Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism

Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism

Sarah Imhoff
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/13/2017
Format: Hardback 4 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02606-4
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How did American Jewish men experience manhood, and how did they present their masculinity to others? In this distinctive book, Sarah Imhoff shows that the project of shaping American Jewish manhood was not just one of assimilation or exclusion. Jewish manhood was neither a mirror of normative American manhood nor its negative, effeminate opposite. Imhoff demonstrates how early 20th-century Jews constructed a gentler, less aggressive manhood, drawn partly from the American pioneer spirit and immigration experience, but also from Hollywood and the YMCA, which required intense cultivation of a muscled male physique. She contends that these models helped Jews articulate the value of an acculturated American Judaism. Tapping into a rich historical literature to reveal how Jews looked at masculinity differently than Protestants or other religious groups, Imhoff illuminates the particular experience of American Jewish men.

Author Bio

Sarah Imhoff is Assistant Professor in the Department ofReligious Studies and the Borns Jewish Studies Program atIndiana University. Her research focuses on religion and the body, including work on gender and American Judaism both historically and in the present, the role of DNA and genetic discourse in constructions of Jewishness, and the history of the field of religious studies.


“Invariably lucid and engaging, Sarah Imhoff provides a secure foundation for how religion shaped American masculinity and how masculinity shaped American Judaism in the early twentieth century.”
 — Judith Gerson, author of By Thanksgiving We Were Americans: German Jewish Refugees and Holocaust Memory

“There is so much literature—and very good scholarship—on Judaism and gender, but the majority of that literature reflects an interest in women. A hearty thank you to Sarah Imhoff for writing the other half of the story and for doing it so elegantly.”
 — Claire Elise Katz, author of Levinas and the Crisis of Humanism

“Sarah Imhoff's Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism is a long-awaited and much-needed addition to the fields of Jewish studies, American studies, and gender studies.”
 — H-Judaic

Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism is a book both focused in its scope and broad in its ambition; it should be a key point of reference for scholars working in any of the diverse fields of study that it deftly weaves together.”
 — Gender & History

“[Imhoff] goes out of her way to render gender theory accessible, making the book appropriate for undergraduates and non-academics as well as scholars in the fields of religious studies, gender studies, and American Jewish history.”
 — American Jewish History

“This creative, thought-provoking, and innovative book offers a fresh addition for scholars of gender and sexuality, religion, and American history.”
 — Reading Religion

Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism is a significant achievement and deserves the attention of scholars of American Jewish studies and American religion. It helps that the book is exceptionally well written. Imhoff demonstrates that one need not sacrifice readability, grace, and style for historical depth and methodological sophistication.”
 — American Historical Review

“The study of gender in Jewish studies, and in particular of Jewish masculinities still requires more research. Sarah Imhoff’s book offers a substantial inspiration and insight to carry this further.”
 — Medaon

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Table of Contents

Part I: An American Religion
1. The Reasonableness of Judaism: An American Theology
2. Manly Missions: Jews, Christians, and American Religious Masculinity
Part II: The Healthy Body and the Land
3. Go West, Young Jew: The Galveston Movement, Immigrant Men, and the Pioneer Spirit
4. Israelite-Indian Identification: Claiming a Manly Past for American Judaism
5. Afternoon Calisthenics at Woodbine: Jewish Agriculture, Religious Ambivalence, and the Male Body
6. The Courageous Diaspora: Masculinity and the Development of American Zionism
Part III: The Abnormal and the Criminal
7. Soft Criminals: Theodore Bingham and the Gender of Jewish Crime
8. Leo Frank and Jewish Sexuality
9. Bad Jews: The Leopold and Loeb Hearing