slipping away?

by tobybee

when you’re doing a research project, sometimes the universe offers you little gifts. these are little moments when you’re engaged in a conversation, or reading a newspaper, or playing around online, and you come across something that so neatly encapsulates the subject of your research. you read it and know that it’s going to occupy a prominent place in an article or conference paper, or might even provide an ideal chapter title.

i just came across one such gift.

i’m starting work on a new project, which (speaking broadly) is going to examine how discourses of jewish sexuality have been mobilised in australia since the 1950s as a response to concerns – or panics – around assimilation. so, the basic question i’m addressing is, i guess, why is who a jew has sex with seen as bearing a relationship to assimilation? there are lots of answers to this, but i’m trying to denaturalise them, working to understand how sexuality is here a “dense transfer point for relations of power”, as foucault frames it in his History of Sexuality.

in between catalogue searches i often turn to twitter, and just read this article in the forward, which begins

Judging by the amount of money spent, and organizations created, and words expressed, you would think that the most serious problem facing the American Jewish community is the waning attachment to Israel among young adults. But that’s not what keeps me up at night.

What haunts me and the many parents I know who have children in their twenties and thirties is whether they will marry and, if so, whether they will marry Jews.

The author, Jane Eisner, concludes her article by stating that “Perhaps we straight folks can learn something from the gays and lesbians who have fought so bravely for the right to marry — a right, a duty, a joy and a privilege we are allowing to slip away”

glorious. the two main perils facing American Jewry are, according to Eisner, a detaching from Israel and Jews not getting married, or not marrying Jews. such a wonderful illustration of a particular idea of what constitutes acceptable jewishness, what the challenges are to an idea of jewish ‘continuity’, what are the ‘duties’ of being jewish, and what contributes to assimilation.

a little gift for me and my research.

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