Spertus: Daniel Greene

From Tzivi’s June ’12 Spotlight:

Ah, Spring! Mild weather returns to Chicago and our lecture halls overflow with fascinating guest speakers.

On May 6, I went to Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies to hear Daniel Greene read from his 2011 book The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism: The Menorah Association and American Diversity. Greene is the Vice President for Research and Academic Programs at Newberry Library, and this book is based on his Ph.D. thesis (completed at the University of Chicago in 2004).

In 1906, a group of Jewish students at Harvard came together to found the Harvard Menorah Society, an organization which rapidly spread to other prestigious universities and flourished in the decade prior to America’s entry into World War I. However, even though its institutional life was brief, the HMS had a profound influence, morphing from an extracurricular “club” into what we now call the academic discipline of “Jewish Studies.”

The next week, I met with Greene for a follow-up discussion. Why, I asked, did HMS members defined themselves as “Hebraists”?

“They’re trying to get themselves to fit into a model,” Greene explained. “Protestant academics [at Harvard and the other Ivy League colleges] will recognize the model of ‘Hebraic versus Hellenic’ [best-known from Matthew Arnold’s famous series of essays published as Culture and Anarchy in 1869.] They don’t want Jewish culture to be limited to Judaism as religion, and they don’t want to be associated with Yiddish speakers (‘The Yidds’). They want to fit in.

How do you ‘integrate’ and not disappear? That’s their struggle, but they really think they can do it. They want ‘Jewish Humanities’ 50 years before the Association for Jewish Studies is founded. These guys are a vanguard, and that’s what originally drew me to them.”

Click here to “Look InsideThe Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism on Amazon 🙂

Bonus: Click HERE for Matthew Arnold’s Culture & Anarchy. Enter the word “Hebraism” in the SEARCH field to scan 44 references to ‘Hebraism versus Hellenism.’

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