Jewish Studies

American Jewish Literature

Lecture focuses on major American Jewish writers, both early writers Abraham Cahan and Mary Antin and more recent writers Philip Roth, I.B. Singer, Saul Bellow, and Bernard Malamud. Lectures may consider parallels and contrasts between Jewish writers and other ethnic writers such as African-Americans, Hispanics, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, and Asian-Americans. Another area of interest will be what is somewhat distinctive about the literature of American Jews, who constitute both an ethnic group and a religion.

Michael Aaron Rockland, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University

Program generally available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties; other counties are available with speaker’s consideration. Este programa está disponible en español.

The Tender Trap: Love, Sex, and the Quest for Jewish Identity in Literature and Film

Jewish-American authors may seem to obsess about sex, but, in fact, sex often proves to be a metaphor, a kind of symbolic language for probing complex issues of Jewish and personal identity. This lecture examines Abraham Cahan’s novella Yekl (1896) and the Joan Micklin Silver film Hester Street (1975) based on it, Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus, Modechai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) and its 1974 film version, the Joan Micklin Silver film Crossing Delancey (1988), and Philip Roth’s 1969 novel Portnoy’s Complaint to examine the vexed and vexing relationship between sex and identity in Jewish-American literature and film. (VCR and monitor are required.)

Leslie Fishbein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, American Studies and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University

Program available in Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties. A microphone is required when a large audiences is expected.

Anzia Yezierska: The Sweatshop Cinderella and her Invented Life

Anzia Yezierska was a Jewish-American novelist who had emigrated from Plotzk as a child and who won public acclaim as the “Sweatshop Cinderella” for her poignant sketches of life on the Lower East Side, writing that was presumed to be the work of an untutored spokeswoman for the Jewish immigrant. In fact, Yezierska was far more educated than her public image would indicate and was no typical immigrant when Samuel Goldwyn summoned her to Hollywood to work on film scripts of her literary works. No more typical were her marital arrangements or the offhanded way in which she raised and then abandoned her only child. Her life is a sad tale of the price she paid for literary celebrity.

Leslie Fishbein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, American Studies and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University

Program available in Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties. A microphone is required when a large audiences is expected.

From Shtetl to Ghetto: The Culture of the Lower East Side

Having fled persecution in the Old World, Eastern Europen Jews faced oppression in the New. If they survived the exploitation of the sweatshop and the squalor of tenement life, they found new treats in the perils of prosperity and the pressures of acculturation. This discussion examines how Jews adapted to life in the golden medina (golden land) and the price of their success.

Leslie Fishbein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, American Studies and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University

Program available in Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties. A microphone is required when a large audiences is expected.

From Shtetl Tochters to Ghetto Girls: The Transformation of Jewish Women on the Lower East Side

Life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe prepared Jewish women well for life in the New World. In the shtetls they worked to support their families, spoke the native language as well as Yiddish, were familiar with the marketplace and interacted with gentiles. This lecture explores how in America these women profited from enhanced economic opportunities but suffered greater instability in their personal lives.

Leslie Fishbein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, American Studies and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University

Program available in Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties. A microphone is required when a large audiences is expected.

The Holocaust in the American Jewish Novel

A review of three key novels, I.B. Singer’s Enemies: A Love Story, William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, and Edward Lewis Wallant’s The Pawnbroker. The lecture examines parallels and contrasts among the three works and what they tell us not only about the Holocaust but about American values and attitudes.

Michael Aaron Rockland, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University

Program generally available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties; other counties are available with speaker’s consideration. Este programa está disponible en español.

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