Tomer who runs two excellent blogs in Israel, – one and two- called this a US blog. Is that true? I am trying to wrap my head around that one.
NYC has the largest group of my readers but the next city is the region of Gush Dan. Most of the people I interview are Anglos living in Israel-Buckholtz, Joshua Berman. I write reviews of Yair Sheleg and Eliaz Cohen. The paper I quote most often is Haaretz and that is for culture not politics! I review Jewish studies produced in Israel- Daniel Abrams, Avi Sagi, Moshe Idel. I cover kabbalists who live in Jerusalem- Rav Morgenstern. On the other hand, this blog does not reflect the majority of American Jews- the happenings of Reform and most Renewal, no representation at the CCAR, NHC, or at 92nd st Y. I dont share the concerns of Mah Rabu, Velveteen Rabbi, or Jewlicious. I dont cover the majority of great stuff happening in American Jewry.
Is this blog American? Would you call the Talmud Blog US or Israeli? Would you call JID or even the Jerusalem Post US or Israel?
My blog tends to discuss things from a vantage point relating to intellectual formation that included the cultural world of Israeli Yeshivot and Universities. I think Tomer can relate to the blog specifically because it is not too American, he is not quoting the more American blogs.
This is not a new phenomena, Safed piety was created not just in Safed but in Cairo, Venice, Damascus, Saloniki- there was a network of interests and trade routes. So too in Colonial America, Boston was culturally connected to London, but not to Virginia. Or Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem still writing in German and attending the German conferences. So in that sense I am reporting on how a certain set of ideas play themselves out in my location, like R. Gedaliah Cordovero living in Venice and writing back to Safed about his new siddur.
But is there more to this story? Is it a story of globalization.
Globalization assumes that large numbers of people are in flux and information is in flux. People do not define themselves in 19th century territorial national terms. People and ideas keep moving.
Fifteen years ago, Arjun Appadurai published Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization explaining some of the new dimensions of mobilization through small vignettes.
Appadurai describes a trip he and his wife made to a Hindu temple in Bombay. His wife asked about a Hindu priest that she had known before, and they were told that he was in Houston. The point isn’t just that they went there and he came here. He’s talking about trans-locality, and the production of locality beyond mere connection to a place. Not all Hindus live in India, and not all Indians have to live in India to maintain their Indianness.
The conjunction of media and migration means that what is imagined is no longer the “imagined community” of the nation-state, but numerous “diasporic public spheres.” Appadurai writes that “[a]s Turkish guest workers in Germany watch Turkish films in their German flats, as Koreans in Philadelphia watch the 1988 Olympics in Seoul through satellite feeds from Korea, and as Pakistani cabdrivers in Chicago listen to cassettes of sermons recorded in mosques in Pakistan or Iran, we see moving images meet deterritorialized viewers”
The US can be represented in Israel and Israel in America. Appadurai coins words like ethnoscape and mediascape. To give a relevant application of the former. Anglosaxon Israeli culture is related in Raananah, Jerusalem, Teaneck or Miami. People come and go and the culture of the Anglosaxim in Israeli is not Israeli or US. Rather a specific ethno-scape, not landscape. Charlie Buckholtz and David Hartman could be in NY or J-M, as well as their readers. The Anglo-Israeli world of JID or J-Post does not depend where the authors live. And do you feel comfortable saying that David Hartman or Shlomo Riskin are Israeli thinkers? American thinkers? or part of an ethno-scape of Anglos in Israel.
And this works because of the amazing fluidity in which people go back and forth with regularity and have spent years of their lives working in more than one country. They can even come and visit the other country for 5 trips of 3-4 weeks each. Or if you spend every summer for 20 years in the other country, besides being 5 years of time it allows one to live in both countries. I certainly see the gap year programs, the yeshivot as Anglo-Israeli products, a specific ethno-scape that transcends boundaries. Or we joke about the many people that we know, we make “aliyah” as an ideal and then return to live for many years in the US after only a year or two in Israel. They return for business, doctors, their kids education, but after a year in Israel they get to live in the US for the next decade as an “oleh,” there are even those Anglos who commute bi-weekly between Israel and the US. These are post territorial demarcations of globalization.
In terms of the media-scape, there is a realm of cultural production that occurs in more than one country but is not localized to one country. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein writings are produced in Israel but more copies are sold here. The writings of Rav Shagar or Moshe Idel (There are many names to insert) live in a mediascape that is used in an ethnoscape more than an national landscape. Many of my neighbors, watched Serugim on their computer before the DVD came out. I have probably given more papers in Van Leer in J-M than anywhere else.
Appadurai whose book mainly deals with the Indian diaspora has many insights that apply to other groups as well. For example he points out how some Indians can be universalist and tolerant in the US setting but fiercely nationalistic when they discuss politics in India. (Think of the American Jew who is universal here and fiercely nationalistic about Israel.) In the age of nationalism, people wanted to fit into the land they lived in and did not have two elements.
He also points out that in the age of media, flashpoints and images on TV can count more than your own neighborhoods. Here he gives examples of Kashmir, and Hebron overriding concern for Delhi and J-M. Or a more halakhic example, the media makes Torat Hamelekh more important than all the other responsa being written by the Religious Zionists.
So are we an American Blog?
We’re an American blog
We’re an American blog
We’re comin’ to your town
We’ll help you party it down
We’re an American blog
(With apologies to Grand Funk Railroad)