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Reconstructing Jewish Identity in Pre- and Post-Holocaust Literature and Culture

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Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pedich and Malgorzata Pakier

The volume aims to illuminate the issue of Jewish identity in the context of its pre-Holocaust European origins and post-Holocaust American and Israeli settings. Jewish experience and identity construction in Europe, America and Israel are presented through diverse perspectives: Merchant of Venice in the light of Levinas’ ethics, Italian Jews in the 20th century, German-speaking Jewish authors in the Nazi 1930s, the Hassidic culture of learning, the representation of contemporary Poland in Jewish photography, Jewish life in America in a kashrut observing Orthodox neighbourhood, Kaballah in feminist cyberpunk fiction by Marge Piercy, constructing Jewish identity in British fiction in novels by Will Self and Muriel Spark, and Israeli films focusing on ethical solutions to political problems.

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Introduction. Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich, Małgorzata Pakier

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Introduction Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich, Małgorzata Pakier His head was full of Europe – all those obscure languages in all those shadowy places where there had been all those shootings – in the streets, in the forest. (Cynthia Ozick, The Messiah of Stockholm) This quote, from an American Jewish writer, who set her novel in a European country, poignantly sums up the Jewish perspective on the Old World after the Holocaust, the sine-a-que-non caesura in any study of Jewish cultures. When Levinas reads The Merchant of Venice the vision of trains is inescapable, from the ghettos in Venice as much as from Kovno, together meeting their destiny at the station in Treblinka. Cynthia Ozick (1988:98) is merciless; those obscure languages with their incomprehensible messages, and “all those shootings” – in the European landscape both humanitas and natura became deadly. Jewish pho- tographers who bring to Poland their heads filled with a Europe of “shadowy places” painstakingly recreate that very vision through their camera lenses. Prior to the Holocaust the Jewish identity struggled with European anti- Semitism, either constructing its own world in the mode of the Hasiddim in Podolya, or attempting the illusion of safety of the assimilation in Germany. In the post-Holocaust world, with the state of Israel in existence in the Middle East and the Jewish diaspora largely moved across the ocean to Americas, the Old World remains both the precious heritage and the burden. As regards the Holo- caust, U.S. and European memories have been created from different perspec-...

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