The Association for Jewish Studies congratulates the recipients of the 2012-2013 Berman Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Support of Research in the Social Scientific Study of the Contemporary American Jewish Community:
RACHEL GROSS, Princeton University
Objects of Affection: The Material Religion of American Jewish Nostalgia
Rachel Gross's dissertation project, "Objects of Affection: The Material Religion of American Jewish Nostalgia," is a material culture and ethnographic study of American Jews' nostalgia for their communal homelands of Eastern Europe and New York's Lower East Side of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This nostalgia, a sentimental, generalized looking back at mythologized pasts from which they are safely distant, is an integral religious feature of American Jews' practice in the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Nostalgia is both an emotion and a practice, one that has become increasingly commoditized and institutionalized in recent decades, though no less a significant source of personal and communal meaning. The project focuses on four broad case studies: the material culture of Jewish genealogy; historic synagogues used as heritage sites; children's books and dolls; and American Jewish foodways, focusing on "kosher style" restaurants and delis. This project examines how American Jews use each of these kinds of material to create an affective, sentimental connection to the past that produces communal, religious meaning in the present and conveys social desires for the future.
LAURA LIMONIC, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Ethnic Options? Jewish Latino Immigrants in the Northeastern United States
The process of immigration requires an examination and often an alteration of people's ethnic identity as they incorporate into a society with different ethno-racial groups than their own. This project focuses on contemporary Jewish immigrants from Latin America who have settled in the United States. Since this group is not easily classified within the North American racial and ethnic schema, their ethnic identity and group affiliation challenges the existing paradigm. A central question is whether these immigrants are to be classified primarily as Jewish; whether, and in what situations, their national identities as Colombian, Argentine, Mexican or Cuban trump their Jewish ethno-religious identity; or if they will choose to eschew these categories all-together and construct a new panethno-religious group, that of Jewish-Latinos. Another issue is how they are adding new diversity to, and having an impact on, U.S. Jewish communities and institutions. This qualitative study contributes to our understanding of contemporary North American Jewry by shedding light on how this immigrant group, whose Jewishness is so salient, navigates the existing North American Jewish communities and either contributes to the reshaping of these communities or creates new enclaves, institutions, and communities that in turn become part of the greater North American Jewish experience.
The AJS also recognizes the following projects, which received honorable mentions:
RACHEL ADELSTEIN, University of Chicago
Braided Voices: Women Cantors in Non-Orthodox Judaism
JOSHUA B. FRIEDMAN, University of Michigan
Intimate Institutions: Post-Vernacularity and the Institutional Mediation Jewish Cultural Continuity in Yiddishland
EMILY SIGALOW, Brandeis University
Jews on Zafus?!: A Study of Jewish-Buddhist Lived Hybridity in America
Application materials for the 2013-14 Berman Fellowship competition will be available on the AJS website this fall.
Support for this project is generously provided by the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Foundation.