Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Synagogues, Jewish Communal Politics, Jewish Identity, Jewish Community, Ritual, Ethnicity
Abstract: In this article I investigate ritual life at the Moscow Choral Synagogue, the largest and longest running Orthodox synagogue in the Russian capital. Unlike many Eastern European synagogues, this synagogue is a thriving prayer community due to its unique congregation of Russian, Georgian, Bukharan, Mountain, and visiting Western Jews. I focus on a fistfight that took place between an Israeli and a Georgian Jew during prayer. I detail how Russian and Georgian Jews interpreted the incident to be a result of their different ethnicities, Russian and Georgian respectively. The fight elucidates how ritual in post-Soviet society provides the means for the production of ethnicity and Jewish identity. Arguing for localism within Judaism's transnational ideology, I suggest that Jewish identity, like ritual, is performative and contextual. I also show how the shifting power relations in post-Soviet society have reshaped ethnicity, making state-endorsed market reform a reference point of ethnic differentiation.
Abstract: If, as is widely argued, we live in a cosmopolitan moment, the processes of cosmopolitanization are sometimes fraught with danger. Describing contexts in which cosmopolitanism is censored, this article considers recursive erasures of difference in Turkish-Jewish architecture, bodily marking, and language that highlight this sense of dangerous cosmopolitanism. This scenario complicates the popular notion that cosmopolitanism requires public nomination of difference; instead, cosmopolitanism is sometimes observable only by accounting for knowledge of what should be kept private. Without a fundamental examination of the production and interpretation of knowledge of difference, reckonings of lived cosmopolitanism are incomplete.
Abstract: Anthropological analysis of the construction of history and tradition has focused on the role of the past in expressing group identities and interests. It has done so primarily in contexts where group identities are relatively clearly marked, as in nationalist movements or colonial situations. In many places, however, including many modern urban settings, group identities are ambiguous and poorly defined. In such contexts, standard approaches to the construction of the past are difficult to apply. This article contains a consideration of one such case, the Jewish community of Copenhagen, Denmark. A variety of Jewish accounts of the rescue of the Danish Jews from the Nazis in 1943 are analyzed. Emerging from a complex and deeply fragmented community, these narratives defy abstraction into a group version of the event. Thematically, however, all address problems of sameness and difference endemic to Danish Jewish life. A focus on such thematic issues allows a cultural analysis of the construction of the past, even where group identities are fragmented and incoherent.