- Secular Jewish culture
Secular Jewish culture embraces several related phenomena; above all, it is the
cultureof secular communities of Jewish people, but it can also include the cultural contributions of individuals who identify as secular Jews, or even those of religious Jews working in cultural areas not generally considered to be connected to religion.
The word "secular" in secular Jewish culture, therefore, refers "not" to the type of Jew but rather to the type of culture. For example, religiously observant
Orthodox Jewswho write literature and music or produce films with non-religious themes are participating in secular Jewish culture, even if they are not secular themselves.
Jewish peopleis an ethnoreligiouscommunity rather than solely a religious grouping; Judaismguides its adherents in both practice and belief, so that it has been called not only a religion, but also a "way of life". This makes it difficult to draw a clear distinction between the cultural production of members of the Jewish people, and culture that is specifically Jewish. Furthermore, not all individuals or all cultural phenomena can be easily classified as either "secular" or "religious", a distinction native to European Enlightenment thinking and foreign to most of the history of non-European Jews.
Throughout history, in eras and places as diverse as the ancient Hellenic world, in
Europebefore and after the Age of Enlightenment, in Islamic Spain and Portugal, in North Africaand the Middle East, in India and China, and in the contemporary United Statesand Israel, Jewish communities have seen the development of cultural phenomena that are in some sense characteristically Jewish without being at all specifically religious. Some factors in this come from within Judaism, others from the interaction of Jews with others around them, and others from the inner social and cultural dynamics of the community, as opposed to religion itself. This phenomenon has led to considerably different Jewish cultures unique to their own communities, each as authentically Jewish as the next.
For at least 2,000 years, there has not been a unity of Jewish culture. Jews during this period were always geographically dispersed (see
Jewish diaspora), so that by the 19th century the Ashkenazi Jewswere mainly in Europe, especially Eastern Europe; the Sephardi Jewswere largely spread among various communities in North Africa, Turkey, and various smaller communities in a diverse range of other locations; Mizrahi Jewswere primarily spread around the Arab world; and other populations of Jews were scattered in such places as Ethiopiathe Caucasus, and India. (See Jewish ethnic divisions.)
Although there was a high degree of communication and traffic between these communities — many Sephardic exiles blended into the Central European Ashkenazi community following the
Spanish Inquisition; many Ashkenazim migrated to the Middle East, giving rise to the characteristic Syrian-Jewish family name "Ashkenazi"; Iraqi-Jewish traders formed a distinct Jewish community in India; and so forth — many of these populations were cut off to some degree from the surrounding cultures by ghettoization, by Muslimlaws of "dhimma", and other circumstances.
By 1931, shortly before the
Holocaust, 92% of the world's Jewish population was Ashkenazi in origin, including the vast majority of European and of English-speaking Jews. Moreover, secularism as a concept was largely a European idea, and a series of movements in Europe militated for a new, heretofore unheard-of concept called "secular Judaism". For these reasons, much of what is thought of by English-speakers and, to a lesser extent, by non-English-speaking Europeans as "secular Jewish culture" is, in essence, the Jewish culture of Central and Eastern Europe, and its subsequent development in North America. MedievalJewish communities in Eastern Europe continued to display distinct cultural traits over the centuries. Despite the universalist leanings of the Enlightenment (and its echo within Judaism in the Haskalahmovement), many Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern Europe continued to see themselves as forming a distinct national group — " 'am yehudi"," from the Biblical Hebrew — but, adapting this idea to European Enlightenment values, they assimilated the concept as that of an ethnic group whose identity did not depend on religion, which under Enlightenment thinking fell under a separate category.
Constanin Măciucă writes of "a differentiated but not isolated Jewish spirit" permeating the culture of Yiddish-speaking Jews. This was only intensified as the rise of
Romanticismamplified the sense of national identity across Europe generally. Thus, for example, "Bund" members — that is, members of the General Jewish Labor Unionin the late 19th and early 20th centuries — were generally non-religious, and one of the historical leaders of the "Bund" was the child of converts to Christianity, though not a practising or believing Christian himself.
Haskalahcombined with the Jewish Emancipationmovement under way in Central and Western Europe to create an opportunity for Jews to enter secular society. At the same time, pogroms in Eastern Europe provoked a surge of migration, in large part to the United States, where some 2 million Jewish immigrants resettled between 1880 and 1920. During the 1940s, the Holocaust uprooted and destroyed most of the European Jewish population. This, in combination with the creation of the State of Israel and the consequent Jewish exodus from Arab lands, resulted in a further geographic shift.
Defining secular culture among those who practice traditional Judaism is difficult, because the entire culture is, by definition, entwined with religious traditions: the idea of separate ethnic and religious identity is foreign to the Hebrew tradition of an " 'am yisrael". (This is particularly true for
Orthodox Judaism.) Gary Tobin, head of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, said of traditional Jewish culture:
The dichotomy between religion and culture doesn’t really exist. Every religious attribute is filled with culture; every cultural act filled with religiosity.
Synagogues themselves are great centers of Jewish culture. After all, what is life really about? Food, relationships, enrichment hellip; So is Jewish life. So many of our traditions inherently contain aspects of culture. Look at the Passover Seder— it’s essentially great theater. Jewish education and religiosity bereft of culture is not as interesting. [ [http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/About_Jewish_Culture/JewishCulturalIdentity.htm The Emergence of a Jewish Cultural Identity] , undated (2002 or later) on MyJewishLearning.com, reprinted from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Accessed 11 February 2006.] Yaakov Malkin, Professor of Aesthetics and Rhetoric at Tel Aviv Universityand the founder and academic director of Meitar College for Judaism as Culture[http://www.meitar.org.il/HTMLs/home.aspx] in Jerusalem, writes:
Today very many secular Jews take part in Jewish cultural activities, such as celebrating Jewish holidays as historical and nature festivals, imbued with new content and form, or marking life-cycle events such as birth, bar/bat mitzvah, marriage, and mourning in a secular fashion. They come together to study topics pertaining to Jewish culture and its relation to other cultures, in "havurot," cultural associations, and secular synagogues, and they participate in public and political action co-ordinated by secular Jewish movements, such as the former movement to free Soviet Jews, and movements to combat pogroms, discrimination, and religious coercion. Jewish secular humanistic education inculcates universal moral values through classic Jewish and world literature and through organizations for social change that aspire to ideals of justice and charity. [Malkin, Y. "Humanistic and secular Judaisms." "Modern Judaism An Oxford Guide", p. 107.]
Today, in North America, the secular and cultural Jewish movements are divided into three umbrella organizations: the
Society for Humanistic Judaism(SHJ), the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations(CSJO), and Workmen's Circle.
Literary and theatrical expressions of secular Jewish culture may be in specifically Jewish languages such as Hebrew, Yiddish or Ladino, or it may be in the language of the surrounding cultures, such as English or German. Secular literature and theater in Yiddish largely began in the 19th century and was in decline by the middle of the 20th century. The revival of Hebrew beyond its use in the liturgy is largely an early 20th-century phenomenon, and is closely associated with
Zionism. Generally, whether a Jewish community will speak a Jewish or non-Jewish language as its main vehicle of discourseis dependent on how isolated or assimilated that community is. For example, the Jews in the shtetlsof Polandand the Lower East Sideof New York (during the early 20th century) spoke Yiddishat most times, while assimilated Jews in Germanyduring the 19th century or the United Statestoday would or do speak German or English.
Politics and morals
:"See main article
Jewish political movements".Even in religious Judaism there is much room for a range of political or moral views; this is only more so for secular Jews. However, even Jewish secular culture is often strongly influenced by moral beliefs deriving from Jewish scripture and tradition. In recent centuries, Jews in Europe and the Americas have traditionally tended towards the political left, and played key roles in the birth of the labor movementas well as socialism. While Diaspora Jews have also been represented in the conservative side of the political spectrum, even politically conservative Jews have tended to support pluralism more consistently than many other elements of the political right. Some scholars [Daniel J. Elazar, [http://www.jcpa.org/dje/articles2/jud-democ.htm Judaism and Democracy: The Reality] . Undated. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Accessed 11 February 2006.] attribute this to the fact that Jews are not expected to proselytize, and as a result do not expect a single world-state, which differs from the beliefs of many religions, such as the Roman Catholic and Islamic traditions; rather, since in Jewish theology the religions of most nations are respected, there was never any perceived reason to convert others. This lack of a universalizing religion is combined with the fact that most Jews live as minorities in their countries, and that no central Jewish religious authority has existed for over 2,000 years. "(See also list of Jews in politics, which illustrates the diversity of Jewish political thought and of the roles Jews have played in politics.)"
Professions associated with Jews
Typically, Jews were an agricultural people, comprising mostly farmers.fact|date=October 2007 In fact, farming provides the source of much Jewish culture today,fact|date=October 2007 and was revived during the restoration of
Zionismat the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, in the Middle Ages, European laws prevented Jews from owning land and gave them powerful incentive to go into other professions that Europeans were not wiling to do. A major aspect of this was the strong social stigma against lending money and charging interest among the Christian majority, commonly decried as "usury". As a modern system of capital was developing, loans became necessary. As lending money (and more broadly, the modern systems of finance) began to develop, Jews (as non-Catholics, not being bound by the "usury" stigma) were able to gain a foothold by providing these services. As a result, in the modern world, some professions have traditionally been considered particularly "Jewish." These include banking and finance, law, medicine, science, and academia. "See also Court Jew."
Bene Israelsettled in the coastal district of Raigadin Maharashtra, India, traditionally were oil pressers, so much that to this date they are called Sahnivar Telis or Saturday oil pressers.
Banking and finance
In most of Europe up until the late 18th century, and in some places to an even later date, Jews were prohibited by Roman Catholic governments (and others) from owning land. On the other hand, the Church, because of a number of Bible verses forbidding
usury, declared that charging any interestwas against the divine law, and this prevented any mercantile use of capital by pious Christians. As the Canon law did not apply to Jews, they were not liable to the ecclesiastical punishments which were placed upon usurers by the popes. Christian rulers gradually saw the advantage of having a class of men like the Jews who could supply capital for their use without being liable to excommunication, and the money trade of western Europe by this means fell into the hands of the Jews. However, in almost every instance where large amounts were acquired by Jews through banking transactions the property thus acquired fell either during their life or upon their death into the hands of the king. This happened to Aaron of Lincolnin England, Ezmel de Ablitasin Navarre, Heliot de Vesoul in Provence, Benveniste de Portain Aragon, etc. It was for this reason indeed that the kings supported the Jews, and even objected to their becoming Christians, because in that case they could not have forced from them money won by usury. Thus both in England and in Francethe kings demanded to be compensated for every Jew converted. The result was the stereotypical Jewish role as bankers and merchants.
Medicine, science, and academia
Also, the strong Jewish tradition of religious scholarship often left Jews well prepared for secular scholarship, although in some times and places this was countered by Jews being banned from studying at universities, or admitted only in limited numbers (see
Jewish quota). In medieval and early modern times, Jews were disproportionately represented among court physicians. Even into recent times Jews were little represented in the land-holding classes, but far better represented in academia, the learned professions, finance and commerce. The strong representation of Jews in science and academia is represented in the fact that at least 167 Jews and persons of half-Jewishancestry have been awarded the Nobel Prize, accounting for 22% of all individual recipients worldwide between 1901 and 2004. In addition, of "TIME" magazine's 100 most influential people of the 20th century, fourteen persons listed are either of Jewish ancestry or have converted to Judaism.
Literary and artistic culture
In some places where there have been relatively high concentrations of Jews, distinct secular Jewish subcultures have arisen. For example, ethnic Jews formed an enormous proportion of the literary and artistic life of
Vienna, Austriaat the end of the 19th century, or of New York City50 years later (and Los Angelesin the mid-late 20th century), and for the most part these were not particularly religious people. In general, however, Jewish artistic culture in various periods reflected the culture in which they lived.
:"See main articles
Yiddish literature, Ladino literature, Hebrew literature, Jewish American literature, English Jewish literature. Also see Jews in literature and journalism."
Jewish authors have both created a unique Jewish literature and contributed to the national literatures of many of the countries in which they live. Though not strictly secular, the Yiddish works of authors like
Sholem Aleichem(whose collected works amounted to 28 volumes) and Isaac Bashevis Singer(winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize), form their own canon, focusing on the Jewish experience in both Eastern Europe, and in America. In the United States, Jewish writers like Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and many others are considered among the greatest American authors, and incorporate a distinctly secular Jewish view into many of their works. The poetry of Allen Ginsbergoften touches on Jewish themes (notably the early autobiographical works such as " Howl" and "Kaddish"). Other famous Jewish authors that made contributions to world literature include Heinrich Heine, German poet, Isaac Babel, Russian author, and Franz Kafka, of Prague.
In "Modern Judaism An Oxford Guide,"
Yaakov Malkin, Professor of Aesthetics and Rhetoric at Tel Aviv Universityand the founder and academic director of [http://www.meitar.org.il/HTMLs/home.aspx Meitar College for Judaism as Culture] in Jerusalem, writes:
Secular Jewish culture embraces literary works that have stood the test of time as sources of aesthetic pleasure and ideas shared by Jews and non-Jews, works that live on beyond the immediate socio-cultural context within which they were created. They include the writings of such Jewish authors as
Sholem Aleichem, Itzik Manger, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, S.Y. Agnon, Isaac Babel, Martin Buber, Isaiah Berlin, Haim Nahman Bialik, Yehuda Amichai, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman. It boasts masterpieces that have had a considerable influence on all of western culture, Jewish culture included - works such as those of Heinrich Heine, Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Chagall, Jacob Epstein, Ben Shahn, Amedeo Modigliani, Franz Kafka, Max Reinhardt (Goldman), Ernst Lubitsch, and Woody Allen. [Malkin, Y. "Humanistic and secular Judaisms." "Modern Judaism An Oxford Guide", p. 107.]
The Ukrainian Jew
Abraham Goldfadenfounded the first professional Yiddish-language theatre troupe in Iaşi, Romaniain 1876. The next year, his troupe achieved enormous success in Bucharest. Within a decade, Goldfaden and others brought Yiddish theater to Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Germany, New York City, and other cities with significant Ashkenazic populations. Between 1890 and 1940, over a dozen Yiddish theatre groups existed in New York City alone, performing original plays, musicals, and Yiddish translations of theatrical works and opera. Perhaps the most famous of Yiddish-language plays is " The Dybbuk" (1919) by S. Ansky.
Yiddish theater in New York in the early 20th Century rivalled English-language theater in quantity and often surpassed it in quality. A 1925 "
New York Times" article remarks, "…Yiddish theater… is now a stable American institution and no longer dependent on immigration from Eastern Europe. People who can neither speak nor write Yiddish attend Yiddish stage performances and pay Broadway prices on Second Avenue." This article also mentions other aspects of a New York Jewish cultural life "in full flower" at that time, among them the fact that the extensive New York Yiddish-language press of the time included seven daily newspapers. [Melamed, 1925.]
In fact, however, the next generation of American Jews spoke mainly English to the exclusion of Yiddish; they brought the artistic energy of Yiddish theater into the American theatrical mainstream, but usually in a less specifically Jewish form.
Yiddish theater, most notably
Moscow State Jewish Theaterdirected by Solomon Mikhoels, also played a prominent role in the arts scene of the Soviet Unionuntil Stalin's 1948 reversal in government policy toward the Jews. "(See Rootless cosmopolitan, Night of the Murdered Poets)"
Yiddish theatre fed into the mainstream of American stage and film acting: the
method actingof Konstantin Stanislavskifound its way to America through Jacob Adler; Adler's daughter Stella and son Luther were instrumental in the Group Theatre, two of whose three founders were also Jews. The list of Stella Adler's and Group Theatre founder Lee Strasberg's students, mostly Gentiles, reads like a "Who's Who" of American acting: Marlon Brando, Jill Clayburgh, James Dean, Robert DeNiro, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Eva Marie Saint, to name just a few. Similarly, what Jewish composer John Kandercalls an "interesting phenomenon that Broadway musical composers like Jerome Kern, George Gershwinand Marc Blitzsteinare predominantly Jewish" comes from "the tradition established from New York's Yiddish theater." [Keith D. Cohen, [http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=14601602&BRD=1425&PAG=461&dept_id=154733&rfi=6 John Kander to be honored in KC concerts] . "The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle", May 27, 2005. Accessed 11 February 2006.]
American English-language theatre
:"See also List of Jewish American musicals writers, List of Jewish Americans in theatre,
List of Jewish American playwrights."
film adaptation of "
West Side Story" by the team of Jewish writers consisting of Leonard Bernstein(music), Stephen Sondheim(lyrics), Arthur Laurents(book) and Jerome Robbins(direction and choreography)] Not only have "Jewish composers and lyricists always dominated Broadway musicals" [Chris Curcio, [http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0331berlinrevu31.html This 'Musical Journey' slips along the way] , March 31, 2005, "The Arizona Republic". Accessed 11 February 2006.] in New York City, but they were instrumental in the creation and development of genreof musical theatreand earlier forms of theatrical entertainment, as well as contributing to non-musical theatre in the United States. According to University of TorontoEnglish professor Andrea Most,
Almost all the American musicals in the 20th century were written by Jews and... the most compelling reason for this is that the musical offers a lot of strategies for exploring and performing new identities theatrically… the musical theater exists because of the unique historical situation of the Jews who created it" [ [http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-12/uot-bhj121102.php Broadway helped Jews gain acceptance, researcher says] , 11-December-2002 on EurekaAlert.org. Summary Andrea Mostbook. Accessed 11 February 2006.] [Alan Gomberg, [http://www.talkinbroadway.com/rialto/past/2004/02_16_04.html What's New on the Rialto?] , book review of "Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical" by Andrea Most, February 2004. On Talkin' Broadway site. Accessed 11 February 2006.]
Brandeis UniversityProfessor Stephen J. Whitfield has commented that "More so than behind the screen, the talent behind the stage was for over half a century virtually the monopoly of one ethnic group. That is... [a] feature which locates Broadway at the center of Jewish culture". [Stephen J. Whitfield, [http://www.brandeis.edu/publications/review/winspr2000/whitfield.pdf Musical Theater] ( New York UniversityProfessor Laurence Maslon says that "There would be no American musical without Jews… Their influence is corollary to the influence of black musicians on jazz; there were as many Jews involved in the form". [Samantha M. Shapiro, [http://www.hadassah.org/news/content/per_hadassah/archive/2004/04_OCT/art.asp The Arts: A Jewish Street Called Broadway] . "Hadassah Magazine", October 2004 Vol. 86 No.2. Accessed 11 February 2006.] Other writers, such as Jerome Caryn, have noted that musical theatre and other forms of American entertainment are uniquely indebted to the contributions of Jewish-Americans, since "there might not have been a modern Broadway without the "Asiatic horde" of comedians, gossip columnists, songwriters, and singers that grew out of the ghetto, whether it was on the Lower East Side, Harlem(a Jewish ghetto before it was a black one), Newark, or Washington, DC." [Charyn, Jerome. [http://find.galegroup.com/itx/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=EAIM&docId=A112354671&source=gale&srcprod=EAIM&userGroupName=ucirvine&version=1.0 "Early Broadway's un-Jewish Jews."] "Midstream" 50.1 (January 2004): 19(7). "Expanded Academic ASAP". Thomson Gale. UC Irvine (CDL). 9 March 2006] Likewise, in the analysis of Aaron Kula, director of The Klezmer Company,
"…the Jewish experience has always been best expressed by music, and Broadway has always been an integral part of the Jewish-American experience… The difference is that one can expand the definition of "Jewish Broadway" to include an interdisciplinary roadway with a wide range of artistic activities packed onto one avenue--theatre, opera, symphony, ballet, publishing companies, choirs, synagogues and more. This vibrant landscape reflects the life, times and creative output of the Jewish-American artist". [ [http://www.fau.edu/president/communications/pressreleases/February/13.html The Klezmer Company Breaks New Ground with Orchestral Klezmer Production "Jewish Broadway with Orchestra and Chorus" at FAU] . Florida Atlantic University press release, February 8, 2005. Accessed 11 February 2006.]
In the 19th and early 20th centuries the European
operetta, a precursor the musical, often featured the work of Jewish composers such as Paul Abraham, Leo Ascher, Edmund Eysler, Leo Fall, Bruno Granichstaedten, Jacques Offenbach, Emmerich Kalman, Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Straus and Rudolf Friml; the latter four eventually moved to the United States and produced their works on the New York stage. One of the librettists for Bizet's " Carmen" (not an operetta proper but rather a work of the earlier opera comiqueform) was the Jewish Ludovic Halévy, niece of composer Fromental Halévy(Bizet himself was not Jewish but he married the elder Halevy's daughter, many have suspected that he was the descendant of Jewish converts to Christianity, and others have noticed Jewish-sounding intervals in his music. [Raphael Mostel, [http://www.forward.com/main/article.php?ref=mostel200405051021 Carmen Comes Home] , " The Forward", May 7, 2004. Accessed 12 February 2006.] ) The Viennese librettist Victor Leon summarized the connection of Jewish composers and writers with the form of operetta: "The audience for operetta wants to laugh beneath tears—and that is exactly what Jews have been doing for the last two thousand years since the destruction of Jerusalem". [Dr. Kenneth Libo Ph. D and Michael Skakun, [http://www.cjh.org/about/Forward/view_Forward.cfm?Forwardid=27 The Persecution of Creativity: Jews, Music and Vienna] , Center for Jewish History, April 16, 2004. Accessed 12 February 2006] Another factor in the evolution of musical theatre was vaudeville, and during the early 20th century the form was explored and expanded by Jewish comedians and actors such as Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, The Marx Brothers, Anna Held, Al Jolson, Molly Picon, Sophie Tuckerand Ed Wynn. During the period when Broadway was monopolized by revuesand similar entertainments, Jewish producer Florenz Ziegfelddominated the theatrical scene with his Follies.
By 1910 Jews (the vast majority of them immigrants from
Eastern Europe) already composed a quarter of the population of New York City, and almost immediately Jewish artists and intellectuals began to show their influence on the cultural life of that city, and through time, the country as a whole. Likewise, while the modern musical can best be described as a fusion of operetta, earlier American entertainment and African-Americanculture and music, as well as Jewish culture and music, the actual authors of the first "book musicals" were the Jewish Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, George and Ira Gershwin, George S. Kaufmanand Morrie Ryskind. From that time until the 1980s a vast majority of successful musical theatre composers, lyricists, and book-writers were Jewish (a notable exception is the Protestant Cole Porter, who acknowledged that the reason he was so successful on Broadway was that he wrote what he called "Jewish music"). [Michael Billig, [http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/Music/AmericanJewishMusicTO/ShowTunes.htm Creating the American Musical] . Originally from "Rock 'N' Roll Jews" (Five Leaves Publications), extracted on myjewishlearning.com. Accessed 12 February 2006.] Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Lerner and Loewe, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Schwartz, Kander and Ebband dozens of others during the "Golden Age" of musical theatre were Jewish. Since the Tony Award for Best Original Scorewas instituted in 1947, approximately 70% of nominated scores and 60% of winning scores were by Jewish composers. Of successful British and French musical writers both in the West End and Broadway, Claude-Michel Schönbergand Lionel Bartare Jewish, among others.
One explanation of the affinity of Jewish composers and playwrights to the musical is that "traditional Jewish religious music was most often led by a single singer, a cantor while Christians emphasize choral singing." [Jacob Baron, [http://www.machar.org/bm_jbaron.html Jewish Composers] , "Machar, The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism", June 2, 2005. Accessed 15 February 2006.] Many of these writers used the musical to explore issues relating to assimilation, the acceptance of the outsider in society, the racial situation in the United States, the overcoming of obstacles through perseverance, and other topics pertinent to Jewish Americans and Western Jews in general, often using subtle and disguised stories to get this point across. [Alan Gomberg, [http://www.talkinbroadway.com/rialto/past/2004/02_16_04.html "op. cit."] ] For example, Kern, Rodgers, Hammerstein, the Gershwins,
Harold Arlenand Yip Harburgwrote musicals and operas aiming to normalize societal toleration of minorities and urging racial harmony; these works included " Show Boat", " Porgy and Bess", " Finian's Rainbow", "South Pacific" and the " The King and I". Towards the end of Golden Age, writers also began to openly and overtly tackle Jewish subjects and issues, such as " Fiddler on the Roof" and "Rags"; Bart's " Blitz!" also tackles relations between Jews and Gentiles. Jason Robert Brownand Alfred Uhry's "Parade" is a sensitive exploration of both anti-Semitismand historical American racism. The original concept that became " West Side Story" was set in the Lower East Sideduring Easter-Passover celebrations; the rival gangs were to be Jewish and Italian Catholic. [Arthur Laurents, [http://www.leonardbernstein.com/studio/element.asp?FeatID=8&AssetID=18 Theater: West Side Story; The Growth of an Idea] , " New York Herald Tribune", August 4, 1957. Reproduced on leonardbernstein.com. Accessed 12 February 2006.]
The ranks of prominent Jewish producers, directors, designers and performers include
Boris Aronson, David Belasco, Joel Grey, the Minskoff family, Zero Mostel, Joseph Papp, Mandy Patinkin, the Nederlander family, Harold Prince, Max Reinhardt, Jerome Robbins, the Shubert familyand Julie Taymor. Jewish playwrights have also contributed to non-musical drama and theatre, both Broadway and regional. Edna Ferber, Moss Hart, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Millerand Neil Simonare only some of the prominent Jewish playwrights in American theatrical history. Approximately 21% of the plays and musicals that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Dramawere written and composed by Jewish Americans.
Association for Jewish Theateris a contemporary organization that includes both American and international theaters that focus on theater with Jewish content. It has also expanded to include Jewish playwrights.
From their Emancipation to
World War II, Jews were very active and sometimes even dominant in certain forms of European theatre, and after the Holocaustmany Jews continued to that cultural form. For example, in pre-Nazi Germany, where Nietzscheasked "What good actor of today is not Jewish?", acting, directing and writing positions were often filled by Jews; controversial psychologist Kevin B. MacDonaldhas reported that in Berlin80% of theatrical directors were Jewish and 75% of plays produced were by Jewish playwrights. [Cited at http://www.jewishtribalreview.org/lapin2.htm (accessed 12 February 2006). Both MacDonald and Jewish Tribal Review would generally be counted as anti-Semitic sources, but reasonably careful in their factual claims.] "In Imperial Berlin, Jewish artists could be found in the forefront of the performing arts, from high drama to more popular forms like cabaretand revue, and eventually film. Jewish audiences patronized innovative theater, regardless of whether they approved of what they saw." [ [http://www.thejewishmuseum.org/site/pages/content/exhibitions/special/berlin/berlin_cabaret.html Berlin Metropolis: Jews and the New Culture, 1890–1918] , on the site of The Jewish Museum, New York. Accessed 12 February 2006.] The British historian Paul Johnson, commenting on Jewish contributions to European culture at the fin de siècle, writes that
The area where Jewish influence was strongest was the theatre, especially in Berlin. Playwrights likeJews also made similar, if not as massive, contributions to theatre and drama in Austria, Britain, France, and Russia (in the national languages of those countries). Jews in Vienna, Paris and German cities found
Carl Sternheim, Arthur Schnitzler, Ernst Toller, Erwin Piscator, Walter Hasenclever, Ferenc Molnarand Carl Zuckmayer, and influential producers like Max Reinhardt, appeared at times to dominate the stage, which tended to be modishly left-wing, pro-republican, experimental and sexually daring. But it was certainly not revolutionary, and it was cosmopolitan rather than Jewish. [Johnson, Paul (1987). "A History of the Jews", pg. 479. New York: Harper Perennial.] cabaretboth a popular and effective means of expression, as German cabaret in the Weimar Republic"was mostly a Jewish art form". [Suzanne Weiss, [http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/4555/format/html/displaystory.html Jewish cabaret singer brings songs of Berlin to Berkeley] , "The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California", September 27, 1996. Accessed 12 February 2006.] The involvement of Jews in Central European theatre was halted during the rise of the Nazis and the purging of Jews from cultural posts, though many emigrated to Western Europeor the United Statesand continued working there.
Hebrew and Israeli theatre
The earliest known
Hebrew languagedrama was written around 1550 by a Jewish-Italian writer from Mantua. [Shimon Levy, [http://www.jewish-theatre.com/visitor/article_display.aspx?articleID=199 The Development of Israeli Theatre– a brief overview] . Credited to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, 2000. Accessed 12 February 2006.] A few works were written by rabbisand Kabbalists in 17th century Amsterdam, where Jews were relatively free from persecution and had both flourishing religious and secular Jewish cultures. [ [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=467&letter=D] , " Jewish Encyclopedia". "Could not access 12 February 2006."] All of these early Hebrew plays were about Biblical or mystical subjects, often in the form of Talmudic parables. During the post-Emancipation period in 19th century Europe, many Jews translated great European plays such as those by Shakespeare, Molièreand Schiller, giving the characters Jewish names and transplanting the plot and setting to within a Jewish context.
Modern Hebrew theatre and drama, however, began with the development of Modern Hebrew in Europe (the first Hebrew theatrical "professional performance" was in
Moscowin 1918) [Shimon Levy, [http://www.jewish-theatre.com/visitor/article_display.aspx?articleID=199 "op. cit."] ] and was "closely linked with the Jewish national renaissance movement of the twentieth century. The historical awareness and the sense of primacy which accompanied the Hebrew theatre in its early years dictated the course of its artistic and aesthetic development". [Orna Ben-Meir, [http://www.tau.ac.il/arts/publications/ASSAPHTH11/BEN-MEIR.html Biblical Thematics in Stage Design for the Hebrew Theatre] , "Assaph", Section C, no. 11 (July 1999), p. 141 "et. seq.". Accessed 12 February 2006.] These traditions were soon transplanted to Israel. Playwrights such as Natan Alterman, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Leah Goldberg, Ephraim Kishon, Hanoch Levin, Aharon Megged, Moshe Shamir, Avraham Shlonsky, Yehoshua Soboland A. B. Yehoshuahave written Hebrew-language plays. Themes that are obviously common in these works are the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the meaning of Jewishness, and contemporary secular-religious tensions within Jewish Israel. The most well-known Hebrew theatre company and Israel's national theatre is the Habima (meaning "the stage" in Hebrew), which was formed in 1913 in Lithuania, and re-established in 1917 in Russia; another prominent Israeli theatre company is the Cameri Theatre, which is "is Israel's first and leading repertory theatre". [ [http://www.geocities.com/hebrewtheatre/history.html History of Israeli Theatre] , on a Geocitiessite, credits [http://www.habima.org.il www.habima.org.il] and [http://www.cameri.co.il www.cameri.co.il] .]
In the era when Yiddish theatre was still a major force in the world of theatre, over 100 films were made in Yiddish. Many are now lost. Prominent films included "
Shulamith" (1931), the first Yiddish musical on film " His Wife's Lover" (1931), " A Daughter of Her People" (1932), the anti-Nazi film "The Wandering Jew" (1933), "The Yiddish King Lear" (1934), "Shir Hashirim" (1935), the biggest Yiddish film hit of all time " Yidl Mitn Fidl" (1936), " Where Is My Child?" (1937), " Green Fields" (1937), "Dybuk" (1937), " The Singing Blacksmith" (1938), " Tevye" (1939), " Mirele Efros" (1939), " Lang ist der Weg" (1948), and " God, Man and Devil" (1950).
The roster of Jewish entrepreneurs in the English-language American film industry is legendary:
Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, the Warner Brothers, David O. Selznick, Marcus Loew, and Adolph Zukor, to name just a few, and continuing into recent times with such industry giants as super-agent Michael Ovitz, Michael Eisner, Lew Wasserman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, and David Geffen. However, few of these brought a specifically Jewish sensibility either to the art of film or, with the sometime exception of Spielberg, to their choice of subject matter. A much more specifically Jewish sensibility can be seen in the films of the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, or Woody Allen; other examples of specifically Jewish films from the Hollywood film industry are the Barbra Streisandvehicle " Yentl" (1983), or John Frankenheimer's "The Fixer" (1968).
Jewish film composers have also written scores to a large amount of the great films of the 20th century. Among the most prolific have been
Elmer Bernstein, Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Alan Menken, Alfred Newman, Randy Newman, Marc Shaiman, Lalo Schifrin, the Sherman Brothers, Howard Shore, Max Steiner, and Dimitri Tiomkin.
Another notable Jewish music composer for entertainment media, specifically television, is the award winning [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0505725/ Stewart Levin] .
Radio and television
The first radio chains, the Radio Corporation of America and the
Columbia Broadcasting System, were created by the Jewish-American David Sarnoffand William S. Paley, respectively. These Jewish innovators were also among the first producers of televisions, both black-and-white and color. [Johnson, "op. cit.' p. 462-463.] Among the Jewish immigrant communities of America there was also a thriving Yiddish languageradio, with its "golden age" from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Although there is little specifically Jewish television in the United States (
National Jewish Television, largely religious, broadcasts only three hours a week), Jews have been involved in American television from its earliest days. From Sid Caesarand Milton Berleto Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, and Andy Kaufmanto Billy Crystalto Jerry Seinfeld, Jewish stand-up comedians have been icons of American television. Other Jews that held a prominent role in early radio and television were Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Walter Winchelland David Susskind. In the analysis of Paul Johnson,
The Broadway musical, radio and TV were all examples of a fundamental principle in
Jewish diasporahistory: Jews opening up a completely new field in business and culture, a " tabula rasa" on which to set their mark, before other interests had a chance to take possession, erect guildor professionalfortifications and deny them entry. [Johnson, "op. cit." p. 462-463.]
One of the first televised situation comedies, "
The Goldbergs" was set in a specifically Jewish milieu in the Bronx. While the overt Jewish milieu of "The Goldbergs" was unusual for an American television series—one of the few other examples being "Brooklyn Bridge" (1991–1993). Jews have also played an enormous role among the creators and writers of television comedies: Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Selma Diamond, Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, and Neil Simonall wrote for Sid Caesar; Reiner's son Rob Reinerworked with Norman Learon " All in the Family" (which often engaged anti-semitismand other issues of prejudice); Larry Davidand Jerry Seinfeldcreated the hit sitcom " Seinfeld", Lorne Michaels, Al Franken, Rosie Shuster, and Alan Zweibelof " Saturday Night Live" breathed new life into the variety showin the 1970s.
Jewish musical contributions also tend to reflect the cultures of the countries in which Jews live, the most notable examples being classical and
popular musicin the United Statesand Europe. "(See: Jews in Classical Music and Jews in Mainstream and Jazz)". Some music, however, is unique to particular Jewish communities, such as Israeli music, Israeli Folk music, Klezmer, Sephardic and Ladino music, and Mizrahi music.
Deriving from Biblical traditions, Jewish dance has long been used by Jews as a medium for the expression of joy and other communal emotions. Each Jewish diasporic community developed its own dance traditions for wedding celebrations and other distinguished events. For
Ashkenazi Jewsin Eastern Europe, for example, dances, whose names corresponded to the different forms of klezmermusic that were played, were an obvious staple of the wedding ceremony of the shtetl. Jewish dances both were influenced by surrounding Gentiletraditions and Jewish sources preserved over time. "Nevertheless the Jews practiced a corporeal expressive language that was highly differentiated from that of the non-Jewish peoples of their neighborhood, mainly through motions of the hands and arms, with more intricate legwork by the younger men." [ [http://borzykowski.users.ch/EnglYidDance.htm Yiddish, Klezmer, Ashkenazic or 'shtetl' dances] , Le Site Genevois de la Musique Klezmer. Accessed 12 February 2006.] In general, however, in most religiously traditional communities, members of the opposite sex dancing together or dancing at times other than at these events was frowned upon.
Jewish humor is the long tradition of humor in Judaism dating back to the
Torahand the Midrash, but generally refers to the more recent stream of verbal, self-deprecating and often anecdotal humor originating in Eastern Europe and which took root in the United Statesover the last hundred years. Beginning with vaudeville, and continuing through radio, stand-up, film, and television, a significant number of American comedians have been Jewish.
List of Jews in the visual arts."
Compared to music or theater, there is less of a specifically Jewish tradition in the
visual arts. The most likely and accepted reason is that, as has been previously shown with Jewish music and literature, before Emancipation Jewish culture was dominated by religious tradition. As most Rabbinical authorities believed that the Second Commandment prohibited much visual art that would qualify as "graven images", Jewish artists were relatively rare until they lived in assimilated European communities beginning in the late 18th century. [Ismar Schorsch, [http://learn.jtsa.edu/topics/parashah/5755/vayakhel.shtml Shabbat Shekalim Va-Yakhel 5755] , commentary on Exodus 35:1 - 38:20. February 25, 1995. Accessed 12 February 2006.] [Velvel Pasternak, [http://www.judaism.com/12paths/music&art.htm Music and Art] , part of "12 Paths" on Judaism.com. Accessed 12 February 2006.] It should be noted however, that despite fears by early religious communities of art being used for idolatrous purposes, Jewish "sacred" art is recorded in the Tanakhand extends throughout Jewish Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The Tabernacleand the two Temples in Jerusalem form the first known examples of "Jewish art". During the first centuries of the Common Era, Jewish religious art also was created in regions surrounding the Mediterranean such as Syriaand Greece, including frescoeson the walls of synagogues, [Jessica Spitalnic Brockman, [http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/Art/TO_ArtOverview/ArtHistory.htm A Brief History of Jewish Art] on MyJewishLearning.com. Accessed 12 February 2006.] as well as the Jewish catacombs in Rome. [Michael Schirber, [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8644832 Did Christians copy Jewish catacombs?] , MSNBC, July 20, 2005. Accessed 12 February 2006.] [Jona Lendering, [http://www.livius.org/di-dn/diaspora/rome.html The Jewish diaspora: Rome] . Livius.org. Accessed 12 February 2006.] Middle Age Rabbinical and Kabbalistic literature also contain textual and graphic art, most famously the illuminated haggadahs. However, in the ghettos of Europe it was even illegal for Jews to create art. [Roza Bieliauskiene and Felix Tarm, [http://www.jewishartnetwork.com/JewishArt/history.asp Brief History of Jewish Art] , Jewish Art Network. Archived October 23, 2004.] Johnson again summarizes this sudden change from small amount of participation of Jews in visual art (as in many other arts) to a large entry of them into this branch of European cultural life:
Again, the arrival of the Jewish artist was a strange phenomenon. It is true that, over the centuries, there had been many animals (though few humans) in Jewish art: lions on
Torahcurtains, owls on Judaic coins, animals on the Capernaumcapitals, birds on the rim of the fountain-basis in the fifth-century Naro synagoguein Tunis; there were carved animals, too, on timber synagogues in eastern Europe- indeed the Jewish wood-carver was the prototype of the modern Jewish plastic artist. A book of Yiddish folk- ornament, printed at Vitebskin 1920, was similar to Chagall's own bestiary. But the resistance of pious Jews to portraying the living image was still strong at the beginning of the twentieth century. [Johnson, "op.cit.", p. 411.]
There were few Jewish "secular" artists in Europe prior to the Emancipation that spread throughout Europe with the Napoleonic conquests. There were exceptions, and
Salomon Adlerwas a prominent portrait painter in eighteenth century Milan. The delay in participation in the visual arts parallels the lack of Jewish participation in European classical music until the nineteenth century, and which was progressively overcome with the rise of Modernism in the 20th century. There were many Jewish artists in the 19th century, but Jewish artistic activity boomed during the end of World War I. According to Nadine Nieszawer, "Until 1905, Jews were always plunged into their books but from the first Russian Revolution, they became emancipated, committed themselves in politics and became artists. A real Jewish cultural rebirth". [Rebecca Assoun, [http://www.ejpress.org/article/culture/1788 Jewish artists in Montparnasse] . European Jewish Press, 19 July 2005. Accessed 12 February 2006.] Individual Jews figured in the modern artistic movements of Europe— Art Deco( Tamara de LempickaWith the exception of those living in isolated Jewish communities, most Jews listed here as contributing to secular Jewish culture also participated in the cultures of the peoples they lived with and nations they lived in. In most cases, however, the work and lives of these people did not exist in two distinct cultural spheres but rather in one that incorporated elements of both. This person had one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent, and therefore exemplified this phenomenon "par excellence".] ), Bauhaus( Mordecai Ardon, László Moholy-Nagy), Constructivism ( Boris Aronson, El Lissitzky), Cubism( Nathan Altman, Jacques Lipchitz, Louis Marcoussis, Max Weber, Ossip Zadkine), Expressionism( Erich Kahn, Jack Levine, Jules Pascin, Chaim Soutine), Impressionism ( Max Liebermann, Leonid Pasternak, Camille Pissarro), Minimalism( Richard Serra), Orphism( Sonia Delaunay), Realism ( Raphael Soyer), Social Realism( Leon Bibel, Ben Shahn, Raphael Soyer), Surrealism ( Victor Brauner, Marc Chagall, Méret Oppenheimand Man Ray), the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism( Arik Brauer, Ernst Fuchs) and Vorticism( David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein), as well as some not necessarily affiliated with a single movement ( Balthus, Eduard Bendemann, Mark Gertler, Maurycy Gottlieb, Nahum Gutman, Menashe Kadishman, Moise Kisling, R. B. Kitaj, Mane-Katz, Isidor Kaufman, Michel Kikoine, Pinchus Kremegne, Amedeo Modigliani, Elie Nadelman, Felix Nussbaum, Charlotte Salomon, Boris Schatz, George Segal, Anna Ticho, William Rothenstein)— and have been particularly prominent in the post-World War II United States and UK— Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, and Judy Chicago.
During the early 20th century Jews figured particularly prominently in the
Montparnassemovement, and after World War IIamong the abstract expressionists: Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Al Held, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Barnett Newman, Milton Resnick, Mark Rothko, and Louis Schankeras well as the Postmodernists. [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/artists.html Jewish Artists] , Jewish Virtual Library, 2005. Accessed 12 February 2006.] Many Russian Jews were prominent in the art of scenic design, particularly the aforementioned Chagall and Aronson, as well as the revolutionary Léon Bakst, who like the other two also painted. One Mexican Jewish artist was Pedro Friedeberg; it was once thought the Frida Kahlo's father was Jewish, but historians have determined that he was not. Gustav Klimtwas not Jewish, but nearly all of his patrons and several of his models were. Among major artists Chagall may be the most specifically Jewish in his themes. But as art fades into graphic design, Jewish names and themes become more prominent: Leonard Baskin, Al Hirschfeld, Ben Shahn, Art Spiegelmanand Saul Steinberg. And in the Golden and Silver ages of American comic books, the Jewish role was overwhelming: Joe Shusterand Jerry Siegel, creators of " Superman", were Jewish, as were Bob Kane("né" Robert Cohen), Will Eisner, Martin Goodman, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and Stan Leeof Marvel Comics; and William Gainesand Harvey Kurtzman, founders of "Mad", to name only a small sample. Many of those involved in the later ages of comics are also Jewish, such as Julius Schwartz, Jenette Kahn, Len Wein, Peter David, Neil Gaiman, and Brian Michael Bendis.
cookingcombines the food of many cultures in which Jews have traveled, including Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Spanish, German and Eastern European styles of cooking, all influenced by the need for food to be kosher. Thus, "Jewish" foods like hummus, stuffed cabbage, and blintzes all come from various other cultures. The amalgam of these foods, plus uniquely Jewish contributions like bagels, tzimmis, cholent, gefilte fishand matzah balls, make up Jewish cuisine.
Culture of Israel
Israeli hip hop
The Holocaust in art and literature
Notes and references
* The section on banking is drawn largely from the article [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=58&letter=U "Usury"] in the
public domain" Jewish Encyclopedia" (1901–1906). The citation of Théodore Reinach is theirs.
* Măciucă, Constantin, preface to Bercovici, Israil, "O sută de ani de teatru evriesc în România" ("One hundred years of Yiddish/Jewish theater in Romania"), 2nd Romanian-language edition, revised and augmented by Constantin Măciucă. Editura Integral (an imprint of Editurile Universala), Bucharest (1998). ISBN 973-98272-2-5. "See the article on the author for further information."
* Johnson, Paul (1987). "A History of the Jews". New York: Harper Perennial.
* Landa, M.J. (1926). "The Jew in Drama". New York: Ktav Publishing House (1969).
* Melamed, S.M., "The Yiddish Stage", "New York Times",
September 27, 1925(X2)
* [http://www.csjo.org/ Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations]
* [http://www.jewishmuseum.info/ Global Directory of Jewish Museums]
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