Examines the role that images of Palestine played in the construction of prewar Jewish American identity.
In the decades before the establishment of the State of Israel, striking images of Palestine circulated widely among Jewish Americans. These images visualized "the Orient" for American viewers, creating the possibility for Jewish Americans to understand themselves through imagining "Oriental" counterparts. In The Hebrew Orient, Jessica L. Carr shows how images of the Holy Land made Jewish Americans feel at home in the United States by imagining "the Orient" as heritage. Carr's analyses of periodicals from Hadassah and the Zionist Organization of America, art calendars from the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, the Jewish Encyclopedia, and the Jewish exhibit at the 1933 World's Fair are richly illustrated. What emerges is a new understanding of the place of Orientalism in American Zionism. Creating a narrative about their origins, Jewish Americans looked east to understand themselves as Westerners.
Jessica L. Carr is Philip and Murial Berman Scholar of Jewish Studies and an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.
"If excellence in research is contingent upon raising new questions and highlighting existing dilemmas, then this book easily passes the test. Carr brings us a new and compelling perspective on the role played first by Zionism and at a later stage by the State of Israel as facilitating factors in the integration of American Jews into American society and in bolstering American Jewish ethnic identity. The book abounds with information woven into the illuminating theoretical discussion and confronts fundamental questions concerning the shaping of American Jewry in the twentieth century." — AJS Review
"This book raises the bar for academic works about Jewish material culture. It is thoughtful and thorough in layout, method, and analysis … In addition, Carr offers an elegant introduction to the methodology of visual culture, making this book more accessible to readers unfamiliar with the field." — American Jewish Archives Journal