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Indiana University Bloomington
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Symposium -- Jews, Race, America

October 6-7, 2013
Hoosier Room, Indiana Memorial Union
Convener: Professor Sarah Imhoff

Get Conference Schedule Here

Does critical thinking about race have anything to say to Jewish studies? Chastened by the devastation of the Shoah, Jews and other Americans have disavowed applying the idea of “race” to Jews, and often labeled such racial language antisemitic. However, this disavowal has disguised the ways that ideas about race still deeply structure some aspects Jewish identity. Apart from studies on “Jews and Blacks” and anti-racist activism, contemporary popular and professional conversations about race in the U.S. rarely addresses Jewish identity. Nor does it question how race as an institution or social category affects conceptions of Jewishness. By incorporating scholars who use the methodologies of history, law, literary theory, religious studies, anthropology, and cultural studies, this symposium will confront wider questions: How is race used—both implicitly and explicitly—to construct who is Jewish? How do narratives of race, which draw on different historical locations and contexts, continue to influence how both Jewish and non-Jewish Americans think about Jewish identity? In what ways is race inadequate for, or an obstacle to, critical thinking about Jewish identity? The symposium is a way to connect scholars who are asking these questions in innovative ways, but whose audiences have up to now been largely separate. Brought together in conversation, these voices will have the potential to transform the way scholars conceive of Jewish identity and thereby shape the future of Jewish Studies.


Professor Jacob Dorman (University of Kansas)
"The Unbearable Whiteness of Being White Jews: Lessons from Black Jewish History"

Professor Dean Franco (Wake Forest University)
“Geography, the Eruv, and Jewish Los Angeles: Reflections on Peace and Proximity”

Professor Annalise Glauz-Todrank (Wake Forest University)
“Judging and Protecting Jewish Identity: Examining the Legal Process of Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb”

Professor Judith Neulander (Case Western Reserve University)
Jews, Race, New Mexico: Nineteenth Century Race-Science in the 21st Century

Professor Elliot Ratzman (Swarthmore College)
"Semite Like Me: The Political and Religious Dimensions of Jewish Passing"

Professor Jennifer Sartori (Northwestern University)
“’Real Jews’?  Adoptees, Race, and Identity in the American Jewish Community”

Professor Benjamin Schreier (Penn State University)
“Race as a Methodology: A Polemical View From Jewish American Literary Studies”

This event is free and open to the public. If you have a disability and need assistance, arrangements can be made to accommodate most needs. Please contact This event is co-sponsored by the Borns Jewish Studies Program and the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society