• Profile

      Rachel Gross is a Ph.D. candidate in the Religion in the Americas subfield. Her dissertation, "Objects of Affection: The Material Religion of American Jewish Nostalgia," claims nostalgia as an integral religious feature of American Jewish practice in the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Through material culture and ethnographic research, she examines American Jews' sentimental, generalized longing for their communal homelands of Eastern Europe and ethnic neighborhoods in the United States, particularly but not exclusively New York's Lower East Side. The project focuses on four case studies of increasingly commodified and institutionalized nostalgia: the materials and practices of Jewish genealogy and family history; the use of historic synagogues as heritage sites; children's books and dolls; and American Jewish foodways, particularly the culinary revival of the new Jewish food scene.

      Rachel's broader interests include the ethnographic study of contemporary Judaism, the visual and material cultures of American religions, and the role of space and place in the formation of religious communities. Her chapter on the informal, playful pedagogical strategies of the first American Jewish children's cookbook, "'Draydel Salad": The Serious Business of Jewish Food and Fun in the 1950s," will be published in the anthology Religion, Food, and Eating in North America (Columbia University Press, forthcoming).

      Rachel received a B.A. in Jewish Studies and an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. She has previously held the Association for Jewish Studies's Berman Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for the Social Scientific Study of the Contemporary American Jewish Community. In the 2013-2014 school year, Rachel holds a Dissertation Completion Fellowship in American Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics and is in residence at Washington University in St. Louis.

    • Publications

      "'Draydel Salad': The Serious Business of Jewish Food and Fun in Postwar America." In Religion, Food, and Eating in North America, eds. Benjamin E. Zeller, Marie W. Dallam, Reid L. Neilson, and Nora L. Rubel. New York: Columbia University Press (2014).

2016 Danforth Lecture

  • Danforth Lecture
    May 3, 2016
    2016 Danforth Lecture featuring David Shulman
    .. Event Details