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YIVO, Freud, and American Jewry: Discourse on Eastern Europe as a “Talking Cure” for American Jewish Ambivalence
Feb 25 2014

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2014 | 7pm
MAX WEINREICH FELLOWSHIP LECTURE | Rose and Isidore Drench Memorial Fellowship & Dora and Mayer Tendler Fellowship
Markus Krah, Doctoral Candidate, Jewish Theological Seminary

Click HERE to listen to the audio.

In the 1940s and 50s, American Jewish leaders voiced concerns about the suppression and fragmentation of Jewishness in modern mass society and the pressure to assimilate to mainstream American expectations. Guided by Max Weinreich, who was intellectually engaged with Freudian ideas, YIVO advocated for a holistic, integrated Jewishness modeled after the East European ideal of Yiddishkayt. YIVO was a key voice in a larger discourse, as American Jews encountered different images of the East European past: shtetl and pogrom, piety and poverty, Hasidism and Socialism, among others. Markus Krah’s dissertation traces these competing narratives in magazines, sermons, radio shows, and popular literature. His lecture discussed the idea that this discourse served as a “talking cure,” as American Jews searched the complex East European past for meaning and grounding in the complex American present.


Markus Krah is a Ph.D. candidate in Modern Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York and a lecturer at the Potsdam School of Jewish Theology in his native Germany. He is interested in American and European Jewish history, particularly in the cultural and intellectual engagement of Jews with the modern challenges and opportunities for Jewish identity. His dissertation focuses on the role of the East European past in 20th-century American Jewish explorations of new ways to understand their Jewishness.