The New York Jew: Blessings and Curses



The figure of the New York Jew is at once among the most celebrated and villified figures in American culture.

And even though 400 years of history along the Hudson River have seen the barriers of anti-semitic discrimination fall and bridges to economic opportunity rise (with Jews achieving prominence in every area of America life, from sports and entertainment to politics, culture, and business) the figure of the New York Jew remains a powerfully controversial cultural signifier. The New York Jew is at once marginalized and central to the life of the city and the nation, representative in the global imagination of the very best and the very worst that our civilizations have to offer. This course presents a cultural history of the New York Jew, from the earliest arrivals in the early 1600s to the klezmer revival of recent years.

About the professor

Jonathan Gill received his PhD from Columbia University in American literature and has taught literature, history, and writing at Columbia University, Barnard College, the Manhattan School of Music, Fordham University, the City College of New York and the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. He specialises in American Studies, in particular post-World War II art, film and literature, African-American history and culture, experimental and vernacular musics, the counterculture of the 1960s, the literature of immigration and the cultures of intolerance. He has also taught Yiddish at the University of Amsterdam and has written and lectured widely on Judaism and Jewish culture. His most recent work is the New York Times best-seller "Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History, From Dutch Village to Capital of Black America" (Grove/Atlantic 2011). He has also published articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Nation, the Boston Review, the Guardian and the Associated Press, and he is currently a food columnist and book critic for the Holland Times. He is currently completing a manuscript for Norton on espionage in Hollywood during the Cold War.


12 September: The Earliest New York Jews: "The Company or the Community" 

  • Picturing New York Jewish History: Ben Katchor's graphic novel The Jew of New York

26 September: The Age of Immigration: "In America They Eat Challah Every Day" 

  • Jewish Bildungsroman, Jewish Lyric: Abraham Cahan’s novel, The Rise of David Levinsky
  • Emma Lazarus’s poem The New Collossus

17 October: The 1920s, Jazz Age Jews 

  • George and Ira Gershwin and Black Music: Mischa, Yascha, Toscha, Sascha”

31 October: The 1930s and 1940s, Gold Standards, Silver Screens

  • The Imperatives of Memory: Alfred Kazin memoir New York Jew

14 November: The Old War, the Cold War, The Old Left and the New Right: If Commentary and Dissent Merged 

  • Susan Sontag's essay Notes on Camp
  • Irving Howe’s autobiography A Margin of Hope
  • Hannah Arendt's essay “Eichmann in Jerusalem”

28 November: The Counterculture: The Revolution Will Not Be Kashered

  • The Poetry of Identification: Allen Ginsberg poem Kaddish
  • Jewish Laughter, Jewish Tears: Lenny Bruce, In His Own Words
  • Photography and the Third Commandment: Diane Arbus photograph The Jewish Giant

12 December: We Are That We Are: Post-Jew, Half-Jew, New Jew

  • Filming Secular Jewish Manhattan: Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall 
  • The Jewish Novelist's Public Secrets: Philip Roth novel Portnoy's Complaint 
  • Great Jewish Music, Past, Present, Future, and Post: John Zorn’s Corpus

Date, time, location and price

  • Date: 12, 26 September, 17, 31 October, 14, 28 November and 12 December 2017
  • Time: Tuesdays, 19:00 - 21:00 uur
  • Number of colleges: 7
  • Location: Universiteitsbibliotheek, Singel 425, Belle van Zuylenzaal
  • Price: € 140 / € 110 (discount price for members of the Amsterdamse Universiteits-Vereniging)

Belangrijk om te weten

Course type Special lectures
Education Lectures
Semester/block Semester 1, block 1
Language English
Study material Zie programma
Other --
Deadline registration 11 September 2017 (subject to availability)


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Gepubliceerd door  Illustere School