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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2021/22 Prof. Dr. Gil Ribak

Prof. Dr. Gil Ribak

University of Arizona
Jewish Studies, History, and Ethnic Studies

External Senior Fellow (Marie S. Curie FCFP)
October 2021 - June 2022

Room 02 012
Phone +49 (0)761 - 203 97713

CV

Gil Ribak is an Associate Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona. He is a scholar and public educator of Modern Jewish history, whose scholarship has always been interdisciplinary in nature, bringing together history, sociology, folklore, ethnic studies, and literature. Born and raised in Israel, he earned a Fulbright Fellowship that sent him to pursue a doctoral degree in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, Prof. Ribak taught at Washington University in St. Louis as the Lewin Postdoctoral Fellow, and as the Schusterman Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona. Later he served as the director of the Institute on Israeli-American Jewish Relations at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, before returning to the University of Arizona on a tenure-track position. Apart from his current research project, the full spectrum of his published scholarship includes studies about attitudes toward refugees in Judaism, urban politics in New York City, American progressives and the question of alleged Jewish criminality, contemporary rhetoric of the Israeli far left, the image of Henry Kissinger among Israelis and Arabs during and after the Yom Kippur War (1973), the impact of the Holocaust on Yiddish memoirists in postwar America, a riot of Jewish parents against New York’s public schools, and the public responses to the suicide of a 13-year old Jewish girl in Harlem (1918), to name but a few examples.

Selected Publications

  • “Israelis Are from Mars, American Jews Are from Venus? Cultural Differences and Rivalry in American Jewish Attitudes toward Israel”, Israelis: A Multidisciplinary Bilingual Periodical for the Study of Israel & Zionism 10, special issue about Israel and the Jewish World (2021): 209-236.

  • “The Shkotsim Were Even Worse than the Dogs’: Yiddish Memoirists and the Reimagining of the Eastern European Jewish Experience in Postwar America”, in Sheila Elana Jelen and Eliyana Adler (eds.), Reconstructing the Old Country: American Jewry in the Post-Holocaust Decades (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2017), 152-172.

  • Gentile New York: The Images of Non-Jews among Jewish Immigrants (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012). https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/gentile-new-york/9780813551647

  • “Negroes Must Not Be Likened to Jews’: The Attitudes of Eastern European Jewish Immigrants toward African Americans in a Transnational Perspective”, Modern Judaism 37 (October 2017): 271-296.

  • “Cleanliness Like That of the Germans’: Eastern European Jews’ Views of Germans and the Dynamics of Migration and Disillusionment”, in Steven J. Gold (ed.), Wandering Jews: Global Jewish Migration (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2020), 119-150.

FRIAS Research Project

“Crude Creatures”: The Representation of Black People in Yiddish Culture

My book project examines the portrayal of Black people in Yiddish Culture. There was often a scathing gap between Yiddish writers and newspapers’ genuine horror about, and condemnation of lynchings, violence against Blacks, disenfranchisement and racial segregation on the one hand, and the ways in which they represented Black people on the other. Blacks did not seem as “America’s Jews” to Yiddish writers (as several scholars have claimed), but rather a reincarnation of Eastern European Slavic peasants. In addition to the Old World reservoir of images, Yiddish culture reflected the prevalent social and racial concepts of early-twentieth-century America, which had put “Nordics” at the helm of human progress, as well as common representations of Black people in popular culture. Thus one can find depictions in Yiddish culture of Blacks as cannibals, primitive creatures, oversexed, prone to violence, childlike, or just happy-go-lucky people. Both the Old World connotations and American entrenched patterns of displaying and enacting racial hierarchy led Yiddish writers, at times against their own ideologies, to reaffirm repeatedly America’s social order and imagery. My findings are significant not only to the field of Jewish Studies, but to the larger context of immigration history as well, as they show how would-be immigrants have preconceived imagery of Blacks prior to setting foot in America.