ABSTRACT

Jewish studies have long since recognized remembrance as a vital factor in the formation of Jewish religion, cultures, and identities. It was not, however, until Maurice Halbwachs’ Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire (The Social Frameworks of Memory) (1925) that memory became more widely described as the social process of recalling the past. Sigmund Freud in his Moses and Monotheism (1939) presupposed the existence of a biological basis for the transmission of memory. He also promoted the view of memory as something stored. His “A Note Upon the Mystic Writing Pad” (1925) set the model, wherein he argued that memories can be reproduced at any time with certainty as long as one knows where these memories are deposited in the mind. To Freud the challenge was facilitating their retrieval, but not the question of storage (Freud 1961). Yet remembrance is a process that actively shapes what it recalls. It does not supplant the past but transforms it and warrants a wider multi-disciplinary exploration that remains mindful of the particular practices of articulation, representation, and reenactment of the past. Memory continues to feature in religious ritual and practices, in literary imagination, in artistic

creations and in scholarly research. Preservation and innovation, continuity and discontinuity, and revolution and evolution commingle in the weaving of memory. Moreover, the advent of modernity, the Holocaust, and its aftermath have altered the texture and fabric of Jewish memory in a lasting manner. The digital world continues to transform it. Yet notwithstanding its many profound changes of form, remembrance has only become more pervasive. This popularity has been described, variously, as a “memory boom,” a “memory industry,” or it is simply noted that “memory is everywhere” (Winter 2000; Klein 2000: 127; Confino 1997: 1387). Coinciding with the rise of postmodernism and poststructuralism, interest in “memory” has been critiqued “as a therapeutic alternative to historical discourse” (Klein 2000: 145). Along these lines, Alon Confino rebukes memory studies for often lacking critical reflection on method and theory (Confino 1997: 1387). Responding to these concerns, Jan Assman and John Czaplicks argue that the “objectification and crystallization of communicated meaning in different forms like texts, images, buildings, monuments, cities, or even landscapes and collectively shared knowledge is a prerequisite of its transmission in the culturally institutionalized heritage of a society.” Cultural memory, they argue, “preserves the store of knowledge from which a group derives an awareness of its unity and peculiarity” (Assman and Czaplicks 1995: 130). To many critics even this materialization of memory in artifacts and practices is simply a strategy for justifying the “analogical leap from individual memories to Memory” (Klein 2000: 135).