Omer-Sherman, Ranen 1957–

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Omer-Sherman, Ranen 1957–

(Ranen Omer)


Born October 9, 1957, in Los Angeles, CA; immigrated to Israel, 1975; returned to the United States, late 1980s. Education: Humboldt State University, B.A., 1994; University of Notre Dame, Ph.D., 2000. Religion: Jewish.


Office— English Department, University of Miami, P.O. Box 248145, Coral Gables, FL 33124-4632. E-mail— [email protected]


Saint Louis University, Madrid, Spain, assistant professor of English, 2000-02; University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, associate professor of English, 2002—. Founding member, Kibbutz Yahel, Israel.


Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish-American Literature: Lazarus, Syrkin, Reznikoff, and Roth, University of New England (Hanover, MA), 2002.

Israel in Exile: Jewish Writing and the Desert, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2006.

Contributor to numerous periodicals, including Cross Currents, Israel Studies, MELUS, Shofar, Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History, Journal of Modern Literature, College Literature, and Modernism/Modernity.


Ranen Omer-Sherman was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1957. As a teenager, Omer-Sherman left the United States and immigrated to Israel. There he spent thirteen years as a farmer and a desert guide in the country's southern borderlands. Later, Omer-Sherman returned to the United States to attend college. After earning his Ph.D., Omer-Sherman began teaching. He spent two years at a university in Madrid, Spain, before accepting an associate professor position in the English department at the University of Miami.

While teaching English and Jewish studies, he began work on his first book,Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish-American Literature: Lazarus, Syrkin, Reznikoff, and Roth, which was published in 2002. This book of literary criticism explores how Jewish-American writers tackle the ideas of Diaspora and Zionism. Omer-Sherman focuses on the works of Emma Lazarus, Marie Syrkin, Charles Reznikoff, and Philip Roth. Beginning with the poems of Lazarus in the 1880s and ending with Roth in the beginning of the new millennium, Omer-Sherman explains how these works reflected shifting concerns and ideas about Jewish identity over the years.

In a review of the book for Shofar, contributor Wendy Zierler noted that the author "consistently delivers thoughtful and illuminating readings of the writers he's chosen to study." Carole S. Kessner, a reviewer for American Jewish History, felt that the author "displays a substantial breadth of reading, wide-ranging scholarship, and intimacy with current literary theory." However, Kessner felt that Omer-Sherman's "overuse of the vocabulary of theory" sometimes hampered the book's level of readability.

After returning to teach in the United States, Omer-Sherman published his second book of literary criticism Israel in Exile: Jewish Writing and the Desert. Again, Omer-Sherman focuses on the work of several specific writers to illustrate the thesis of his work. He explores how the desert plays both a metaphoric and political role in many of the works of authors Shulamith Hareven, Simone Zelitch, Edmund Jabès, Amos Oz, and David Grossman. The author explains that the writers often use the desert to represent "a sense of social unease" that brings to mind questions of identity and nationalism in present-day Israel.

In a review for the Chronicle of Higher Education, contributor Nina C. Ayoub noted that the thirteen years Omer-Sherman spent living and working in the desert allowed the author to bring "a firsthand sense of desert beauty and disquiet" to this work of literary criticism.

Omer-Sherman told CA: " Israel in Exile[is my favorite of my books] because the book really reflects my lived experience and passionate engagement with the wilderness as a transformative space that still resides deep within me even though I no longer dwell in Isreal's Arava desert.

"I hope to alert readers to new ways of reading, to neglected authors and works (especially the urban poet Charles Reznikoff, whom I have written about extensively), and most of all to encourage deeper appreciation for literature as having the capacity to startle us out of complacency, to help us live more consciously and with greater empathy toward others with whom we share an increasingly diminished and vulnerable Earth."



American Jewish History, September, 2002, Carol S. Kessner, review of Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish-American Literature: Lazarus, Syrkin, Reznikoff, and Roth, pp. 345-349.

American Literature, June, 2004, Milette Shamir, review of Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish-American Literature, pp. 402-404.

Chronicle of Higher Education, May 19, 2006, Nina C. Ayoub, review of Israel in Exile: Jewish Writing and the Desert, p. A18.

Modernism/Modernity, April, 2003, Phyllis Lassner, review of Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish-American Literature, p. 408.

Shofar, fall, 2004, Wendy Zierler, review of Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish-American Literature, p. 149.


Omer-Sherman Home Page, (October 24, 2007).

University of Illinois Press Web site, (October 24, 2007).

University Press of New England Web site, (October 24, 2007).