A storyteller's worlds: the education of Shlomo Noble in Europe and America

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Holmes & Meier, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 231 pages
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Shlomo Noble was born in Galicia before World War I and brought up in a traditional East European Jewish community until he came to America at the age of fifteen. Witness and memoirist, storyteller and scholar, he was an explorer of a vanished world who charts the path between that world and our own. In this engaging oral history, Jonathan Boyarin, a cultural anthropologist and ethnographer, records and puts in context Noble's instructive and amusing stories of his Jewish upbringing and education in Europe and America. Noble is an extraordinary storyteller - the kind who connects us in a unique and vivid way to worlds we might otherwise have lost: the East European Jewish shtetl attempting to hold on to old ways in the face of the dislocations of World War I; the new social movements, opportunities, and conflicts arising in interwar Poland; small-town Jewish life in America as experienced by an immigrant boy during the 1920s; the life of an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva student on the immigrant Lower East Side of New York, and the texture of thought, language, and feeling ingrained in traditional Jewish learning; American universities in the years before World War II; and Los Angeles when the Brown Derby was the fashionable place to be seen. In the course of his journey from Europe to America, Shlomo Noble traveled a cultural ocean as well. But unlike some of the memorable characters we encounter in his stories, he managed to maintain his place at the margin of two worlds, constructing a cohesive identity that embraced, and criticized, traditional and modern perspectives. Through these autobiographical stories, Noble transmits his simple humanity and complex character, his Jewishness, humor, and memory. His testimony is intimately linked to the Jewish struggle for identity during the twentieth century, and to a rich period of history that has almost disappeared from collective Jewish memory. Throughout his narrative shines a skepticism toward the power of coercive institutions, and the conviction that the last laugh belongs to the one who knows the subtlest joke. Join Shlomo Noble and Jonathan Boyarin on this wise, witty, and evocative memory tour.

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