Silver Screen, Hasidic Jews

Silver Screen, Hasidic Jews

The Story of an Image
Shaina Hammerman
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/06/2017
Format: Paperback 20 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-03169-3
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Motivated by Woody Allen’s brief comedic transformation into a Hasidic Jew in Annie Hall, cultural historian Shaina Hammerman examines the effects of real and imagined representations of Hasidic Jews in film, television, theater, and photography. Although these depictions could easily be dismissed as slapstick comedies and sexy dramas about forbidden relationships, Hammerman uses this ethnic imagery to ask meaningful questions about how Jewish identity, multiculturalism, belonging, and relevance are constructed on the stage and silver screen.

Author Bio

Shaina Hammerman is a cultural historian who teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.


“Through an in-depth analysis of five films, from the United States and France, Shaina Hammerman shows us how the figure of the Hasidic Jew became a means for exploring national identity and belonging. Hammerman has produced a wonderfully written and insightful work, marked by nuance and subtlety.”
 — Mitchell B. Hart, Professor of History, University of Florida

“The cinematic image of the Hasidic Jew has served as a powerfully evocative Rohrschach blot, as Shaina Hammerman demonstrates in this sensitive and insightful study. And not only for American popular culture, but for French as well, where it intersects with images of Muslim women in hijabs. Interpreted by some as a mark of authenticity, for others of performativity, it has aroused anxieties about gender as well as ethnic identity, and allowed, for good or for ill, the eternally vexed question of “Who is a Jew?” to be addressed in front of a mass audience.”
 — Martin E. Jay, Ehrman Professor of European History, UC Berkeley

“What is the power of the iconic image of a Hasidic Jew, as it flashes before our eyes on a screen?  Arguing that the shared visual vocabulary emblematized by this image speaks to concerns far beyond Hasidism, Shaina Hammerman deftly demonstrates the ways that the image of the Hasid registers ambivalences and tensions about Jewish difference and visibility in the modern world. In brilliant readings of films from The Frisco Kid to Annie Hall, Silver Screen, Hasidic Jews tells “the story of an image,” an image both marginal within Jewish American experience and central to the American and Jewish American imagination.”
 — Naomi Seidman, Koret Professor of Jewish Culture, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California

“An important work that reveals much about the directors, actors, and scriptwriters who represented Jews and Jewishness on screen. It also gives insight into the audiences that consumed and interpreted these films for four decades.”
 — Maya Balakirsky Katz, author of Drawing the Iron Curtain: Jews and the Golden Age of Soviet Animation

“Shaina Hammerman's Silver Screen, Hasidic Jews makes a valuable contribution to a growing body of scholarly work on Jewish visibility in cinema.”
 — American Jewish History

Silver Screen, Hasidic Jews is an essential inclusion for any course on Jewish film, as its analyses of Hasidic images say as much about cultural Judaism as religious. It is also an important read for any scholar thinking about Jewish cultural productions of the late-twentieth century to the present through the prism of gender. ”
 — Journal of Jewish Identities

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Table of Contents

Introduction: When Jews are Like Jews
1. The Yarmulke beneath the Cowboy Hat: Signifying Jewishness in the Hasidic Western
2. The Jewish Type and le juif typique: Typologies of Jewishness in Les aventures de Rabbi Jacob
3. Hard-Core Jews: Woody Allen’s Religious Women and Men
4. Cinema judéité: Projecting Jewish-Muslim Romance
5. What Lies beneath the Wig: Hester Street and Adaptation
Epilogue: Hijab, Habit, and Hasid
Filmography and Bibliography

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