UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, STROUM CENTER FOR JEWISH STUDIES -- Professor Rachel B. Gross is the John and Marcia Goldman Professor of American Jewish Studies in the Department of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. She wrote this paper in advance of her December 7 talk at University of Washington.
“Scholars of American religious history have long recognized the importance of the declension narratives — stories of a fall from grace. We tell stories about the way things were better in ‘the good old days’ in order to critique our present and make changes for the future,” Gross writes. “As I examine in my book manuscript, Feeling Jewish: Longing for Immigrant Pasts and American Jewish Religion, American Jewish organizations and businesses induce nostalgia for particular Jewish pasts as a fundamentally significant way of being Jewish. While nostalgia reduces complicated histories to an accessible narrative — a story of decline — it also produces personal and communal meaning and creates community through shared feelings.”