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Jewish History Museum courses to delve into Jewish life in borderlands

Maxwell Greenberg

Maxwell Ezra Greenberg will be the inaugural scholar-in-residence at the Jewish History Museum, beginning in January. “Greenberg’s work, which focuses on Jewish encounters and intersections with what he calls Latinidad, has drawn him to Southern Arizona, the Jewish History Museum, and the Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives at the University of Arizona,” says Bryan Davis, the museum’s director. “This appointment has developed as a response to community calls for deeper programming that explores histories of Jewish experiences with the U.S.-Mexico border. Our proximity to the border calls our museum to a sustained and multi-faceted examination of Jewish life in these borderlands.”

At the core of Greenberg’s work in Tucson will be a series of nine extended classes taught in three parts over a nine-week period. The courses will explore historic and contemporary intersections of Jewishness and Latinidad as shaped by the U.S.-Mexico border.

Greenberg is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate at the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California Los Angeles. He is interested in Jewish histories of the Americas, transnational/border networks, race, and ethnicity. His dissertation research traces histories of Jewish immigration, settlement, and racialization in the U.S.-Mexico border region in the late 19th-20th centuries.

“Alongside the course, I will be teaching, I’m in Tucson to listen and learn,” Greenberg told the AJP.  “During my stay, I will continue collecting oral histories from individuals who identify as both Latinx and Jewish who live in the region. I believed that lived experiences and the oral transmission of histories are the most resilient and honest forms of teaching and learning history.

“As a humbled and grateful outsider and guest in this community, I hope to have the opportunity to learn through stories and shared experiences and ultimately, better understand how individuals and groups might wish to see themselves reflected in the historical narrative,” he adds.

Greenberg was awarded the 2018-2019 Jack H. Skirball Fellowship in Modern Jewish Culture through UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies. His work was featured in  two journals, Jewish Currents and Protocols, on the topics of Jewishness in the Americas, race, gender, and borders. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature from Kenyon College, a master’s in Chicana/o studies, and a graduate certificate in urban humanities from UCLA.

He describes the upcoming program as the first of its kind. “American Jewish history stops at the U.S. side of the border. The way we will explore the Jewish experience in the border region will show that Jewish histories along the border cannot be confined to national boundaries, but traverse fluid geographies, economies, and social groups. You cannot talk about Jewish history in the U.S. Southwest and California without talking about Northern Mexican and Spanish histories.

“Mexico is one of the oldest sites of Jewish immigration to the Americas. By the end of the three-part course, my hope is that students realize that Jewishness and Latin Americanness and Spanishness have been interconnected for as long as there have been Jews in the Americas — approximately the 16th century,” he adds.

The classes, to be held at the museum 10:30 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays are:

Part 1, Jan. 8-22: Blood Purity, Castas, and Jewishness in Colonial Mexico (1590s-1820)

Part 2, Jan. 29-Feb 12: “Enlightened” Imperialism, Colonization, and Revolution (1820-1920)

Part 3, Feb. 19-March 4: Borders, New Nationalisms, and Crypto-Latinxs (1920-present)

Enrollment is $200 for all three courses or $75 each. For more information or registration, visit or call 670-9073.