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“Son of The Weary Foot”: Jews and First Nations in The Cultural Imagination.

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In conversation: David Koffman, author of “The Jews’ Indian: colonialism, pluralism, and belonging in America” and Matthew Dougherty, author of “Lost Tribes Found, Israelite Indians and Religious Nationalism in early America

The Jews’ Indian investigates the history of American Jewish relationships with Native Americans, both in the realm of cultural imagination and in face-to-face encounters. These two groups’ exchanges were numerous and diverse, proving at times harmonious when Jews’ and Natives people’s economic and social interests aligned, but discordant and fraught at other times. This book is the first history to critically analyze Jewish participation in, and Jews’ grappling with the legacies of Native American history and the colonial project upon which America rests.

Lost Tribes Found looks at the myth that lodged in the minds of Anglo-American and Indigenous people in the United States that asserted how Native Americans might be one of the fabled “lost tribes of Israel”—Israelites driven from their homeland around 740 BCE–and how what this idea can tell us about religious nationalism in early America. Some white Protestants, Mormons, American Jews, and Indigenous people constructed nationalist narratives around the then-popular idea of “Israelite Indians.” Telling stories about Israelite Indians, Dougherty argues, allowed members of specific communities to understand the expanding United States, to envision its transformation, and to propose competing forms of sovereignty. In these stories both settler and Indigenous intellectuals found biblical explanations for the American empire and its stark racial hierarchy.

David S. Koffman is the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry in the Department of History at York University. He is the author of the award-winning book The Jews’ Indian: Colonialism, Pluralism, and Belonging in America (Rutgers University Press, 2019), and the editor of No Better Home? Jews, Canada, and the Sense of Belonging (University of Toronto Press, 2021). He serves as the associate director of York’s Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, and the editor-in-chief of the journal Canadian Jewish Studies / Études juives canadiennes.

Matthew W. Dougherty is an Assistant Professor in the teaching stream at Emmanuel College of Victoria University. He studies the intersection of religion, politics, and emotion in North American history. Among his interests are religion and empire, religion and the land, and theories of emotion and affect. He also works on pedagogy and learning design in higher education, particularly in online and blended contexts.. Their research in the history of religion and empire in North America explores how religious emotions have solidified political and territorial claims.