The Feinstein Center for American Jewish History announces the selection of its Summer Fellows for 2014.
Shari Rabin, a PhD candidate at Yale University is the 2014 Kaiserman Summer Fellow. Her dissertation, “Manifest Jews: Mobility and the Making of American Judaism, 1820-1877,” argues that American Judaism was not formed in twentieth century cities, but rather was a product of nineteenth century mobility and dispersion. Whereas in Europe Jews suffered severe residency and travel restrictions, in the United States migrants were confronted with an expanding frontier in which there were few limitations on movement, but a host of challenges for the practice of traditional Judaism. The eclectic religious practices of mobile Jews throughout the continent, along with various attempts by local and national leaders to foster order and consistency, resulted in new institutional and ideological modes intended to make Judaism compatible with the mobile American environment.
Two Feinstein Center Summer Fellows have also been chosen for the 2014 summer. Rachel Gross, a PhD candidate at Princeton University, was selected for her dissertation, “Objects of Affection: The Material Religion of American Jewish Nostalgia.” The dissertation claims nostalgia as an integral religious feature of American Jewish practice and identity politics in the latter half of the twentieth century and the twenty-first century. Through material culture studies and ethnographic research, she examines American Jews’ longing for communal homelands of eastern Europe and urban neighborhoods in the U.S., particularly but not exclusively New York’s Lower East Side. Her project focuses on four case studies of increasingly commercialized nostalgia: Jewish genealogy and family history; historic synagogues used as heritage sites; illustrated children’s books and dolls; and American Jewish foodways, particularly the culinary revival of the new Jewish food scene.
Geraldine Gudefin, a PhD candidate at Brandeis University, is writing a dissertation titled “Navigating the Civil and Religious Worlds: Jewish Marriage and Divorce in France and the United States (1880s-1920s).” Her research examines the conflict between civil and religious marital laws in the Jewish communities of France and the United States, from the 1880s to World War I. She analyzes the effects of civil marriage and divorce laws on Jewish immigrants, and the role that conflicting marital laws played in shaping their general adaptation to their new homelands. The research aims to understand how the tensions between different legal systems surrounding the issues of personal status transformed the identity and practices of Jewish immigrants in two secularist, yet different, host countries.