The Jewish Romance with the Modern City: Loving, Leaving, and Reforming
Reception to be held prior to lecture at 6:30 PM
25th Annual Belin Lecture in American Jewish Public Affairs
In modern times, Jews emerged as the consummate urban dwellers. Urbanism imprinted itself upon Jewish political, cultural, economic, and spiritual life, just as Jews imprinted themselves on city space. What happened, then, to cities and to Jews, when Jews joined the droves of Americans who left urban space after World War II? Drawing from her extensive research on Detroit, Lila Corwin Berman suggests that contrary to the history of white flight, the story of Jewish migration away from cities is not one of urban disinvestment. As Jews moved away from cities, they remained invested, even if ambivalently, in urban life. American Jews’ enduring urbanism reflected their historical entanglement with modern urban formation. In recent years, Jews have returned to city spaces once considered inhospitable to Jewish life, helping to set in motion new political and economic structures that are remaking urban life as we know it.
Lila Corwin Berman is Associate Professor of History at Temple University. She holds the Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History and directs the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Berman received her B.A. from Amherst College and her Ph.D. from Yale. She is author of Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit (University of Chicago, forthcoming 2015), for which she received support from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. Her first book, Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity (California, 2009), was awarded recognition from the Center for Jewish History and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and was a finalist for the Jewish Book Council’s Sami Rohr Prize. She is currently working on a project about the role of philanthropy and foundations in Jewish communal and American public life and has received a fellowship from the Center for the Humanities at Temple to pursue this research. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, Jewish Social Studies, the Forward, Religion and American Culture, Sh’ma, and American Jewish History, and she has also contributed chapters to several anthologies, including, most recently, an essay entitled “American-Jewish Politics Is Urban Politics,” in Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in the Twentieth Century United States (Penn, forthcoming 2015).