Derek Rubin

The Mosaic ideal of the Promised Land has sustained the Jews throughout their history in the Diaspora. With the birth of the State of Israel and its rapid emergence as a modern, affluent Western nation just an airplane ride away from New York and Los Angeles, the longing expressed by the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem” came to an end for American Jews. Those who wished to, could, after all, easily immigrate to Israel, or visit frequently, and in this way maintain close ties with the Jewish homeland. With this promise fulfilled and with younger generations of American Jews now fully Americanized, has the idea of the Promised Land lost its power, or even become obsolete? Has the exilic experience, which played such a key role in Jewish history, culture, and literature, come to an end for the Jews of America? If so, how does this final arrival home affect their sense of identity? Do they still subscribe to the ideal of the Promised Land, or has this quintessentially Jewish concept been transformed into something else? Does it even figure in their way of looking at the world? This paper examines how members of the younger, post‐acculturated generations of Jewish American writers confront these questions in new works of fiction that show that the theme of the Promised Land continues to maintain an abiding allure, now largely metaphorical but no less powerful than the geographic, religious, and political ideas that inspired the preceding generations of Jewish American writers. The fiction discussed in this paper appears for the first time in the anthology Promised Lands: New Jewish American Fiction on Longing and Belonging, edited by Derek Rubin, published by Brandeis University Press in November 2010.

Keywords: Jews; America; Promised Land; Diaspora; Fiction