Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Jewish Cultural Studies, Volume 2

Jews at Home: The Domestication of Identity
Simon J. Bronner

What are the things that make a home 'Jewish', materially and emotionally? What it is that makes Jews feel 'at home' in their environment? This is the first book to examine these questions from multiple disciplinary perspectives, including literature, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, art history, and folk and popular culture, and in doing so it revises our understanding of the lived (and built) past and opens new analytic possibilities for the future.

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For a Jew, describing a place as ‘home’ conveys connotations of heritage as well as of residence. Additionally, feeling ‘at home’ suggests a sense of comfort in one’s social surroundings. The questions at the heart of this volume are: what things make a home ‘Jewish’, materially and emotionally, and what is it that makes Jews feel ‘at home’ in their environment?

The material dimensions are explored through a study of the symbolic and ritual objects that convey Jewishness and a consideration of other items that may be used to express Jewish identity in the home―something that the introduction identifies as ‘living-room Judaism’. The discussion is geographically and ethnically wide-ranging, and the transformation of meaning attached to different objects in different environments is contextualized, as, for example, in Shalom Sabar’s study of {h.}amsa amulets in Morocco and Israel.

For diasporic Jewish culture, the question of feeling at home is an emotional issue that frequently emerges in literature, folklore, and the visual and performing arts.  The phrase ‘at-homeness in exile’ aptly expresses the tension between the different heritages with which Jews identify, including that between the biblical promised land and the cultural locations from which Jewish migration emanated. The essays in this volume take a closer look at the way in which ideas about feeling at home as a Jew are expressed in literature originating in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States, and also at the political ramifications of these emotions. The question is further explored in a series of  exchanges on the future of Jews feeling ‘at home’ in Australia, Germany, Israel, and the United States.

Jews at Home is the first book to examine the theme of the Jewish home materially and emotionally from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including literature, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, art history, and folk and popular culture. The essays in the collection use the theme of home and the concept of domestication to revise understanding of the lived (and built) past, and to open new analytical possibilities for the future. Its discussion of domestic culture and its relevance to Jewish identity is one with which readers should feel right at home.


About the editor

Simon J. Bronner is Distinguished University Professor of American Studies and Folklore at the Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, where he was founding director of the campus’s Holocaust and Jewish Studies Center. He has also taught at Harvard, Leiden (Netherlands), and Osaka (Japan) universities. He is the author and editor of over thirty-five books, including Youth Cultures in America (2016), Folklore: The Basics (2016), Greater Harrisburg’s Jewish Community (2011), Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture (2011), and Encyclopedia of American Folklife (2006). He edits the Material Worlds series for the University Press of Kentucky and has published in Jewish cultural studies in the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, Jewish History, Yiddish, Markers, and Chuliyot: Journal of Yiddish Literature. As well as editing the Littman Library’s Jewish Cultural Studies series, he leads the Jewish Folklore and Ethnology section of the American Folklore Society. He has received the Kenneth Goldstein Award for Lifetime Academic Leadership, the Wayland D. Hand Prize in history and folklore, and the Peter and Iona Opie Prize in children’s culture from the American Folklore Society for his scholarly accomplishments.



Gabrielle A. Berlinger, Rosana Kohl Bines, Simon J. Bronner, Jennifer Cousineau, Giovanna P. Del Negro, Jenna Weissman Joselit, David Kraemer, Michael, P. Kramer, Marjorie Lehman, Andrea Lieber, Suzanne D. Rutland, Shalom Sabar, Joachim Schlör, Mónica Szurmuk, Joellyn Wallen Zollman

Contributor information

Gabrielle A. Berlinger, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University
Rosana Kohl Bines, Professor of Brazilian Literature & Literary Theory, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)
Simon J. Bronner, Distinguished University Professor, Pennsylvania State University
Jennifer Cousineau, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, Urban Planning & Landscape Architecture, City College of New York
Giovanna P. Del Negro, Associate Professor of English, Texas A&M University
Jenna Weissman Joselit, Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History, George Washington University
David Kraemer, Joseph J. & Dora Abbell Librarian, Jewish Theological Seminary
Michael P. Kramer, Director, Lechter Institute for Literary Research & Anne Shachter-Smith Memorial Project in Literature, University
Marjorie Lehman, Assistant Professor of Talmud & Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary
Andrea Lieber, Sophia Ava Asbell Chair in Judaic Studies, Dickinson College, Pennsylvania
Suzanne D. Rutland, Associate Professor & Chair, Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, University of Sydney
Shalom Sabar,  Professor of Jewish Art & Folklore & Chair , Department of Jewish & Comparative Folklore, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Joachim Schlör, Professor of Jewish–Non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton
Mónica Szurmuk, Professor of Literature & Cultural Studies, Instituto Mora, Mexico
Joellyn Wallen Zollman, Lecturer , History Department, San Diego State University



Note on Transliteration
Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction: The Dualities of House and Home in Jewish Culture

Part I: In and Out of the Home

1 The Domestication of Urban Jewish Space and the North-West London Eruv
2  Every Wise Woman Shoppeth for her House: The Sisterhood Gift Shop and the American Jewish Home in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Part II: Sacred, Secular, and Profane in the Home

3 Reimagining Home, Rethinking Sukkah: Rabbinic Discourse and Its Contemporary Implications
4  From Sacred Symbol to Keychain: The Hamsah in Jewish and Israeli Societies
5   770 Eastern Parkway: The Rebbe’s Home as Icon
6  From the Nightclub to the Living Room: Party Records of Three Jewish Women Comics

Part III: Writing Home

7 Samuel Rawet’s Wandering Jew: Jewish Brazilian Monologues of Home and Displacement
8  Home in the Pampas: Alberto Gerchunoff’s Jewish Gauchos
9 Domesticity and the Home(Page): Blogging and the Blurring of Public and Private among Orthodox Jewish Women

Part IV: Forum: Feeling at Home

10 Culture Mavens: Feeling at Home in America
11 At Home in the World
12 The Co-Construction of Europe as a Jewish Home
13  ‘Culture Mavens’ from an Australian Jewish Perspective
14 There’s No Place Like Home: America, Israel, and the (Mixed) Blessings of Assimilation
15 The Last Word: A Response

Notes on Contributors



'This exceedingly engaging volume is important for anyone interested in modern Judaism or the creation of contemporary culture in general . . . highly recommended.'
A. J. Avery-Peck, Choice

'Highly readable and captivating. The conceptual thread linking the fifteen articles is their emphasis on how the Jewish family has shaped Jewish life . . . the articles are intriguing and far-ranging in topic and geographic area.'
Jewish Book World

'The “Jewish home” is among the cores issues dealt with by Jewish scholarship in the modern era. For the most part, however, its epistemic scope has been aligned to the national sphere . . . [this book] puts the spotlight on a dimension that has received far less scholarly attention: the private Jewish home . . . a valuable contribution to the scholarship concerned with modern Jewish culture and Jewish everyday life. Its well-written articles . . . point to new research trajectories as well as lending themselves to fruitful reading material for the classroom.'
Anna Lipphardt, Studies in Contemporary Jewry



Finalist in the 2010 National Jewish Book Awards for Anthologies and Collections