We are chosen: Jewish narratives in Galveston, Montreal, New York, and Buenos Aires
Jewish Americans have been incredibly adept in public relations, and this study traces the ways in which Jewish narratives were used in the twentieth century to perform cultural work for the community. We Are Chosen begins with the premise that established Jews in Galveston, Montreal, New York, and Buenos Aires defined Jewishness in attractive terms in the early 1900s for political expediency, to challenge negative perceptions by non-Jews and promote esteem among Jews, and that these terms continue to inform conceptions of Jewish identity. Geographically, the project looks beyond (as well as in) New York, focuses on three dominant tropes (giving, mobility, and assimilation), and examines how and why these themes effectively translate religious election (“chosenness”) in the secular sphere. Jewish narratives and their ennobling rhetorics are often taken as a matter of course, even in the field of Jewish American Studies, but should be understood as products of a particular historical moment. As vehicles for positive public relations, Jewish narratives mask voices deemed unattractive or potentially threatening. Drawing from essays, organizational reports, periodical and historical writings, and works of Jewish American literature, individual chapters put dominant and protesting voices in conversation with one another and explore why some images are deemed “good for the Jews” and others are considered self-hating. Examining the history of Jews in other places does not detract from the importance of New York to Jewish American history or memory, but insists that there are more complex and dynamic stories that include, but are not limited to, New York and its mythic Lower East Side.
Minority & ethnic groups;
0591: American literature
0337: American history
0631: Minority & ethnic groups