I-CORE in the Study of Modern Jewish Culture

“Da’at Hamakom”: Center for the Study of Cultures of Place in the Modern Jewish World. At the center of our approach to Modern Jewish Culture is the spatial dimension in all of its connotations. It was once common to assert that Jewish culture was characterized by its portability, abstractness, and lack of grounding in any given physical space. “Jewish space” was acknowledged, if at all, as the self-segregation of the “ghetto.” Since then, an entire generation of scholars, both in Israel and abroad, has argued that Jewish cultures are closely intertwined with specific locales where they are produced, disseminated, or consumed. This was reflected in the collaborative volume edited by David Biale, entitled Cultures of the Jews (2002). The use of the plural form, “Cultures,” indicates the new point of departure for innovative work in this field.

Today it is clear that “place” is a focal point in understanding Jewish life and culture, but it remains to be fleshed out and the applicability of the Jewish case to other cultures more fully explored. Moreover, in today’s global environment, the concept of “space” or “place” is undergoing a metamorphosis, heightening but blurring the polarity of the local and the universal, questioning the boundaries and meanings of identity, and raising issues about the accessibility of cultural products across borders. The physical and mental bridges linking people and places and connecting them across space, the meaning of the traffic and flows between them and the networks they chart – real and figurative – vitally enlarge “Jewish” places.