For many Jewish people in the mid-twentieth century, Zionism was an unquestionable tenet of what it meant to be Jewish. Seventy years later, a growing number of American Jews are instead expressing solidarity with Palestinians, questioning old allegiances to Israel. How did that transformation come about? What does it mean for the future of Judaism?
In Days of Awe, Atalia Omer examines this shift through interviews with a new generation of Jewish activists, rigorous data analysis, and fieldwork within a progressive synagogue community. She highlights people politically inspired by social justice campaigns including the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against anti-immigration policies. These activists, she shows, discover that their ethical outrage at US policies extends to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. For these American Jews, the Jewish history of dispossession and diaspora compels a search for solidarity with liberation movements. This shift produces innovations within Jewish tradition, including multi-racial and intersectional conceptions of Jewishness and movements to reclaim prophetic Judaism. Charting the rise of such religious innovation, Omer points toward the possible futures of post-Zionist Judaism.
About the Author
Atalia Omer is associate professor of religion, conflict, and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.
“In Days of Awe, Atalia Omer offers a brilliant analysis of the religious as well as political stakes in American Jewish activism on behalf of Palestinians. As a participant /observer and an Israeli living in the United States, Omer combines personal reflections with an ethnographic frame and sophisticated theoretical analysis to explore the way one non-Zionist religious community grapples with its deep commitment to Jewish life and its equally profound devotion to a Jewishly informed critique of injustice. Omer shows that what is at stake is not simply political, but a re-fashioning of Jewishness itself, understood through the lens of collective repentance and self-criticism. A significant contribution to an often overly simplified and politically charged debate in American Jewry.”
— Shaul Magid, Indiana University
“Atalia Omer's Days of Awe is a very important book on a developing, increasingly non-marginal form of the life of American Jewry. An intelligent, searching investigation of new non-Zionist and anti-Zionist activism among American Jews committed to their Jewishness, it documents a movement toward a re-vision of that Jewishness itself. In particular, it challenges ‘white’ leftist Jewish activists to take seriously their own privilege vis-a-vis other Jews in activating their own intersectional critiques.”
— Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley
“Days of Awe captures and holds the reader through an ethically rewarding journey into new understandings of diasporic identities, cosmopolitan multiculturalism, and the possibilities and problems of religious and political pluralism in the attempt to construct peace and justice. The book speaks across disciplinary boundaries to provide a model of sophisticated conceptual analysis and deep, thorough empirical research on critical issues in religious studies, ethics, and peace building that are relevant across the social sciences and humanities.”
— Cecelia Lynch, University of California, Irvine