at Southwestern University, where she held the McManis University Chair. She is the author of four books, including Identity Papers: Narratives of American Jewishness and, most recently, Movie-Made Jews: An American Tradition. Her essays and reviews have appeared in numerous scholarly journals as well as such venues as Forward, Tablet, Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Jewish Women’s Archive, and Lilith Magazine.
Cosponsors: Department of Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature