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The Eruv as a Metaphor for Jewish Diasporic Home-making"

Samuel & Lillian Solotkin Memorial Lecture in Jewish Studies and Keynote Lecture for JSGSA Conference "Dreams of Home: Home & Homeland in the Jewish Imagination"

Leora Auslander , Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor of Western Civilization, University of Chicago

Thursday, Februay 9, 2017
7:30 pm
Dogwood Room, Indiana Memorial Union

When observant Jews leave their homes on the Sabbath, their hands (and pockets) must be empty.  This interpretation of the mandate that the seventh day should be devoted to rest obviously poses challenges; among the most basic are that babies, food, and books cannot leave the home.  One response has been to extend the boundaries of “home” to include whole neighborhoods through the construction of an Eruv.  Most often delimited by a single wire, supported by found objects – street signs, buildings, trees – high above eye level, they are only visible to those who seek to seek to see them.  For those who do know that they are there, however, the Eruv domesticates public space, and makes it, for the period of the Sabbath, Jewish.  This talk will demonstrate how Parisian and Berlin Jews, secular and religious, created metaphorical Eruvs – Jewish space and time within the secular -- in the first third of the twentieth century. Professor Auslander will argue further that conceptualizing Jewish relationships to Germanness and Frenchness through the Eruv enables us to think in a new way about the very old questions of assimiliation and acculturation, and  therefore what it meant, and means, for Jews to be at home, politically, socially, and materially.

Leora Auslander is Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor of Western Civilization at the University of Chicago.  She has been a visiting professor at the Frankel Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Michigan, at the E.H.E.S.S. and the Université de Paris, VII in France, as well as a guest researcher at the Max Planck Institut für Geschichte in Göttingen, at the Graduate Center for the Study of Culture in Giessen, and at the University of Potsdam in Germany, and held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study and the Center for Research in the Behavioral Sciences in the United States. Her publications include: Cultural Revolutions: Everyday Life and Politics in Britain, North America, and France; Taste and Power:  Furnishing Modern France;  “Negotiating Embodied Difference: Veils, Minarets, Kippas and Sukkot in Contemporary Europe,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte; “Looking Across the Threshold: Persistence as Experiment in Time, Space, and Genre," Postwar: The Films of Daniel Eisenberg; “Archiving a Life: Post-Shoah Paradoxes of Memory Legacies,” in Unsettling Histories; “The Boundaries of Jewishness or when is a Cultural Practice Jewish?” Jewish Social Studies; “Coming Home? Jews in Postwar Paris,” Journal of Contemporary History;  and, “Resisting Context: The Spiritual Objects of Tobi Kahn,” in Objects of the Spirit: Ritual and the Art of Tobi Kahn.  Most recently she co-edited an issue of the French gender history journal, Clio, entitled Judaïsme(s). She is currently at work on a book, Home-making: Jewish Parisians and Berliners in the Twentieth Century.

This event is free and open to the public. If you have a disability and need assistance, arrangements can be made to accommodate most needs. Please contact