Shachar Pinsker is a professor of Middle East Studies and Judaic Studies for the Department of Middle East Studies and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. Below, he discusses his new book, A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture:
My new book, A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture (NYU Press, 2018), shows how coffeehouses profoundly influenced the creation of modern Jewish culture from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries in Europe, America, and the Middle East. With roots stemming from the Ottoman Empire, the coffeehouse and its drinks gained increasing popularity in Europe. The "otherness," and the mix of the national and transnational characteristics of the coffeehouse perhaps explains why many of these cafés were owned by Jews, why Jews became their most devoted habitués, and how cafés acquired associations with Jewishness. I argue in the book that cafés anchored a "silk road" of modern Jewish culture, a network of interconnected cafés that were central to the modern Jewish experience in a time of migration and urbanization, from Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, and Berlin to New York City and Tel Aviv.
A Rich Brew explores the Jewish culture created in these social spaces, drawing on a vivid collection of newspaper articles, memoirs, archival documents, photographs, caricatures, and artwork, as well as stories, novels, and poems in many languages set in cafés. I show in the book how Jewish modernity was born in the café, nourished, and sent out into the world by way of print, politics, literature, art, and theater. What was experienced and created in the space of the coffeehouse touched thousands who read, saw, and imbibed a modern culture that redefined what it meant to be a Jew in the world.
Shachar Pinsker will discuss his new book, along with Samer Ali (Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature), on Wednesday, November 28, 2018, from 5:30-7:00 PM as part of the Author's Forum. More information can be found through the Institute for the Humanities.