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Introduction The Frontier as a Model for Jewish History

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Nineteenth-and twentieth-century Zionism promised to solve the “problem” of Diaspora Jews. The problem was defined as the inevitable alienation experienced by Jews attempting to become citizens in nations that designated them inherently unassimilable. Zionism promised to provide a constant, unconflicted identity for them by making them citizens of a new nation state during an age in which national citizenship provided the primary point of identification. At the beginning of the twenty-first century this promise has now been shown to be problematic. We live in an age where national states themselves are of lesser importance for identity formation. The very fabric of state-based identity has been shown to be a composite resulting from the willing or unwilling movements of people over time and across space. All individuals create their sense of themselves out of this composite whose global scope is now quite evident. The promise of a stable identity for all Jews rooted in a specific Jewish (but also democratic and multiethnic) state has given way to the renewed importance of a complex Diaspora identity.


  • Identity Formation
  • Middle Ground
  • Jewish Identity
  • Jewish Life
  • Jewish History

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© 2003 Sander L. Gilman

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Gilman, S.L. (2003). Introduction The Frontier as a Model for Jewish History. In: Jewish Frontiers. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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