Abstract: The study of the popularization of science sheds light on how particular ethnic and religious communities engage with science. To gain a properly nuanced view, this study must extend to include nonscientific journals that address those communities. The Menorah Journal , an influential English-language American Jewish publication, serves as a case in point. The Menorah Journal ’s use of evolutionary sociology in articles during its peak from 1915 to 1929 reveals that the American culture of scientific inquiry forms the backdrop to the Menorah Journal’ s push to construct a Jewish American identity based not upon religion or nationalism, but upon ethnicity. In the pages of the Menorah Journal , prominent intellectuals drew upon neo-Darwinism, orthogenesis, and neo-Lamarckism to address the challenges facing Judaism in America from an empirical, positivist vantage point, and to articulate an approach towards an American Jewish cultural renaissance. This paper situates the Journal within the context of contemporary American cultural reactions to progressivism, Deweyan pragmatism, neo-Darwinian and neo-Lamarckian evolutionism, and the social sciences, and presents case-studies that offer a detailed analysis of articles by Mordecai Kaplan, Leon Simon, Kaufmann Kohler, Simon Dubnow, and Isaac Baer Berkson. Evolutionary sociology, it will be seen, is a key element in the Menorah Journal ’s efforts to foster a Jewish cultural renaissance. Analyzing how the Menorah Journal deployed evolutionary sociology thus offers a fresh perspective from which to explore issues of Americanization, identity, and cultural vitality.
Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies – Purdue University Press
Published: Sep 13, 2012
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