American culture has engaged with the Jewish state in all its different aspects since Israel’s founding. For the past 70 years, up to and including the present day, the American Jewish community’s interest in Israel has been translated into a diverse array of compelling cultural artifacts.
American Jewish creative engagement with Israel focuses mainly on the story of the American Jewish community, its identity and culture, and is concerned only to a lesser degree with Zionist history scholars of Jewish identity have noted the important role that Israel plays in American-Jewish identity discourse. However, their use of Israel as a prime indicator of the caliber of Jewish identity occurs mainly through surveys, discussions, and in-depth interviews, with very little reliance on cultural analysis.
This chapter of the Annual Assessment looks at the Israel story through the American-Jewish lens, with particular attention to cultural manifestations in the fields of cinema, television, and literature. Literary engagement with the Jewish state is especially striking among an important group of contemporary American-Jewish authors, most notably Nicole Krauss, Nathan Englander, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Michael Chabon, who in addition to writing about Israel are actually involved in Israeli life and the Israeli experience.