The Objects That Remain
Penn State University Press, 2020
North American Religions
The New York University Press.
Series Editors: Tracy Fessenden (Religious Studies, Arizona State University) Laura Levitt (Religion, Jewish Studies, and Gender, Temple University) David Harrington Watt (Quaker Studies, Haverford College)
In recent years a cadre of industrious, imaginative, and theoretically sophisticated scholars of religion have focused their attention on North America. As a result the field is far more subtle, expansive, and interdisciplinary than it was just two decades ago. The North American Religions series builds on this transformative momentum. Books in the series move among the discourses of ethnography, cultural analysis, and historical study to shed new light on a wide range of religious experiences, practices, and institutions. They explore topics such as lived religion, popular religious movements, religion and social power, religion and cultural reproduction, and the relationship between secular and religious institutions and practices. The series focus primarily, but not exclusively, on religion in the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
American Jewish Loss after the Holocaust
New York University Press, 2007.
Many of us belong to communities that have been scarred by terrible calamities. And many of us come from families that have suffered grievous losses. How we reflect on these legacies of loss and the ways they inform each other are the questions Laura Levitt takes up in this provocative and passionate book.
An American Jew whose family was not directly affected by the Holocaust, Levitt grapples with the challenges of contending with ordinary Jewish loss. She suggests that although the memory of the Holocaust may seem to overshadow all other kinds of loss for American Jews, it can also open up possibilities for engaging these more personal and everyday legacies.
Weaving in discussions of her own family stories and writing in a manner that is both deeply personal and erudite, Levitt shows what happens when public and private losses are seen next to each other, and what happens when difficult works of art or commemoration, such as museum exhibits or films, are seen alongside ordinary family stories about more intimate losses. In so doing she illuminates how through these “ordinary stories” we may create an alternative model for confronting Holocaust memory in Jewish culture.
“Levitt’s intimate narrative shows how each of us is haunted by our own personal losses and by the grand tragedy of the Holocaust that has shaped a generation. The author demands that each of us take our own stories of loss seriously not despite the overwhelming memory of the Holocaust but in light of it.”David Shneer, co-author of New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora.
“Brave and fruitful . . . Compels viewers to confront taboos regarding Holocaust representation and to consider the ways in which the devastation of the Holocaust might shed new light on the study of American Jewish history.”American Jewish Archives Journal.
“A terrific, captivating, and thoroughly original book.”Oren Baruch Stier, author of Committed to Memory: Cultural Meditations of the Holocaust.
Review Essay by Kitty Millet, San Francisco State University: [pdf]
Impossible Images: Contemporary Art After the Holocaust
Co-edited with Shelly Hornstein and Laurence Silberstein. New York University Press, 2003.
Impossible Images brings together a distinguished group of contributors, including artists, photographers, cultural critics, and historians, to analyze the ways in which the Holocaust has been represented in and through paintings, architecture, photographs, museums, and monuments.
Exploring frequently neglected aspects of contemporary art after the Holocaust, the volume demonstrates how visual culture informs Jewish memory, and makes clear that art matters in contemporary Jewish studies. Accepting that knowledge is culturally constructed, Impossible Images makes explicit the ways in which context matters. It shows how the places where an artist works shape what is produced, in what ways the space in which a work of art is exhibited and how it is named influences what is seen or not seen, and how calling attention to certain details in a visual work, such as a gesture, a color, or an icon, can change the meaning assigned to the work as a whole.
Written accessibly for a general readership and those interested in art and art history, the volume also includes 20 color plates from leading artists Alice Lok Cahana, Judy Chicago, Debbie Teicholz, and Mindy Weisel.
“The essays probe the growing vocabulary of Holocaust imagery and address the various ways (in varied venues) that the Holocaust has been remembered, represented, and received.”American Jewish History
“(Makes) a cogent case for a deeper, unmastered engagement with Holocaust trauma.”Journal of Jewish Studies
Jews and Feminism: The Ambivalent Search for Home
New York: Routledge, 1997.
By interrogating America’s promise of a home for Jews as citizens of the liberal state, Jews and Feminism questions the very terms of this social “contract”. Maintaining that Jews, women, and Jewish women are not necessarily secure within this construction of the state, Laura Levitt links this contractual construction of belonging and acceptance to legacies of marriage as a contractual home for Jewish women.
Exploring the immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe for America, as well as their desire to make this country their permanent home, Levitt raises questions about the search for stability in specific Jewish religious and cultural traditions which is linked to the liberal academy as well as feminist study, thus offering an account of an ambivalent Jewish feminist embrace of America as home.
Laura Levitt’s Jews and Feminism crosses boundaries and breaks rules to offer a visionary possibility for a feminist, Jewish cultural studies. This genuinely experimental work juxtaposes theology, a feminist analysis of liberalism, and a Jewish cultural analysis of emancipation to construct an original reading of being a Jew and a Jewish woman in the United States. Levitt’s ability to create dialogues between feminist theory, the critical study of identity, and Jewish texts in order to investigate the meaning of home makes this work a major contribution to women’s studies, cultural studies and Jewish studies. Jews and Feminism announces that Jewish, feminist cultural studies has come of age.Riv-Ellen Prell, University of Minnesota
Laura Levitt’s Jews and Feminism is an eminently modern reading of the gender asymmetries that haunt the heart of Judaism. Original and imaginative, personal and theoretical, Levitt challenges her readers to reconsider what it means to be a feminist and a Jew at the end of the twentieth century. This book may not answer all the questions posed by its provocative title, but it asks them.Nancy K. Miller, The Graduate School and Lehman College, CUNY
… very subtle … [Levitt] remind[s] us of the complex texture of the many ideas which make up our personal and cultural identity … Coming from the cutting edge of feminist and cultural studies, Jews and Feminism forces us to recognize the very specific and local content of all that we do.David Blumenthal, Emory University
Judaism Since Gender
Co-edited with Mirian Peskowitz. New York: Routledge, 1996.
Judaism Since Gender offers a radically new concept of Jewish Studies, staking out new intellectual terrain and redefining the discipline as an intrinsically feminist practice. The question of how knowledge is gendered has been discussed by philosophers and feminists for years, yet is still new to many scholars of Judaism. Judaism Since Gender illuminates a crucial debate among intellectuals both within and outside the academy, and ultimately overturns the belief that scholars of Judaism are still largely oblivious of recent developments in the study of gender. Offering a range of provocations–Jewish men as sissies, Jesus as transvestite, the problem of eroticizing Holocaust narratives–this timely collection pits the joys of transgression against desires for cultural wholeness.
…a valuable glimpse into the concerns of younger Jewish studies scholars, especially those interested in cultural studies. Many of the essays were intriguing….Journal of American Ethnic History
“The Allure of Material Objects: Fetishization Reconsidered,” Massachusetts Review, 60:4 (Winter 2019-20), 1-17.
“The I in My Text: Revisiting Critical Feminist Identity Politics, Refusing the Allures of Purity,” for Shofar, 37.2 (Summer 2019), 91-106.
“Miki Kratsman, Diptych from The Resolution of the Suspect,” MAVCOR, Material and Visual Culture, Yale University, Online Publication, live March 24, 2018, https://mavcor.yale.edu/mavcor-journal/miki-kratsman-diptych-from-the-resolution-of-the-suspect doi:10.22332/mav.obj.2018.2
“Revisiting the Property Room: A Humanist Perspective on Doing Justice and Telling Stories,” MAVCOR, Material and Visual Culture, Yale University, Online publication, live April 30, 2015, http://mavcor.yale.edu/conversations/essays/revisiting-property-room-humanist-perspective-doing-justice-and-telling-stories doi:10.22332/mav.med.2015.1
“Living Memory,” Journal of Jewish Identities, 6.2 (July 2013), 67-88. “Evidence: Doing Justice,” Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 41.4 (November, 2012), 37-44.
“A Letter to Mary Daly,” for special forum in Honor of Mary Daly, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 28.2 (Fall 2012), 109-112.
With Dan Morris. “Talking about Life After the Holocaust.” Bridges, Vol. 16, No. 1 (2011). [pdf]
“Shedding Liberalism all over again,” “Religion and the Body,” a special issue of The Scholar & Feminist Online, (Fall, 2011), http://sfonline.barnard.edu/cf/
“Still Looking: Self-Love, Ethics and Seeing Jewish,” in “ Jews & Performance,” special issue of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies, 55:3 (Fall 2011), 100-109.
“What is Religion Anyway? Rereading the Postsecular from an American Jewish Perspective,” Forum on Postsecular and Literary Studies, Religion & Literature, 41.3 (Autumn 2009), 107-117 (published Summer 2010).
With Rebecca Alpert, introduction to “Jewish feminist and our fathers: Reflections across gender and generations,” Bridges14.1 (April 2009), 1-10. [pdf]
With Deborah Glanzberg-Krainin, “Gender Theory and Jewish Studies,” Religion Compass, Blackwell Publishing, online , 2/3 (2009), 241-252. [pdf]
“Embodied Criticism: A French Lesson,” for a special issue on Life Writing, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, Marlene Kadar, Linda Warley, and Jeanne Perreault, ed., 39.1-2(January-April, 2008), 217-238. [pdf]
“The Objectivity of Strangers, Seeing and Being Seen on the Street: A response to Deborah Dash Moore’s “On City Streets,” The 2006 Marshall Sklare Memorial Lecture, Contemporary Jewry Vol. 28 (2008), 114-120. [pdf]
“Engendering the Jewish Past: Towards a More Feminist Jewish Studies,” for a special issue of Feminist Theology, Julie Clague ed. 16.3 (2008), 365-378. [pdf]
“Impossible Assimilation’s, American Liberalism, and Jewish Difference: Revisiting Jewish Secularism.” American Quarterly Vol. 59, N. 3 (September 2007), pp. 807-832. [pdf]
“Changing Focus: Family Photography and American Jewish Identity”The Scholar & Feminist Online, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Winter 2003). [Link]
“Intimate Engagements: A Holocaust Lesson,” Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Studies , Number 7 (Spring 2004), 190-205. [pdf]
“Revenge, 2002,” Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Studies , Number 6 (Fall 2003), 35-39. [pdf]
with Miriam Peskowitz, “Feminism” for Naomi Seidman and David Biale, ed. Judaism, Oxford Bibliographies, Oxford University Press, Online, (Live, March 12, 2015).
“Judaism and Gender,” International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Neil J. Smelser, and Dr. Paul B. Baltes, Editors in Chief, Oxford: Elsevier Science Limited, 2001, 8011-8014. Updated and Revised, Second Edition, 2015, 875-878.
“Judaism and Gender,” International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences , Dr. Neil J. Smelser, and Dr. Paul B. Baltes, Editors in Chief, (Oxford : Elsevier Science Limited, 2001), 8011-8014. [pdf]
Academic Blogs and Communal Writing
“Revisiting Reflections on Relics and Contagion in Two Parts (November 2019),” for Political Theology blog, https://politicaltheology.com/revisiting-reflections-on-relics-and-contagion-in-two-parts-november-2019/ September 10, 2020.
“100 Blessings,” Pandemic and Plague: Theological and Philosophical Reflections, https://katz.sas.upenn.edu/resources/blog/pandemic-and-plague-theological-and-philosophical-reflections April 6, 2020.
“(Holocaust Memory) Laura Levitt guest blog (The Evidence Room),” Jewish Philosophy Place, https://jewishphilosophyplace.com/2019/07/01/holocaust-memory-laura-levitt-guest-blog-the-evidence-room/?fbclid=IwAR0wX3NbPgcexizlrEnitlmu3F8X_Y0LfXmc7oq8odt_wO85Vt1ruTKPX20 July 1, 2019.
“Secular, Sacred, Yiddish, Jewish,” for “Recovering the Immanentist Tradition,” Immanent Frame, https://tif.ssrc.org/2017/10/19/secular-sacred-yiddish-jewish/ October, 19, 2017.
“On the Death of Jacob Neusner,” for Religion Dispatches, http://religiondispatches.org/the-awkward-silence-in-the-wake-of-jacob-neusners-passing/ December 7, 2016.
“Revolutionary Love and the Colonization of a Critical Voice: An Outsider’s View,” for NAASR Notes, http://bulletin.equinoxpub.com/2016/11/revolutionary-love-and-the-colonization-of-a-critical-voice-an-outsiders-reflections/ November 29, 2016.
“The Rites and Rituals of Holding: Revisiting a Holocaust Transgression,” AJS Perspectives, Spring 2017, 12-14.http://perspectives.ajsnet.org/transgression-issue/the-rites-and-rituals-of-holding-revisiting-a-holocaust-transgression/
“Ritual and Rites of Holocaust Commemoration: A Silence in the Archive” for NAASR Notes, http://bulletin.equinoxpub.com/2016/02/naasr-notes-laura-s-levitt/ posted February 12, 2016.
Film & Multimedia
“Kaddish for My Mother,” May 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vez9HfxTEKk
“A Photograph in Word,” Characterizing Material Economies of Religion in the America, A multiphase project, MAVCOR.
Other Publications & Writing
Article: “Laura and Miriam: On Friendship and Writing,” Shuttle [pdf]
“Speaking out of the Silence of Rape: A Personal Account.” Fireweed: A Feminist Quarterly of Writing, Politics, Art & Culture. No. 41 (Fall 1993), 20-31. [pdf]