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The collective discussion embodied in the following group of essays is the outgrowth of a three-year-long symposium on Jewish and urban studies conducted at the Hebrew University's Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Humanities and Jewish Studies from 2009 to 2012. The synergy that animated our weekly discussions owed something to the fact that, rather than chiming in on similar notes, we partook of a wide sampling of reading and analysis. We came from different disciplines, with different agendas: scholars of literary criticism, adepts of social theory, historians, cultural analysts, an expert in religious philosophy, and a landscape architect with a critical interest in the culture and politics of spatial construction. The broad sweep of our discussions was greater than will be evident from this selection of papers, since our circle of discussants continually swelled and altered during those three years, reshuffling the range of participants and topics. However, most of those whose work is represented in this sampling were present throughout the entire three-year project.
This article argues that the long-standing turn to “the Jewish community” as a central organizing principle in works dedicated to Jewish history in east European cities has helped create and institutionalize a specific communal model of Jewish urban history, one that prioritizes narratives of Jewish communal order over explorations of the chaos and fluidity that characterize many other studies of the modern city. The article begins by discussing the central place of “the community” in foundational works of Jewish history, continues by examining the critical role played by communal record books (pinkasim) in the construction of east European Jewish history, and then analyzes several works that embraced and reinforced the communal model of Jewish urban history. The article concludes by examining two key archival collections and discussing the various ways that the source material amassed in them illustrates how scholars like Jacob Shatzky and Israel Klausner used historical research and writing as a means to narrativize, domesticate, and make sense of the intersection between Jews and cities.
The following article deals with the story of two German Jewish brothers, Alfred Lemm and Siegfried Lehmann. The first—a forgotten journalist and writer, the second—a doctor and educator, the founder of the Ben Shemen Youth Village in Mandate Palestine. Through the specific story of the two brothers, the article traces the path of messianic antiurban ideas prevalent in expressionist avant-garde circles in pre–World War I Europe, to the circles of German Jewish Zionism and from them to Palestine-Israel. Though German expressionism was itself an urban intellectual phenomenon, expressionist prose often exemplified antiurban and antimodern sentiments, as in the case of Lemm's prose. According to Lemm, redemption from the ills of modern society shall be found in withdrawal from the modern city and return to physical and metaphysical “roots.” Lemm's antiurban attitude influenced his brother Siegfried and found its full manifestation in the founding of the Ben Shemen Youth Village in 1927.
The article discusses the image of Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city, as it is described in the novel Preliminaries by S. Yizhar (Yizhar Smilansky), one of Israel's best-known authors. In this novel, which engages with the question of home and borders, borders function as a double-edged sword: on the one hand, they define home and create a circumscribed place for the protagonist and his family. On the other hand, the novel dwells on the urge to cross borders and shatter the distinction between home and the world. In this regard, Tel Aviv is sometimes described as a pleasant, “normal” city, yet at other times it is written as a perilous place—since it divides between Jews and Arabs. Tel Aviv is also the place where one can imagine a great future or see a concealed history. It is a total urban experience, encapsulating the individual.
This article portrays and theorizes a new utterance of landscape architecture within Israeli Jewish-Arab urbanity, which aims to represent the prolonged and multifaceted Palestinian urban loss since 1948 in the design of a major city park. The analysis of design discourses at Jaffa Slope Park examines differing Israeli and Palestinian landscape sign systems. Dominant and breaching landscape architecture utterances in the constructed landscape of the park will be interpreted and theorized in the context of the discursive landscape sign systems, together with the local post-1948 history of urban institutional ruination and planning. The park's design involves both the intensive use and destabilization of a traditional Zionist/Israeli landscape mold that aims at greening ’Ereẓ Yisra'el and at concealing ruined pre-1948 Palestinian locales under green shields. Through a close reading of the park's landscape, the paper explores ethical, political, and allegorical utterances of landscape architecture, immersed in both Israeli and Palestinian landscape semiotics, yet undermining these sign systems at the same time.
The remnant of the eastern European Jews that arrived in Israel after the Holocaust established a vibrant center of Yiddish culture in Tel Aviv. This paper tells its story. It spotlights the uniqueness of the Tel Aviv center in comparison with similar cultural centers established by eastern European Jews in other cities around the world, both before and after the Holocaust. It portrays the Jewish cultural activists and leaders that composed the Tel Aviv Yiddish center, the special conditions that awaited them in Israel, the institutions that they established, and their aftermath. Finally, it considers the Tel Aviv Yiddish cultural center as a test case for examining the social role of the Jewish cultural center after the Holocaust.
This essay looks at both Buczacz, the Galician hometown of Shmuel Yosef Halevi Czaczkes, and Jerusalem, the adopted city/town of the writer who became S. Y. Agnon, modern Israel's most prominent Hebrew writer and only Nobel Prize winner. Like Jerusalem, the generic shtetl proved over time to be primordial, protean, and portable as a point of reference in Jewish culture and memory. Juxtaposing the “shtetl” as monolithic space with the “city” as heterogeneous space in sociological as well as artistic representations, I argue for a reading of several of S. Y. Agnon's major fictions that render Buczacz and Jerusalem as mirror images of each other. Finally, I gesture towards the ethical and political implications of this move for Agnon's readers and the citizens of Jerusalem.
Pericopes on the cities of refuge to which an unintentional manslayer may flee
appear in the Pentateuch in two places: in Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19. This
article demonstrates that the differences between these pericopes emerge from
the differing internal logic of each text. In Numbers, the unintentional
manslayer defiles the land where the Lord abides by spilling blood on it. In
order to prevent the divine presence from departing, a manslayer must purge the
land with his own blood. When the act was unintentional, the law commands
removing the unintentional manslayer from the land, exiling him to a city of
refuge until the land is purged by the death of the high priest. In Deuteronomy,
an unwitting killer is untainted, and therefore anyone who kills him spills
innocent blood. The Lord, watching from heaven, is concerned primarily with the
human heart; if the killing was inadvertent, God considers the killer innocent.
Therefore, the unwitting killer goes to the city of refuge to protect himself
from the blood-avenger, only until the latter ceases to be a threat to his
Levi b. Abraham b. Ḥayim, a popularizer of rationalist philosophy active
around 1300 in Occitania, was identified as a transgressor by proponents of a
ban on the study of philosophy. The nature of Levi's transgressive
activities and the reasons why he was targeted have remained elusive, though a
consensus view suggests that his socioeconomic standing and genuinely radical
ideas contributed to his being singled out. In fact, a careful reassessment of
the extant sources demonstrates that Levi, as an established member of the elite
class, was an inadvertent target, identified in the course of a misunderstanding
between Solomon Ibn Adret and his confidant in Perpignan, Crescas Vidal. No more
radical than others and one of many popularizers of rationalism, Levi became a
convenient exemplar and test case for ban proponents. They struggled to define
the nature of Levi's potentially dangerous effects on his students,
however, and Levi remained an equivocal figure even to his detractors. Though
vilified and forced out of the home of his patron, Levi was accorded basic
respect and often defended; he was never subject to excommunication, censure, or
any type of halakhic prosecution.
Small liberal arts and folk schools attempted desegregation decades before other
southern colleges and universities. Historians have long argued that Jews were
active and influential in the fight for civil rights in the South in the 1950s
and 1960s, but were Jews involved in these early attempts to enroll black
students in historically white schools? If they were, were they successful and
how did their Jewishness affect the efficacy of their attempts? In order to
answer these questions, this article compares and contrasts two such schools,
Black Mountain College in North Carolina and Highlander Folk School in
Tennessee, which established “integration programs” in the 1940s.
This research reveals that when Jews saturated a school, and were visibly
involved in desegregation, their attempts to desegregate the institution were
ultimately unsuccessful. When Jews supported a school through donations behind
the scenes and occasional visits, however, the institution successfully