Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Here, We're Real Jews": Producing Authentic Jews in American Summer Camps, 1945-1980
by Fox, Sandra, Ph.D., New York University, 2018, 264; 10750042
Abstract (Summary)

This project considers how postwar American Jewish leaders representing a diverse range of ideological commitments, including Zionism, Yiddishism, and liberal Judaism used summer camps to expose children to their ideologies. In the years following World War II, American Jewish leaders anxiously debated how to preserve and produce what they considered authentic Jewish culture, fearing that upward mobility and suburbanization threatened the integrity of Jewish life in America as they knew it. While their newfound social and economic mobility had clear benefits, a diverse grouping of American Jews participated in a communal conversation over how these changes threatened the modes by which Jews had previously affiliated with Judaism and acted as Jews. Without intervention, some argued, “authentic” Jewish culture would disappear altogether.

In search of solutions, Jewish educators looked towards the residential sleep-away camp, hoping to construct lived experiences for the youngsters as tools to counteract assimilation, and expecting to mold the increasingly suburban, affluent American youth into ideologically-imbued Jews who espoused one variant or another of Jewish authenticity. Through the elements of camps’ programs and schedules, Jews with varied ideological, political, and religious perspectives shared nearly identical goals, and aimed to meet them through nearly identical means. With a multi-generational perspective, this project aims to portray both a history of Jewish postwar anxieties and struggles for cultural preservation, and a provide an example of how second and third generation Americans more broadly negotiated their culture, purpose, and future through the intensive molding of youth.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Diner, Hasia, Zimmerman, Jonathan
Commitee: Engel, David, Estraikh, Gennady, Frankel, Oz
School: New York University
Department: Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Sociology, Judaic studies
Keywords: American history, Jewish history, Summer camp, Yiddishism, Youth history, Zionism
Publication Number: 10750042
ISBN: 9780438170926
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