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Di Toyre Fun Skhoyre, Or, I Shop, Therefore I Am: The Consumer Cultures Of American Jews

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Chapter Summary

To assess the consumer culture of American Jewish immigrants of a century ago, we might therefore turn to Yiddish folkways to assess what notions of consumption these immigrants brought with them. Yiddish folklore references consumerism extensively. Consider but one example: the familiar saying Toyre iz di beste skhoyre, "Torah is the best merchandise". This and other proverbs reflect the extent to which consumerism was a foundational practice in Yiddish-speaking Eastern Europe, where the majority of Jews made their living as makers or sellers of things. American Jewish consumer culture employs the social practices of buying and giving to negotiate across cultural boundaries. This is exemplified by greeting cards and other phenomena that address the so-called December Dilemma - i.e., the coincidence of Christmas and Chanukkah and the challenges this poses, especially to people in interfaith relationships and families.

Keywords: American Jewish immigrants; consumer cultures; December Dilemma; Toyre iz di beste skhoyre



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