Koltun-Fromm_flyer.pdf__page_1_of_2_-3Honored to be included in this edited volume that emerged from a conference in honor of my friend and teacher, Arnold Eisen. My essay, “Jewish Peoplehood and the Nationalist Paradigm in American Jewish Culture” asks: What notions of peoplehood might sustain a vibrant Jewish collectivity in a globalized economy?

Thanks to Ken Foltun-Fromm for spearheading this project and for shaping the volume.



“Inspired by the work of Arnold Eisen, this timely and provocative collection of essays explores the intersection between Judaism as a living culture and modern Jewish thought. Culture is represented by Jewish peoplehood, democratic solidarity, higher education, literature, photography, maternity, visuality, and works as diverse as the poetry of Paul Celan and The Jewish Catalogue. But what distinguishes these essays is the novel and intriguing ways in which these and other cultural venues in which Jews and Jewish life are invested raise questions for and provoke surprising reflections on modern Jewish thinkers from Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas to Soloveitchik, Heschel, Kaplan, and Wyschogrod. There are many perspectives one might take on these efforts, but surely one is to consider the future possibilities for understanding the Jewish experience in all its fullness. If this involves returning to canonical Jewish thinkers, we may find future students following the direction plotted by the book’s contributors, seeking to find their way to those thinkers from recent interest in art and technology, material culture, corporeality and gender, and the concreteness of everyday life.” —Michael L. Morgan, Indiana University

Thinking Jewish Culture in America argues that Jewish thought extends our awareness and deepens the complexity of American Jewish culture. This volume stretches the disciplinary boundaries of Jewish thought so that it can productively engage expanding arenas of culture by drawing Jewish thought into the orbit of cultural studies. The eleven contributors to Thinking Jewish Cultures, together with Chancellor Arnold Eisen’s postscript, position Jewish thought within the dynamics and possibilities of contemporary Jewish culture. These diverse essays in Jewish thought re-imagine cultural space as a public and sometimes contested performance of Jewish identity, and they each seek to re-enliven that space with reflective accounts of cultural meaning. How do Jews imagine themselves as embodied actors in America? Do cultural obligations limit or expand notions of the self? How should we imagine Jewish thought as a cultural performance? What notions of peoplehood might sustain a vibrant Jewish collectivity in a globalized economy? How do programs in Jewish studies work within the academy? These and other questions engage both Jewish thought and culture, opening space for theoretical works to broaden the range of cultural studies, and to deepen our understanding of Jewish cultural dynamics. Thinking Jewish Culture is a work about Jewish cultural identity reflected through literature, visual arts, philosophy, and theology. But it is more than a mere reflection of cultural patterns and choices: the argument pursued throughout Thinking Jewish Culture is that reflective sources help produce the very cultural meanings and performances they purport to analyze.


Mara H. Benjamin; Arnold M. Eisen; Gregory Kaplan; Leonard Kaplan; Ari Y. Kelman; Ken Koltun-Fromm; Akiba Lerner; Noam Pianko; Einat Ramon; Jessica Rosenberg and Claire E. Sufrin