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Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe Hardcover – January 7, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0520213630 ISBN-10: 0520213637 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (January 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520213637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520213630
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,601,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After two out of three European Jews were slain in the Holocaust, only a small number of Jews remains in Europe. How is it, then, that there is a widespread and growing infatuation with Jewish culture there? Gruber (Upon the Doorposts of Thy House; Jewish Heritage Travel), who has traveled extensively throughout Europe, attempts to explain this phenomenon. (She should not be confused with the prolific Ruth Gruber, whose account of 1,000 Jewish refugees placed in a military camp in Oswego, N.Y., in 1943 became the subject of a CBS miniseries in 2000.) Gruber finds persuasive evidence of interest in what she calls "Things Jewish," grouping them into three categories: Jewish archeology, which refers to cemeteries, synagogues and ghettos, either restored or rebuilt; "Museum Judaism," which includes Jewish heritage travel as well as Jewish museums; and Yiddish music, also known as Klezmer. Through direct observation, Gruber seeks to describe and understand how these expressions of Jewish culture have become popular even though there are so few Jews left in Europe. While she does not provide a definitive answer, she suggests, among other reasons, that the embrace of Jewish culture by non-Jews in Europe may signify atonement for the Holocaust, adherence to a multicultural ideal or a way to redefine "personal identity and national histories." Whatever the explanation, Gruber asserts that a "virtual Jewish world" has been created by "virtual Jews." This thoughtful narrative is rich in documentation and provocative in the issues it poses.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Gruber . . . combines solid knowledge of Jewish religion, culture and history with the sharp eye of an anthropologist/philosopher." -- Jerusalem Post

"Gruber . . . has created a must read for anyone interested in Jewish culture, or any culture for that matter." -- United Press International

"Virtually Jewish . . . has more depth and thoughtful analysis than many reporters' accounts." -- The Jewish Week

"[A] delightful, thoughtful, insightful, and provocative look at the new Jewish culture phenomena in Europe . . ." -- Ari Davidow, klezmershack.com

"[E]mploys a sociologist's eye. . . to consider the way [European] countries have been seeking to revive Jewish culture." -- Business Week

"[Gruber] brings . . . interest and expertise to bear on an intriguing recent trend." -- Montreal Gazette

More About the Author

Award-winning American writer, editor and photographer Ruth Ellen Gruber has chronicled European Jewish issues for more than two decades and works on cultural topics including an ongoing project called "Sauerkraut Cowboys" documenting how Europeans embrace the mythology of the American Wild West. She is the coordinator of the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu and in 2011 was awarded Poland's Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit, one of Poland's highest honors for foreign citizens.

Ruth coined the term "Virtually Jewish" to describe the way the so-called "Jewish space" in Europe is often filled by non-Jews: klezmer music, culture festivals, museums, tourism, and kitsch as well as serious and sensitive study and involvement.

Her books include National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, (2007), Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere) (2008), Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe (2002), and Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today (1994).

A former correspondent in Eastern Europe for United Press International, she is Senior European correspondent for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency JTA. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Tablet Magazine, The Forward, Hadassah Magazine, the New Leader, the London Independent and many other publications. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Hadassah Brandeis Institute, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Autry National Center/Institute for the Study of the American West, and others.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ruth Ellen Gruber is the acknowledged authority on Central Europe's Jewish renaissance since the fall of communism and this is her best work so far. Drawing on years of hands-on experience and passionate commitment to uncovering hidden stories, she explores the paradox that Jewish life and culture is vigorously alive in regions where actual numbers of Jews are comparatively few.
She examines everything from music to food, scholarship to jokes, culture to kitsch, and shows intimate knowledge of countless Jewish communities thriving throughout Eastern Europe. She describes how Jewishness in the region has triumphed over the twin traumas of the Holocaust and Communism to reconstitute a vibrant culture recognised and admired throughout the Jewish and non-Jewish world.
This is a great book, sensitive, scholarly and life-affirming, of interest to anyone who cares about roots, history and survival. I loved it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Yaakov Ben Shalom on February 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A colleague of mine (also a professor) recommended this book to me, and I am glad that he did. This book is a first-rate portrayal of the complicated world of European philosemitism and strange attempts to re-create a lost Europan Jewish world. As a graduate student working on German-Jewish history, I lived for several years in Germany, and I witnessed this complicated and somewhat peculiar phenomenon first-hand. Gruber explains so well what I witnessed and have struggled to explain to others. In particular, I would recommend Part 1 to my students and to others wishing to find suitable course reading on this topic.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ruth Ellen Gruber is an excellent writer. She sneaks up on you and manages to make a subject in which you think you have no interest absolutely fascinating-- and interesting! It takes much talent and erudition to do this and Gruber appears to have both in abundance. The subject of this book, at first glance, seems of minor importance, or probably even boring. Instead, Gruber draws you in and before you know it you can't put it down. For anyone even vaguely interested in Jewish culture, and/or modern European history, this book is a must read.
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