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CCCC 2001 in Review: B.16 The Problematic of Jewish Identity in Composition, chaired by Ira Schor

Sidney Dobrin presented "The Other Other's Other."

In 9 years of conference attending, Dobrin found only 4 panels on Jewish themes. He discussed the idea of the "othering" of composition in English studies as a segue into the "othering" of Jews in composition. Should Jewish identity count as a "tag" in our composition community, asked Dobrin? Why is Jewish identity not more prevalent in light of Bell Hooks etc., he wondered? Dobrin explained that Jewish valuing of education and the prevalence of Jews in intellectual life is significant. He drew parallels between talmudic learning and composition, stressing small classes, open admissions, care for language and rhetoric, and a devotion to universal literacy. The Jewish tradition has always glorified scholars-after all, Dobrin explained, The Talmud values scholars over kings. Dobrin made it clear he believes Jewish traditions of teaching may be helpful in the ways these traditions could inform present-day compositionists.

Dobrin delimited concerns about how Jews have been excluded from the academy to focus on his point that the work of scholars in composition rarely explores the links of Judaism to composition. He wondered why so few of us not write about issues of composition, rhetoric and Judaism? Dobrin called for papers at the 4Cs (beyond holocaust narratives) to more explicitly connect Jewish learning insights to the field of Composition and Rhetoric.

Andrea Greenbaum presented "Composition and Kabalah: Social Action, Service Learning, and Acts of Loving Kindness."

Greenbaum noted Debois's double sense of identity and linked this to Berlin's thinking about the cultural dimensions in composition. Greenbaum noted that only a few composition texts offer essays on the Jewish experience, yet Yiddish and Jewish cultural essences are infused in our media. She asked why this cultural infusion is absent in composition's theory and practice?

Greenbaum turned to the Kabalah and a used a Derridian reading to find a useful symbology towards constructing Jewish identity in composition. Chosing love as the ethical foundation of politics (King, Jr., Hooks, Freire), Greenbaum began to link Kabalah theory to compositon theory and service learning. Judiasm has a long tradition of linking literacy to service ("mitsvah"), she claimed. Finally, Greebaum expressed concern about how much of Jewish identity is based on being the other and formed by anti-Semitism.

Deborah Holdstein presented "Prejudice by Omission:Cultural and Religious Silencing" which she changed to "The Ironies of Ethos." This paper was first presented at the 2000MLA and reviewed by AW: see

Holdstein framed her presentation by quoting Machievelli: "It is better to be rash, than timid." She claimed that our traditions are far less contested than they should be. She questioned the use of the Greek term "ethos" (a cornerstone for compositionists) by describing how Greek overtook Hebrew and Aramaic languages, and considering how language may embody a tradition of anti-Semitism. Holdstein maintained that "Ethos" is a term that should be explored like race, gender, etc., and she cautioned the audience to become more perceptive to her concern that "anti-Semitism is the last acceptable prejudice in Academe." Holdstein mentioned that the panel was a preliminary step toward a collection of essays about Judaism and composition. [WH]

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