Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
Dianne Ashton, Rowan University
Douglass Campus Center, 100 George Street, New Brunswick
Supported in part by the Sagner Family Foundation
Hanukkah is an American curiosity. It is the Jewish holiday best known by non-Jews, yet it is only a minor festival in Judaism. Most Jews think it has become important in America only as a way for Jewish parents to give their children a fun Jewish activity during the Christmas season. Yet, American Jews began magnifying Hanukkah long before Christmas trees and presents became widespread in the U.S. Why did Hanukkah become more important to American Jews than it is to Jews around the world? Dr. Ashton will explore this intriguing question during the talk about her new book, Hanukkah in America: A History.
Dianne Ashton is professor of Religion Studies and the former director of the American Studies program at Rowan University. She is also the editor of the scholarly journal, American Jewish History. The author of five books, Ashton’s newest volume, Hanukkah in America: A History, was published by New York University Press in 2013. Hanukkah is the rare case of a Jewish holiday that became more popular -- and whose celebrations became more elaborate – among Jews living in the United States than it had been in Jewish history. Her new book explains what those elaborations have been, along with how and why they came to be.
Ashton’s earlier publications include the first modern biography of American Jewish education trailblazer, Rebecca Gratz (1997), and the widely read sourcebook, Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality(1992), which was revised and expanded in 2009. Ashton has also published twenty six articles and delivered thirty five invited lectures and conference papers. Her research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and the American Jewish Archives, among other institutions.