A Rich Brew: How Cafes Created Modern Jewish Culture

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rich brew.jpg

A Rich Brew: How Cafes Created Modern Jewish Culture

31.50 35.00

A fascinating glimpse into the world of the coffeehouse and its role in shaping modern Jewish culture Unlike the synagogue, the house of study, the community center, or the Jewish deli, the café is rarely considered a Jewish space. Yet, coffeehouses profoundly influenced the creation of modern Jewish culture from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. 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.  Examining the convergence of cafés, their urban milieu, and Jewish creativity, Shachar M. Pinsker argues that cafés anchored a silk road of modern Jewish culture. He uncovers 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.   Pinsker shows 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.    


  • "Pinsker makes clear the vital role literary cafes played in 19th- and 20th-century Western Jewish culture in this smart volume."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "Shachar Pinsker masterfully documents the impact of café life on Jewish culture throughout the civilized world. . . . A Rich Brew is aptly named. Engagingly illustrated with many contemporary photos and cartoons, it offers a deep dive into the café world of six cities that gave birth to modern Jewish thought and culture."

    Moment Magazine

  • "Shachar Pinsker, in part building on research he did for his admirable first book, Literary Passports, has produced a scrupulously documented and finely instructive account of the role of cafes in modern Jewish culture. A Rich Brew, providing apt discussions of many long-forgotten or unknown texts and a generous sampling of photographs of the sundry cafes,  should be of considerable interest both for historians and students of modern Jewish literature."

    —Robert Alter, Emeritus Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

  • "Shachar Pinsker concocts a rich and pleasing brew of material culture, history, sociology, and text analysis to explore the roots of modern Jewish culture as we know it today. Describing the café as a 'thirdspace,' a liminal zone between the intimate and the public spheres, Pinsker follows the emergence of Jewish culture from the synagogue and the traditional house-of-study and its recreation as a modern, urban, secular intellectual heritage. Masterfully constructed and beautifully written, A Rich Brew is an illuminating and pleasurable read." 

    —Ruby Namdar, author of The Ruined House

  • "A Rich Brew is an innovative work of Jewish cultural and literary history that illuminates how the café served as a laboratory that nourished Jewish writers, artists, and intellectuals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From the European cafes of Odessa, Warsaw, Vienna, and Berlin, to New York and Tel Aviv Jaffa, Pinsker charts a new account of the public spaces of Jewish culture and the new literary and cultural forms that where imagined there."

    —Allison Schachter, author of Diasporic Modernisms: Hebrew and Yiddish Literature in the Twentieth Century

  • “The best part of this book is that it offers a new cultural history of Jewish modernity by utilizing literary studies—using examples of poetry and prose written in and about cafés, it gives voice to artists who populated these cafés.”

    —Anna Shternshis, University of Toronto

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