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Feel the History at Your Feet: Nostalgia and American Jewish Religion
April 26, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, American Jews have increasingly told nostalgic stories about Eastern European Jewish immigration to the United States. In her book Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice, religious studies professor Rachel B. Gross examines American Jewish longing for the past expressed through conducting Jewish genealogical research, visiting Jewish historic sites such as the Museum at Eldridge Street, purchasing books and toys that teach Jewish nostalgia to children, and seeking out traditional Jewish foods. 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. The embrace of nostalgia provides evidence of an alternative, under-appreciated way of being Jewish and of maintaining Jewish continuity.
Rachel B. Gross is Assistant 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, is 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 immigration writer Mary Antin.