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Religious Studies

Senior Thesis Presentation- Lonnie Kleinman

Date: 3:30pm PDT May 7, 2013 Location: J.R. Howard Hall 116

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J.R. Howard Hall 116

Remembering the Future: Jewish Youth Pilgrimage to Poland and Israel as a Means of Identity Construction
In this thesis, I tell the story of American Jewish youth group trips that visit Holocaust sites in Poland, and then Israel. The emergence of such trips in the late 1980s marks a turning point in the way American youth learn about the Holocaust. To ground my analysis, I focus specifically on United Synagogue Youth’s summer trip, called Israel Pilgrimage/Poland Seminar. I argue that affiliated youth feel a responsibility to visit these sites that are made sacred by memory. The trip operates within the purview of Conservative Judaism and emphasis on religious practice throughout the summer marks it as a distinctly religious phenomenon. I examine the use of ritual commemoration at specific sites, which creates distinct meaning and marks ritual space as sacred. I investigate how ritual contributes to the characterization of these trips as modern pilgrimages that take place in moments of liminality. Finally, I examine the potency of lived interactions in these sacred spaces, which represents a commemorative narrative that situates youth within a greater American Jewish mega-narrative. This experience contributes to the collective memory of the group, leaving a lasting impact on the identity of individual participants. The various means of interacting with space are highly controlled and representative of Conservative Judaism’s ideology that links the destruction of the Holocaust and Poland to redemption of the Jewish people and Israel. Ultimately, These trips represent a successful method of identity construction for American Jewish youth.

LIght refreshments will be served.

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Claire Kodachi
MSC 45
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