Tisha B’Av, “Ghetto Day,” and producing “authentic” Jews at postwar Jewish summer camps

Sandra F. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The postwar period brought sweeping changes for American Jews. Communal socioeconomic transitions and the aftermath of the Holocaust triggered intense anxieties among Jewish leaders regarding the preservation of so-called Jewish “authenticity,” and to an increased focus on the moulding of American Jewish youth. This article considers how Jewish summer camps used Tisha B’Av and secular, alternative memorial days, to lead campers toward various, ideologically imbued visions of Jewish authenticity. Through fostering an aura of tragedy in what was otherwise a world of play, songs, and enjoyment, Jewish educators used memorial days as transformative educational tools. Though camps’ ceremonies looked remarkably similar, often including a carefully crafted sombre atmosphere, dirges, and responsive readings, the message of the days proved malleable to different ideological perspectives. This article considers how Zionist, Yiddishist, Reform and Conservative camps came to use memorial days to produce “real,” “ideal,” or “authentic” Jews in accordance with their ideological visions in the decades immediately following the Holocaust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-172
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • American Jewry
  • Tisha B’Av
  • Yiddishism
  • Zionism
  • postwar America
  • summer camp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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