Faculty in the News

If you’re asking American Jews if they’re religious, you don’t understand American Jews

Prof. Rachel B. Gross writes about religion in Pew Research Center’s new study, “Jewish Americans in 2020,” in Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Read the article on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website.

Photo: A woman with a tallit. Jewish traditional religious practice is fading among new generations of American Jews, according to the findings from the Pew Research Center's 2021 study on American Judaism.

Is the Jewish Deli the New Synagogue?

Rachel B. Gross finds Jewish life flourishing in unconventional institutions, including museums and restaurants.

Are sociologists and communal leaders looking for American Judaism in all the wrong places?

Rachel B. Gross argues that too many community studies and their authors see Judaism in decline because they measure synagogue attendance, ritual observance and other traditional behaviors and “fail to see it flourishing in unconventional religious institutions like museums and restaurants.”

Read the entire story in The New York Jewish Week website.

He claimed White Jews gained from White supremacy. Now he’s more popular than ever.

Religion News Service reports on the reaction to Marc Dollinger's new preface to his book Black Power, Jewish Politics.

Historian Marc Dollinger is on a quest to analyze Jewish complicity in racism.

(RNS) — In the days following the death of George Floyd, Marc Dollinger was suddenly in demand everywhere.

In addition to teaching classes at San Francisco State University where he is full professor, the blond-haired historian of U.S. Judaism was suddenly sought after for his insights on the racial reckoning happening across the country and the role American Jews play in it.

In the middle of a pandemic and amid an intensity that hasn’t let up, Dollinger parked himself in front of his home computer and hasn’t left.

Since May, the 56-year-old professor has led 80 Zoom lectures and workshops, speaking to synagogue groups, college students and interfaith leaders. He’s been invited to talks at Jewish community centers, historical societies and book clubs. He was interviewed by the NFL and by CNN’s Don Lemon. He spoke to German public radio and to a Mormon-Jewish dialogue group.

The subject, as always, is Jews and race, or, more specifically, whether white U.S. Jews share the blame for America’s racial injustices. These are weighty themes, and he expounds on them with a ready smile and a folksy demeanor.

The nation’s racial reckoning has challenged his own biases, but in this age of polarization, Dollinger remains that rare public scholar who owns up to his own biases with disarming candor.

Read the entire story on the RNS website.

Controversies about Jews and white supremacy are erasing Jews of color, writes Prof. Marc Dollinger

"In December, the Forward published an article about my most recent book, “Black Power, Jewish Politics,” with a headline that mentioned Jews in connection with white supremacy.

With those two words — “white supremacy” — the internet lit up. The article received over 100 critical comments. The Forward published an op-ed pushing back on the idea that Jews might have anything to do with white supremacy. In open letters, readers with a multitude of viewpoints debated the appropriateness of applying the term to Jews and to American Jewish history."

Read the story on the Forward website.

Marc Dollinger talks to "The Foward" about the role of the Black Church in the Georgia Senate race

“At some point you’re no longer attacking Warnock, you’re attacking the prophetic voice of the Black Church,” said Eric McDaniel, author of “Politics in the Pews: The Political Mobilization of Black Churches.” “It’s seen as an attack on the civil rights legacy of the Black Church.”

View the story on The Forward's website.

Rachel Gross writes about the politics of nostalgia in Religion & Politics

"On January 20, after new Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff was sworn in, he tweeted that he had carried in his jacket pocket copies of the 1911 and 1913 manifests of ships on which his great-grandparents had arrived at Ellis Island. Ossoff’s photocopies were more than good luck charms. He used them as a religious artifact—“a totem,” as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency described it—that helped him reflect on his place in the world through an emotional connection to his heritage. His nostalgic relationship to his family history is in line with the way many Jews and other Americans tell stories about their place in the world.

In my new book Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice, I examine the materials and institutions through which American Jews engage, promote, and teach nostalgia for the immigration of Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. This is the history of the majority—though certainly not all—of American Jewish families, including Ossoff’s. Nostalgia for the mainstream story of Eastern European origins and early-twentieth-century American Jewish immigrant experiences has become a prominent part of American Jewish religion from the 1970s to the present day. I look at case studies of the materials and institutions of Jewish genealogists, historic synagogues used as museums, children’s books and dolls, and artisanal delis and other Jewish food sites, and find that they are best understood as part of American Jewish religion. Just like many other religious activities, these practices of Jewish nostalgia teach individuals to place themselves in community-defined stories about the past and shared values."

Read the remainder of the story by Rachel Gross on the Religion & Politics website.