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From Ghetto to Emancipation: Historical and Contemporary Reconsiderations of the Jewish Community
Surely one way of understanding the title of our distinguished conference, "From Ghetto to Emancipation," is the conventional way.2 One might assume that the direction of our deliberations should lead from an inherently bad condition, designated by the term "ghetto," to a good one, leading to a desirable state of freedom. This trajectory follows that of most standard accounts of the Jewish experience: Jews who had lived a "ghettotized" existence were finally "emancipated" in the modern era, and despite the negative consequences of their liberation and integration within Western secular cultures—virulent anti-Semitism and genocide—their emancipated state was surely a boon in comparison with the hermetically sealed and alienated existence of their preliberated state. And indeed, for most modern Jews, the term "ghetto" is laden with similar negative connotations. Such expressions as "the age of the ghetto," "ghetto mentality," "ghetto Jew," "out of the ghetto," all imply a highly negative existence, a throwback to an era when Jews were legally and socially restricted and when their culture revealed narrow and pedestrian features, clearly the result of their sequestration. The term "ghetto" has now assumed an even more general designation for neighborhoods densely inhabited by members of minority groups, such as African-Americans or Native Americans, who are forced to live in miserable and deprived conditions because of socioeconomic restraints as well as legal ones.3
Ruderman, D.B. (1997). The Cultural Significance of the Ghetto in Jewish History. In Meyers, D.N. & Rowe, W.V. (Eds.), From Ghetto to Emancipation: Historical and Contemporary Reconsiderations of the Jewish Community, (pp. 1-16). Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press.
Date Posted: 03 August 2017