Jewish Countercultures: Remaking American Judaism, 1967-1990
Taught by Dr. Gregg Drinkwater, Norman and Syril Reitman Visiting Professor
In the late 1960s, many young American Jews decried what they perceived as a stagnant, suburban American Judaism that was out of touch with their generation’s culture and politics – identifying with a broader American thirst for community, meaning, and political engagement. Seeking to revive and re-spiritualize American Judaism, these young activists, writers, rabbis, and students created Jewish communities and organizations that reflected their new, radical worldviews. Emerging out of the New Left, second wave feminism, and the Gay Liberation Movement, among other American progressive social and cultural movements, the Jewish “counterculture” reinvigorated American Judaism. Once defined as outsiders storming the gates of the Jewish establishment, these “New Jews” went on to redefine many of the central tenets and practices of American Jewish life. In this course, we will examine several examples of this American Jewish creativity: The Havurah Movement and Jewish Renewal; the Jewish identity politics of the 1960s and 1970s, the Free Soviet Jewry Movement, and Jewish feminism; and the founding and growth of gay and lesbian synagogues, a particularly American form of LGBTQ Jewish community building.
Dr. Gregg Drinkwater’s research focuses on sexuality, gender, and Judaism in the modern United States. His research has appeared in the journals Jewish Social Studies and American Jewish History, as well as the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. He is currently working on a book on the history of gay and lesbian synagogues and their role in incubating queer Jewish space. Prior to entering academic life, Drinkwater worked for 10 years as a researcher and advocate for LGBTQ inclusion and social justice in the Jewish community through the organizations Jewish Mosaic and Keshet. He is the co-editor of the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible (NYU Press, 2009). His new research project centers the history of LGBTQ Jewish American engagements with Zionism and Israel from the 1950s through the mid-1990s and the emergence of a uniquely Jewish diasporic homonationalism.