TOC: Jewish Social Studies 27.1

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The editors of Jewish Social Studies are pleased to announce the publication of issue 27.1, with the following articles:


Bryan Karle Roby, “How Race Travels: Navigating Global Blackness in J. Ida Jiggetts’s Study of Afro-Asian Israeli Jewry”

This article explores the intellectual history of Black scholar (John) Ida Jiggetts in her study of Yemenite Jewish integration efforts in Israel in the 1950s. I begin with a critical look into the scholarship that heavily influenced her: Zionist ethnography and anthropology. Jewish engagement in these fields, then dominated by race scientists, constructed Afro-Asian Jewry as a Black foil meant to highlight the normative whiteness of European Jews. The article then moves on to Jiggetts’s travel memoir, Israel to Me, in which she details her observations on intra-Jewish race relations, how she struggled to navigate race in Hebrew, and how her experiences in Israel pushed her to reflect on her own perceptions of race. Enacting a form of racial diplomacy, Jiggetts shaped Black American perspectives on Israel in the twentieth century as one Black community looked to another as a means of understanding the global color line. Navigating shifting interpellations of her own Blackness while observing the racialization of Mizrahi Israelis, her reflections on race in Israel sheds light on the transnational process of racecraft for those who share the experience of the color line.


Sarah Phillips Casteel, “Outside the Frame: The Josef Nassy Collection and the Boundaries of Holocaust Art”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s largely unknown Josef Nassy Collection is situated at the intersection of multiple cultural histories of migration and oppression. Josef Nassy (1904–76) was an artist of African, Sephardi, and European descent from the Dutch Caribbean colony of Suriname. While interned in Belgium and Germany from 1942–45, he created a poignant visual diary that brings into view unfamiliar facets of the Nazi camp system as well as unexpected points of intersection between Jewish and African diaspora experience. This article traces the story of the Nassy Collection’s wartime creation and postwar reception to illustrate how entrenched categories of art and victimhood can obstruct our access to the past. In contrast to this reception history, Nassy’s artworks encourage a relational approach to Holocaust studies, one that is attuned to the entanglement of European and colonial wartime experience and the diversity of Jewish identities.


            Amy Kerner, Indios, Negros, and Criollos: The Racial Anxieties of Argentine Yiddish”

This article analyzes discourses of Latin American race and ethnicity in the context of the ethnic language production of a transnational immigrant group: Yiddish-speaking Jews in Argentina. Argentine Yiddish writings have been analyzed in previous scholarship as an offshoot of a global Yiddish culture that entered a marked decline as immigrants culturally assimilated in the 1930s. By contrast, this article analyzes the presence of nationalist tropes and racial stereotypes in Yiddish-language materials after 1930 to argue that immigrants engaged with the changing ethnic and racial landscape of mid-century Argentina. In a context of heightened race and class anxiety spurred by Creole mass migration to cities, these authors used Yiddish to reproduce and reinforce—and in some cases, to contest—negative stereotypes of Indigenous and Creole Argentines. In doing so, they reflected and appropriated a Spanish-language discourse that racialized poor and dark-skinned people, aligning Jewish Argentines with a white middle class.


Gabriel Abensour, “In Praise of the Multitude: Rabbi Yosef Knafo’s Socially Conscious Work in Essaouira at the End of the Nineteenth Century”

This article examines the work of Rabbi Yosef Knafo (1823–1900), a prolific author writing for the Jewish masses of Essaouira in Morocco. In this article, I suggest that Knafo’s work should be read in the light of the local Jewish community’s turbulent social context. Through his books, Knafo joined the ranks of the local advocates of modernity, dedicating himself to forging a more egalitarian Jewish society and providing spiritual backing to those struggling for societal democratization. Rather than representing a break with religious tradition or a form of westernization, Knafo’s vision of modernity was a rearticulation of Jewish tradition in order to mobilize it toward social change. Using the printing press to subvert the local authority and reach new audiences, Knafo was also the first person in Morocco to quote and translate Hasidic works and he pioneered the diffusion of Judeo-Arabic literature. 


Véronique Mickisch, “Jewish Historiography Between Socialism and Nationalism: A Portrait of Historian Isaiah Trunk”

Isaiah Trunk (1905–81), the author of the classic work Judenrat, was one of the few Polish Jewish historians to survive the Holocaust. His trajectory reflects the key political and intellectual experiences and developments that shaped Jewish historiography in the twentieth century, from the Russian Revolution and the revival of Yiddish culture in the interwar years to Stalinism, the Holocaust, and the period of relative peace and prosperity in the postwar United States. The Holocaust and Stalinism left Trunk disillusioned with socialist internationalism and prompted a shift in his historical thinking “from class to nation.” Nevertheless, his lifelong commitment to Bundism reflected his determination to fight for the preservation of Polish Jewish culture, including its socialist traditions. Moreover, throughout his life, he retained a concern for social equality and the conviction that history, as an empirical science, was an important weapon in the struggle against antisemitism.


Nicolas Vallois, “Statistics, Race, and Essentialism in the Debate over Jewish Employment Structure (1905–39)”

The second half of the nineteenth century saw the development of statistical studies about Jewish populations written by Jewish authors. Jewish enthusiasm for statistics gave rise to what historians have called Jewish social science or Jewish statistics. This article contributes to scholarship on Jewish social science by challenging the assumption in the literature that statistics was inherently essentialist and drew on race science. This case study is based on an analysis of early twentieth-century socioeconomic studies in Jewish statistical periodicals and, in particular, discussions of Jewish employment structure, or how the Jewish workforce was divided between the main economic sectors. Although this body of statistical research does not necessarily represent Jewish social science as a whole, it offers an opportunity to analyze the relationship between essentialism and statistics. I argue that Jewish social science did not favor the typological thinking that was inherent to race theory in the early twentieth century. Instead, most Jewish statisticians rejected the biologically determined concept of race and were much more inclined toward explanations framed in cultural terms. Yet these explanations also conveyed essentialist tropes about the productive capacities of Jewish workers that were consistent with the language of racial thinking.


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