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Chapter Summary

In 1926, at the height of the "Roaring Twenties", the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, received with great fanfare a large oil painting first known as The Old Talmudist, and then as The Talmudist. The Talmudist was more than just a somewhat early example of a genre of nostalgia painting that was later to cover the walls of many American Jewish homes. The Talmudist was a conscious attempt to buy and assert a place in the inner sanctum of Boston's cultural elite, the Museum of Fine Arts. If "thick description" was to provide a rubric for the interpretation of ancient Jewish culture, it occurred to the author only slowly that archive based historiography would control that interpretation. In a world where the changing nature of "Jewish identity", in the present and hence in the past, is now a preoccupation, issues of "rabbinic authority" are moving into the background.

Keywords: Boston; Jewish identity; Museum of Fine Arts; The Talmudist



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