In the early decades of the twentieth century, the question of who had the authority to represent, teach, and preach to deaf American Jews was highly contentious. On the one hand, there were many deaf Jews who had attended deaf schools and were integrated into mainstream deaf cultural organizations—notably the New York School for the Deaf in Fanwood, which fostered ties with Jewish clubs, and the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf. Among the pupils of these schools were Marcus Kenner, Samuel Cohen, Samuel Frankenheim, and David Rabinowitz, all of whom rose to positions of leadership in deaf America. To other deaf Jews, especially poor immigrants from non-English-speaking homes, the deaf mainstream proved inaccessible and/or uninviting, mandating discrete cultural, institutional, and religious spaces for deaf Jews such as existed for deaf Christians. For these individuals, the larger Jewish and deaf communities had failed to address their dual needs as both Jews and deaf men and women. Indeed, these communities were each in their own way oblivious to the fact that deaf Jews might have ambitions or concerns of their own. Last but not least, there were deaf Jews who criticized the notion of a distinctive deaf Jewish identity, among them Alexander Pach, a portrait photographer and fiery contributor to America's preeminent deaf newspaper, Silent Worker, who worried that an articulation of deaf Jews' difference might alienate them from deaf America and even put their patriotism in question.
In certain respects, these debates mirrored those taking place in both the deaf and Jewish worlds during the early twentieth century. Like deaf Americans of other backgrounds, deaf Jews were then taking part in the ongoing struggle over who was best equipped to educate, vocationally train, and socialize deaf youth, and in what manner. Deaf Jewish children, like deaf youth of other backgrounds, were caught up in the disastrous pedagogic "solution" to the "problem" of deafness known as oralism. Through the teaching of lip reading and speech, oralists sought to integrate deaf people into hearing society; the strictest oralists also waged a campaign against sign language and deaf culture. Proposed and imposed in the late nineteenth century by hearing social workers, teachers, and others engaged in deaf education, oralism remained entrenched in America's deaf schools for a century, despite vociferous resistance on the part of the deaf. If debates among deaf Jews reverberated with the concerns of the deaf world, they also echoed conversations circulating in the wider Jewish world. Whether Jews ought to express, maintain, or even intensify markers of Jewish difference was in some sense the modern Jewish question, one vividly alive to early twentieth-century Jews of nearly every national, political, religious, and ethnic stripe, be they native-born or immigrant, assimilated or observant, urban or rural, wealthy or working-class, American, European, or Middle Eastern, hearing or deaf. In the immigrant cauldron of early twentieth-century New York City, as elsewhere, this question was played out through the shaping of myriad forms of Jewish culture and politics, as well as a broad range of Jewish institutions, including some designed specifically for and by the deaf.
This article argues that deafness and Jewishness were categories that intersected and informed one another in the United States in ways that historians have, thus far, failed to appreciate. To this end, the following pages explore the intersection of deafness and Jewishness by focusing on flashpoints in the history of deaf American Jewish institutions, labor, and culture rooted in early twentieth-century New York City: the inauguration of the Horeb Home and School (HH) in 1906; the reinvention of the Institution for the Improved Instruction of Deaf Mutes (IIDM) as an explicitly Jewish institution in 1910; the creation of spaces for worship for the Jewish deaf; the shaping of the Society for the Welfare of the Jewish Deaf (SWJD) and, with it, the country's first labor board for the deaf in 1913; and, finally, the inauguration of a prominent, nationally circulated newspaper, The Jewish Deaf, published between 1915 and 1925.
As it historicizes these events, this article points to two suggestive issues that merit further exploration. The first is that early twentiethcentury American Jewish deaf culture was...
American Jewish History 84.3 (1996) 155-188
Sabato Morais remains something of a riddle to students of nineteenth-century American Jewish history, just as the phenomenon of his thousands of mourners baffled observers at his funeral in November 1897. We know the rough outlines of Morais' life, just as his contemporaries, of course, knew the identity of the immigrant Eastern European Jewish masses who lost a day's pay to attend his burial that rainy Monday afternoon in Philadelphia. But the Italian-born Morais, who two years after his death was memorialized by Kasriel Sarasohn's Orthodox New York Yudishe Gazeten as "der grester fun ale ortodoksishe rabonim in amerike . . . on sofek" ("without doubt . . . the greatest of all orthodox rabbis in the United States"), has become almost invisible in standard accounts of the American Jewish past. As the centenary of his death approaches, this neglect is all the more surprising, given the statement by Cyrus Adler, one of American Jewry's most visible public figures in the early twentieth century, that "to the Jews of England, France, Italy, and the Orient, [Morais] was the representative American Jew." The New York Times remembered Morais as "the most eminent rabbi in this country . . . a powerful and aggressive factor in discussions of vast import and interest to millions of people; a deep, incisive, fearless thinker, speaker, and writer." Moshe Davis declared in 1947, fifty years after Morais' death, that "a volume on Sabato Morais, his life and times, is a desideratum in American Jewish history." Despite this high estimation of Morais by his contemporaries and by Davis, the call for such a publication went unanswered. In a recent survey of scholarly opinions about the "Greatest American Jewish leaders" in American Jewish History, Morais did not merit a single mention.
Why has the memory of this once renowned figure suffered so deeply the passage of time? To put the question more broadly, what is the process by which a particular figure or event comes to occupy a central or peripheral place in the history and memory of a particular ethnic group? Is it useful to speak of an American Jewish ethnic memory? If so, how is contemporary ethnic remembering entwined with the activity of history writing, and what role, if any, does gender play in the politics of forgetting? The following discussion will reopen the issue of Morais' legacy -- the world from which he came, his life and times, his unprecedented funeral and subsequent scholarly neglect -- as part of a preliminary effort to map a process of forgetting in the broader context of a particular transitional moment in the history of American Jewry.
Sabato Morais was born on April 13, 1823 in Livorno (or Leghorn, as English sailors called it), just south of Pisa on the western coast of the northern Italian duchy of Tuscany. Sabato was the third of nine children, with one younger brother and seven sisters. He was raised "in quite humble circumstances" and educated in Livorno. Morais' father Samuel descended from Portuguese Marranos who arrived in London in the 1650s, perhaps from colonial Brazil, and settled in Livorno around 1730. Sabato's mother Buonina Wolf was of German-Ashkenazic origin and it was she who decisively influenced her young son to pursue his religious vocation. Both Morais' father and his paternal grandfather Sabato, after whom he was named, were Freemasons and immersed in rebellion spurred by the Napoleonic invasion in June 1796. "It was [Sabato, the paternal grandfather] who instilled a feeling for liberty into his compatriots. It was he who exclaimed 'Up for liberty; down with tyrants . . . [and] in his son Samuel Morais was found a devoted Republican, a man who even suffered imprisonment for his political opinions, who was wont to exclaim 'Even the boards of my bed are Republican.'" Imbued from childhood with a tradition of...
American Jewish History 89.3 (2001) 305-307
The essays in this magnificent and much-needed volume stem from a 1997 conference at the John Carter Brown Library. The story of the mutual influence between the colonial Americas and Jewish thinkers, merchants, and settlers is recounted here more comprehensively than ever before, beautifully complementing and in some respects superseding the earlier foundations laid by scholars such as Jacob Rader Marcus and Salo Wittmayer Baron. Many facets of this history are covered by prominent specialists in economic, social, political, and Jewish history, in anthropology and geography, providing an appropriately fractal view rather than a single, linear narrative. The disparate sections into which the anthology is divided confirm the wisdom of this strategy. Opening the book is a section on ideas and representations of America in European and Jewish discourse; next come essays treating conversos in Spanish and then Portuguese colonial territories; a fourth section covers France and its Caribbean holdings; a fifth is devoted to Dutch America; the sixth batch of essays examines Jews, New Christians and international trade; the final section's single essay discusses the Jews of British America. Somewhat disappointingly, despite the frequent contiguity of the various entries, the only attempt at synthesis comes at the beginning, in Paolo Bernardini's introductory essay, with the result that the anthology remains very much a collection of conference papers.
The collection far surpasses co-editor Norman Fiering's hope that its contents be "useful and suggestive," in no small part due to conceptual standards long set by the scholarship produced by the John Carter Brown Library. Thus the contributors' transcendence of "filiopietism and parochialism" in approaching their subject is particularly laudable (p. xiii). Admirable methodological care is taken to avoid separating European and American history and to refrain from segregating the histories of North and South America. A perhaps unintended but judicious balance has been maintained between economic and socio-cultural history. More open to question is the decision to "include also the thousands of Christians who were descended from Jews [...] for the precise reason that despite their conversion [...] and regardless of their actual practices, these people continued to be commonly regarded as 'Jewish'" (p. xiii). Though the inclusion of their riveting history enables a vast widening of the volume's subject matter, this reader is not convinced about the soundness of including as Jews a population the majority of whose members did not consider themselves Jewish. Ironically, such inclusion reiterates on the one hand the anti-Jewish discourse that unjustifiably tarred this entire population with the label of "Jews" and on the other hand the romantic rhetoric of Jewish scholarship (and pseudo-scholarship) which sees in the same population consistent secret loyalty to and martyrdom for Judaism. Even the outstanding essays devoted to New Christians by experts Robert Rowland, Solange Alberro, Eva Alexandra Uchmany and Günter Böhm do little more than assert—of course by means of Inquisition materials—the Jewishness of those caught by the Inquisition. More perspicaciously, Anita Novinsky restates Ellis Rivkin's thesis that the "negotiable" religious identity of most of the New Christians shows that they were "crypto-individualists" more than anything else (p. 217).
This quibble notwithstanding, this collection will prove highly valuable for readers limited to English-language materials, as the editors made great efforts to include the generally lesser-known Jewish history of Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Dutch realms. Furthermore, the quality of the entries results in a volume remarkably free of errors, factual or interpretive. Given the plethora of contributions, it is impossible to summarize here the many important and fresh findings awaiting the reader. Fascinating and important episodes, many little known, have been brought to light or provided better illumination. Benjamin Schmidt presents a novel and much-needed reading of Menasseh ben Israel's Hope of Israel against the backdrop of Dutch images of and hopes for America and its natives. The syncretism and tolerance of "marrano" religiosity in seventeenth-century New Spain is vividly...
The search for a lost moment of cross-racial solidarity is the "grail quest" of American history, shaped more by contemporary myth and fantasy about a better past than by the literature's oversight of material remains. At moments where the present day circumstance of race relations seems just plain awful, it can be soothing to look for evidence of a moment when things were different, neither mean nor untrusting. But, despite its wide-eyed ethos, this is also a productive quest because it exists in tension with its exact opposite, a serious, dour, historical cynicism, which offers only the story of the bloody struggle not to be at the bottom of the social ladder. And that tension, in turn, has more clearly revealed a series of great turning points and consistent plotlines.
George Bornstein's book is a perfect example of this long-term search for connection and dialogue and shared struggle. Drawing from a vast range of sources and crisscrossing periods and genres, he engagingly stitches together a history of black, Irish, and Jewish solidarity. There are sections on jazz, on the Harlem Renaissance, on nationalisms, and on literary culture, each revealing the widespread sense of alliance and common cause. There are close readings of deeply symbolic, if rare, expressions of sympathy. The heroes of the book—and they are presented as such, and blessed at the end for their contributions, include Frederick Douglass, Louis Armstrong, James Joyce, Al Jolson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Zora Neale Hurston, all champions, for Bornstein, of cosmopolitan links across racial lines.
Bornstein writes—politely, elliptically, and poetically—against the literature generally known as "Whiteness Studies." Emerging out of the riotous early 1990s and becoming ever more dominant over the 2000s, this loosely cohered field argues that race has been a source of unbridgeable division and that whiteness in particular has made the absorption of some immigrants possible, even as it effectively keeps others—and African Americans, too—outside of what is normal, or "American," or privileged. The difficult relations of these three groups (blacks, Jews, and the Irish) are the centerpiece of Whiteness Studies, but the emphasis is invariably on their falling out and not their coming together—on the way, that is, that power of whiteness in American political culture makes it impossible for any long-term coalitions, partnerships, or sympathies across the color line.
Whiteness Studies has transformed the way we see interracial relations. Every story that begins, for example, with Frederick Douglass touring Ireland and noting the synergies between the famine and slavery ends in a riot back home, with Irish Americans refusing to accept any outstretched hand from a "fellow" oppressed group. This trans-Atlantic disconnect—between, say, the Irish in Ireland and the Irish in America— reveals the dark back story of the melting pot myth, in which the alignments of "ethnic" nationalisms were transformed, through American alchemy, into competing minority petitions for rights and resources. But Bornstein is determined, against this heavy grain, to recover nostalgically the first part of this story alone, underscoring merely that once, long ago, things were different. Indeed, after referencing Douglass's tour in his introduction, Bornstein skips (he does this often) over all the messy black-Irish conflicts between 1850 and 1920 and jumps right to Marcus Garvey, who, like Douglass, envisioned a strategic parallelism between black, Irish, and Jewish struggles. Using many of the same examples as his cynical opposites, Bornstein stresses connection over disconnection, homage where others see theft, idealism instead of opportunism, support but never exploitation, small gestures of sympathy but never micro-aggressions.
It should not surprise anyone that Bornstein draws from the philosopher Anthony Appiah, who has labored to restore the collaborative virtues of cosmopolitanism, or that he sympathizes deeply with literary historian George Hutchinson's The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, which chronicles the extraordinary efforts to make cross-racial connections not merely possible but also revolutionary. Bornstein's work is, as one might expect, a charming and earnest and playful pushback against the dystopian narratives that we adopt, with little happiness, as true reflections of a difficult, challenging history.
Matthew Pratt Guterl is Professor of Africana Studies...
American Jewish History 92.3 (2004) 374-376
Analyzing firsthand accounts of girls negotiating the opposing forces of tradition and modernity in their lives, Jewish Girls Coming of Age in America adds a new dimension to a central narrative of the American Jewish experience by presenting the conflicts of acculturation and cultural retention through the historical prism of Jewish female adolescence. Melissa R. Klapper's extensively researched study covers the sixty-year span from roughly the Civil War through World War I, describing how Jewish girls encountered and responded to shifting expectations for their roles in family and society. In great detail, Klapper weaves together the experiences of Jewish girls aged twelve to twenty from across class strata to create a collective story of adolescents relating to the evolving American girl culture and forging pathways to the future of American Jewish womanhood.
The strength of this study lies in its rich and varied source material. In addition to relying on the more accessible papers of well-known women, Klapper has unearthed a wide array of girls' diaries that would otherwise go unnoticed by historians. The book lends authentic voice to the realities of girls' lives, including everything from leisure activities and social pressures to work, family, education and religion. Unlike other gender histories or biographies that focus on the experiences of one young woman or a group of young women of similar background, Klapper has included an expansive assortment of girls' personal writings from both the famous and those not renowned. The breadth of source material forms a composite picture of American Jewish girlhood that lends itself to a meaningfully generalizable history.
The most compelling moments in the narrative occur when ample source material allows these young women to speak for themselves in their own words. Although the prescriptive sources, such as the media and the words of spokespeople for girls' institutions (which Klapper also presents), portray the popular messages about feminine ideals that were disseminated, the girls' own accounts better reveal how these messages were received, interpreted, and translated into girls' day-to-day lives and aspirations. Reflecting a sentiment typical of adolescent girls' writings across the spectrum of the study, Marie Syrkin complained in her diary, "I am becoming common place, ordinary, the very thought maddens me . . . To become sluggish, to let the soul stagnate, ah God, this is not life" (35). The desire to express individuality and achieve aspirations is a theme that the author found to be common among girls regardless of generational or social-class boundaries.
At the heart of the American Jewish girl's process of self-discovery and self-definition lay a delicate balance between tradition and modernity, religious values and changing American norms. Klapper points out that, ultimately, most girls did not feel the need to follow an all-or-nothing assimilative pattern of choosing an American path and rejecting a Jewish one. Rather, the subjects of this study tended to choose to live by "a sustained commitment to both" (236). Jewish girls, states Klapper, "participated in American youth culture with enthusiasm, but also with restraint" (27). They may have wanted to break from the confines of tradition, but they were not willing to abandon the values that shaped their identities, either.
The realm of education was a primary locus for identity development among girls. Klapper appropriately defines education quite broadly to include public and private schooling and religious education, as well as "alternative" forms of education such as community center and YWHA programs, club activities, night schools, and the Jewish press, each one serving as a powerful medium for socialization. In fact, many popular leisure activities were educational in nature, including taking piano lessons, reading literature, and attending school-sponsored clubs and social events. These activities were particularly important for girls because participation in such activities reflected well on a family's class status and even served as a key to social mobility for a girl's family.
The majority of the book focuses on education, both formal and informal, pointing to the power of every aspect of...
In 1880, at least one Jewish General Lee lived in the North, and one Jewish Lincoln in the South. Both were the children of German immigrants. North Carolina-born General Lee Reichman, the son of a Confederate veteran, now lived in New York City; New York-born Lincoln Eichberg, the son of a Union veteran, in Atlanta. Their parents had presumably named their sons for their respective wartime heroes.1 They were not alone in carrying illustrious names, but must have seemed somewhat out of place as adults.2 Beyond revealing their parents’ patriotism, their names testify to the high degree of mobility by Jews immediately after the Civil War.3
A close analysis of a single mid-sized town—Macon, Georgia—helps us to understand Jewish settlement and movement during the period immediately before and after the Civil War.4 Macon thrived between 1860 and 1880 and the Jewish community prospered with it, growing from about 120 individuals to some 350 two decades later.5 This Jewish population, however, did not remain stable. Reconstruction (1863–77) was a period of a small-scale population exchange between the Jewish communities of North and South—and not only in Macon. Regional identity apparently posed little obstacle to Jews who wished to relocate from one region to the other. Economic opportunity pulled these transregional migrants—many of whom were newcomers to the United States—to new locations.6 Chain migration often eased their way. Many relocated for motives similar to those that had first spurred them to come to America.
Historian Lee Shai Weissbach notes that in small town America, “Jewish immigrants [often] roamed around [the United States] before finding permanent homes.” Newcomers arrived and older settlers moved on.7 Jewish settlers often pulled up stakes if they believed “that the economic climate was better elsewhere.”8 So it was with Macon. Many Jews came to the town in order to manage Southern branches of Northern business concerns. In doing so they acted like many other American migrants. As historian Elliott Ashkenazi emphasizes, “[T]he regional economies of nineteenth-century America had numerous interconnections . . . Jews created ties among the various regions of the country during an era that we are accustomed to regard as one of sectional strife, war, and a divisive postwar period known as Reconstruction.”9 Indeed, despite the notion that the South was a distinct and separate region, every community—whether in North, South or West—was one knot in the net of the American economy. Prior to the Civil War, for example, stores in tiny Butler, Ga., functioned as branches of larger New York businesses. Companies that operated in Atlanta during Reconstruction had similar ties to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Mississippi. Sometimes these businesses crossed national borders.10 As participants in the dynamic American business scene, Jews moved for a variety of commercial reasons between regions. These interconnected patterns were clearly evident in Macon from the late antebellum period until well after Reconstruction despite considerable political, civil, and racial upheaval during these years.
In 1880, Macon’s 350 Jews comprised Georgia’s third largest Jewish community. Only Savannah, with some 600 Jewish residents, and Atlanta, with about 525 Jews, had larger populations.11 Macon’s first Jewish settler arrived in 1840, but the Jewish community grew steadily; and within twenty years it established its first congregation, named Beth Israel.12 Immigrants dominated the congregation and in 1869 it still counted only one American-born member. Most of the congregation’s eleven founding members arrived sometime in the mid-1850s, although some had previously lived in Northern states, especially Pennsylvania.13 In 1859 and again ten years later, Beth Israel had just a little more than thirty members—yet only five of them had been affiliated with the congregation in both years. Another three had been members in 1869 but not ten years prior, although they had been in the city then. Those numbers document the high rate of Jewish mobility in Macon between 1860 and 1870.
Federal census returns between 1860 and 1880 tell even more about Macon’s mobile Jewry. The Tenth Federal Census...
American Jewish History 89.4 (2002) 481-483
The focus of Andrew Godley's book is the link between culture and economic behavior. Specifically, it is the daunting phenomenon of Britain's failure to maintain its entrepreneurial dominance in the twentieth century that leads Godley to search for a new way to end the "intellectual stalemate" (p. 12) and breathe new life into the long debate about the causes of Britain's decline. Although cultural and social theories have long been linked to the economic explanation of the decline, Godley hopes to find empirical proof for the role of culture, substituting for the vaguely defined standard cultural explanations. Ultimately, his solid and clear analysis of quantifiable data of entrepreneurship among East European Jewish immigrants—the control group in the study—yields stimulating observations regarding divergent cultural predispositions towards entrepreneurship in American and British societies.
A major part of the study is an exploration of Jewish immigrant propensity for entrepreneurship. However, Godley is not interested in merely revisiting the familiar territory of Jewish economic mobility into the ranks of the middle class. Nor does he wish to explore the mobility of Jews vis-à-vis other immigrant groups. Instead, he compares the rates of mobility of Jews in New York and London. The puzzling differences between the choices made by Jewish immigrants regarding the entrepreneurial trajectory in the two cities constitute the heart of his thesis.
Godley's selection of Jewish immigrants in New York and London is based on obvious similarities. Most notable is the primacy of clothing manufacture in the two cities and the industry's role as major employer to sizable numbers of the two Jewish populations. Using census returns and available studies for the New York case, Godley documents the pronounced movement of Jews into the world of business: by 1914, one in every three Jewish immigrants in New York was an "entrepreneur." London numbers, however, are more modest. Wary of the limitations of the census in the case of London, Godley uses the less conventional source of marriage records kept by London synagogues. Analyzing relevant data regarding Jewish grooms and their occupations, he found that in 1914 only one in every five Jews opted for the entrepreneurial route. He states the difference in even more dramatic terms: the number of Jewish entrepreneurs in New York increased by 17 percent, from 18 percent in 1880, to 34 percent in 1914, while London entrepreneurs increased only by 4 percent, from 14.2 percent in 1880s to 18 percent before 1914. Why the difference, despite, paradoxically, London's edge in entrepreneurial profits? Godley dismisses the possibility that variation between the two immigrant populations was responsible. He points to the same "push" factors, to equal levels of literacy, and to absence of discernable differences in wealth, talent, or skill. Economic explanations of profitability prove to be equally unconvincing. Godley, therefore, turns to culture to seek an explanation for this divergent economic behavior.
The findings concerning entrepreneurial choices made by the two groups suggest two different models of culture encountered by the immigrants, maintains Godley. The concluding pages of the study explore the relationship between the immigrants and their assimilation to the host cultures of New York and London. Specifically, Godley is interested in identifying the unique cultural model that England offered its Jewish immigrants. Assimilation, Godley seems to imply, is a natural process in which the immigrants became the consumers not only of Western clothing or the English language, but also of cultural and social norms of the host society. Thus, for example, assimilation into the capitalist system in America proceeded unrestrained, and immigrants readily embraced values of individualism and free enterprise. The British version, however, differed significantly. Godley finds a puzzling major presence of assimilated Jewish grooms who defined themselves as "journeymen." This category, no longer viable in the structure of American mass production during the period under discussion, remained entrenched in the British tradition of craft culture and had lasting consequences in the British context. Although the precise meaning of the term "journeyman" is far...
Melissa Klapper’s Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace provides a compelling and precise navigation through the largely unknown territories of American Jewish women’s social and political activism in the early twentieth century. While historians have focused primarily on American Jewish women’s contribution to the labor movement or to radical movements like socialism and communism, Klapper concentrates on suffrage, birth control and peace, movements in which Jewish women were found in significant numbers. She argues convincingly that for these women, many of these causes were connected, and that they sprang from deep roots in their Jewish experience, including both the desire for social justice and the wish to acculturate. One of her most intriguing findings is that Jewish women’s activism provided an effective path to social integration into communities of politically active non-Jews, even while their participation in these movements expanded their own Jewish identities. Pathways for Jewish men often differed: Gender mattered.
Focusing on the early feminist movements through the late 1930s, Klapper finds that “thousands and thousands of American Jewish women” engaged in activism, whether as participants or leaders of these three movements, and in the case of birth control as consumers as well. (206) Some became involved through Jewish organizations, like local sisterhoods or chapters of the National Council of Jewish Women; others were affiliated with nonsectarian groups like the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Klapper maintains that these women became activists largely because of their Jewish values and sometimes in spite of their own class privilege or the constraints of religious faith. More surprisingly, very few denied being Jewish when they entered the movements. Klapper finds not dissonance but complementarity between activism and Jewish identity. She suggests that this organic fusion of identities and affiliations was largely a product of the congruence of suffrage, birth control, and peace work with an ideology of maternalism that motivated many Jewish activists.
Nevertheless, Jewish women were often tested by the prejudice they encountered in the movements. By the end of the 1930s, haunted by antisemitism and the peace movement’s failure to take a stand against Nazism, some began to turn their attention away from universalist ideals and toward the protection of Jewish rights, altering their path toward Americanization. Klapper’s story ends at this pivotal moment, but she suggests that the legacy of Jewish women’s activism in the interwar period would have a considerable effect on the social and political movements of the later twentieth century.
Jewish women’s activism in the suffrage, birth control and peace movements made a difference to the larger world and to the Jewish community. Their dynamic leadership improved women’s lives and community well-being in local, national and international arenas. The prominence of Jewish women within the movements generated respect from American women leaders and nonsectarian organizations. Finally, through this work they achieved greater power within the Jewish community, though their influence was never fully realized. On a personal level, political activism fulfilled a desire for service and provided unusual opportunities for female agency at a time when gender roles were limited.
Klapper’s meticulous research and tightly focused arguments provide a thorough and nuanced portrait of this complex and heretofore muted history. Her analysis takes us behind the scenes of women’s and Jewish organizations, struggling to accomplish their missions in difficult times, while providing the intellectual and political context for their ideas and the collaborations and conflicts that often beset them. She also gives us fine sketches of many leading Jewish women activists, like suffrage leader Maud Nathan, birth-control advocate and physician Hannah Mayer Stone, and peace workers Fanny Fligelman Brin and Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, interweaving their stories with the organizations to which they lent their skills. Her focus on the three movements, with sometimes overlapping actors, allows for a comparison among goals, strategies and achievements, while reinforcing the key point that political activism had shared resonances for Jewish women that sprang from their specific backgrounds and traditions.
Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace adds to our accounts of Jewish liberalism and radicalism during the crucial years of the early twentieth century, particularly...
American Jewish History 91.1 (2003) 183-186
Going Greek is Marianne R. Sanua's prodigiously researched study of Jewish Greek life at American colleges. Sanua explores the way American Jews used campus fraternities (and a few sororities) to negotiate their position in the socioeconomic hierarchy and political landscape. She offers a close reading of decades of organizational files, especially those of Zeta Beta Tau, about which she has published a previous book. She has also assembled photographs, chapter rolls, college directories of fraternities and sororities, and even songs of those organizations.
Sanua's readings of the pledge parties, courtships, and other youth-affirming rituals of Jewish fraternity life comprise a serious, often tragic, examination of several generations of American Jewish Greeks and their "ceaseless struggle" for "success": their "desperate efforts to remake themselves and their fellows into the image of what they believed society was telling them a good American ought to be" (30 ). In their strivings, Jewish Greeks articulated American Jews' fears and hopes. Though Sanua's sources offer a precious opportunity to hear them, ultimately she does not provide sufficient analysis to assess the significance of those strivings—to map them onto the landscape of Americanisms at the turn of the last century.
Sanua discusses two main forces acting on these organizations. First, she examines the extent of antisemitism from without, the exclusions and intolerance Jews faced from the mainstream white population. Second, she carefully lays out the vitriolic debates (inextricably tied to widespread antisemitism) within the Jewish organizations and broader Jewish community over what sort of Jewishness was appropriate to America.
Within the "pervasive system of social discrimination" operating in the U.S., Jewish college students responded to their exclusion from white Protestant fraternities by founding their own (45 ). In defiance of anti-Jewish quotas, hostile college administrations, and widespread xenophobia, they formed these social and support organizations, all the while feeling keenly the pressure of representing American Jews. They predicted (often correctly) that they would be easy targets of antisemitism. Their purpose, as one fraternity stated in 1920 , was to "adjust the Jew to his collegiate environment" (60 ). This adjustment took the form of "social training along the lines of mainstream, Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture" (275 ). Jewish Greeks had to represent the "best" of American Jewry, and to accomplish this, they reasoned, "we need not accentuate our Jewishness" (61 ).
As they internalized mainstream ideas of proper Americanism, members created their own patterns of exclusion and elitism. In their internal reports, elite leaders denigrated prospective members out of fear of "conspicuous" behavior: those who kept kosher, looked "too Semitic," or did not meet the requirements for "charm and attractiveness" deemed necessary were not invited to join (255 ). Exclusion was based on predictable categories: class markers (occupation of the father, where the family lived), physical appearance, how long the family had been in the U.S., what language was spoken at home (Yiddish speakers were not welcome), and, eventually, if s/he espoused radical politics. Members assiduously avoided the "loud, cheap, Jewish type," the "greasy" Jews, the "typical ghetto personality" (213 -15 ).
Sanua describes the women and men in the Greek subsystem (subordinate to the Gentile system) as operating with "bitter dignity and self-respect" in striving for the "highest standards" of membership (160 , 159 ). They had internalized the messages of the dominant culture and sought acceptance by the Anglo white majority. By the 1930 s, though acceptance was not forthcoming, Jewish Greeks could "still do their best to enjoy their lives as truly American college students"—for all the positive and negative encapsulated in that label (93 ).
The impact of Hitler's rise to power on Jewish Greek life can hardly be understated, and Sanua chronicles this moment with keen sensitivity. Some, like Abram Sachar, an honorary fraternity brother and later the first president of Brandeis University, hoped to increase the Jewish content in Greek life. But, in 1934 , the "Sachar Plan" was loudly rejected by members who continued to wrestle with the question of "how Jewish" they imagined their American selves...
In recent years we evidence a welcome rise in scholarly interest in eastern European Orthodox rabbis and preachers who settled in North America during the mass immigration era and between the two World Wars. The impact of these rabbis on their communities as well as on the wider Jewish community varied, and those who left manuscripts and published materials enable us to document their outlook on the challenges they and their communities faced. But while Jeffrey Gurock, Charles Liebman, Abraham Karp, and others discuss rabbis and preachers on the American scene, the Canadian scene remained a scholarly terra incognita. In this sense, Ira Robinson’s book is a welcome addition.
The book, which is based upon previously published articles and lectures, consists of eight chapters. Following a preface, the first chapter, essentially an introduction, primarily discusses the importance of studying the immigrant rabbinate and the reasons for prior neglect of this topic. Chapters two to four are devoted to the biographies and activities of Rabbis Hirsch Cohen, Simon Glazer, and Yudel Rosenberg. The following three chapters focus on the local kosher meat market, its main players (slaughterers, butchers, and rabbis), and the issues and forces that determine its dynamics (supervision, finances, religious and institutional control by, among others, the Jewish Community Council of Montreal, and local regulations). Chapter eight explores the biblical commentary of Hirsh Wolofsky, the editor of the Keneder Odler, and an influential figure in Montreal’s Jewish community, and it is followed by a brief afterward.
Overall, Robinson studies these rabbis and their communities in a balanced and critical way, analyzing a wide range of primary sources: rabbis’ personal letters to family members; local newspapers in English and Yiddish; diaries, memoirs, and autobiographies; various rabbinic literature (exegesis, sermons, and halachic); official communal and legal documents such as court protocols; and existing scholarly literature.
Aside from uncovering thus far unknown sources, the author sketches several leading religious leaders of Montreal’s Orthodox Jewish community, some of whom were somewhat colorful characters, illuminating their activities, rivalries (even physical assaults), successes, and failures. In addition, the reader gets a close look at the dynamics of the business of kosher meat supervision and sales. This case study represents a much smaller setup than that of New York, which Harold Gastwirt analyzed in Fraud, Corruption, and Holiness: The Controversy over the Supervision of Jewish Dietary Practice in New York City, 1881–1940 (1974). The Montreal case study reveals some differences, which the author unfortunately does not discuss. Other aspects of the immigrant rabbinate are addressed, too, such as the different ways rabbis responded to the need to learn and use English as opposed to their struggle to maintain Yiddish, although these aspects are not analyzed within the wider context at the challenges faced by immigrant rabbis in North America.
Robinson’s book is pioneering within the Canadian Jewish context and a noteworthy contribution for those interested in immigrant rabbis, the history of Montreal’s Jewish community, and Canadian ethnic studies. It will intrigue students to explore further a host of personalities, events, and processes, and undoubtedly serve as a starting point and reference for future scholarship on Montreal’s Jews and the Canadian Jewish community in general.
Notwithstanding its merits, this book suffers from several problems, some of them rather fundamental. The first chapter discusses the importance of studying the immigrant rabbinate within the North American experience, but barely discusses the specifics of the Canadian context. This myopia leads us to conclude that Robinson sees the Canadian and North American Jewish experience as synonymous. But although the Jewish experience in both countries has certain common features, the Canadian setup has its unique features, as Gerald Tulchinsky and Jonathan Sarna have shown. If so, this should presumably be the case with regard to the rabbinate as well and invites a host of questions that Robinson avoids. For example, did rabbis who relocated from the United States to Canada perceive their new environment as different from the previous one? In what sense? And with what consequences?
Several structural problems also are noticeable. For example, the last chapter, devoted to Hirsh Wolofsky’s biblical commentary, has no connection to the themes of the previous chapters...
Following the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, in which 3,000 people were killed and between half and three-quarters of San Francisco's population was left homeless, Lee Kaufer Frankel and Judah Magnes traveled from New York on behalf of the National Conference of Jewish Charities. The section of the city where most immigrant Jews lived had been hit particularly hard by the fire, and Frankel, upon his arrival, met with Jacob Voorsanger, a local rabbi who had been appointed by San Francisco's mayor as chairman of the Food Committee following the disaster. Though Voorsanger had been unable able to ascertain exact statistics, he estimated that approximately 10,000 Jews had been left homeless and that American Jews would need to donate at least $30,000 to a special relief fund for the victims.
Frankel, far more an advocate of statistics than of estimates, visited some of the victims' makeshift camps for himself, where he counted far fewer Jews than expected based on the rabbi's estimate—suggesting to him that such a fund would perhaps not be necessary. He also met with a representative of the American Red Cross who believed that Red Cross relief funds would be doled out "for rehabilitation purposes, along nonsectarian [sic] lines." Believing that the Red Cross allocations would be adequate for the displaced Jews, he concluded that "there was no need of a special fund for the immediate relief of Jewish sufferers."
On the surface, Frankel's approach seems rather cold, and when we compare his decision to the major accomplishments of his life, it seems particularly out of place. As manager of New York's United Hebrew Charities (UHC) Frankel instituted convalescent care programs as well as programs aimed at reducing instances of marital desertion, and he also created new facilities for treating victims of tuberculosis. Moreover, he revolutionized the life insurance industry by proving to large corporations that preventative care was profitable and in their best interest—saving, by one estimate, 200,000 lives and $18 million over a sixteen-year period. Furthermore, he risked his life to travel to Eastern Europe amid the devastation of World War I on behalf of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (Joint/JDC), helping to implement a more efficient plan to rebuild a destroyed Jewish world. And additionally, he helped to reconcile the often-bitter divide between American Zionists and non-Zionists, helping to create the Jewish Agency, which bettered the lives of Jewish refugees in Palestine. How can we reconcile Frankel's unwillingness to help the San Francisco sufferers with his life-long devotion to humanitarian causes?
The answer lies in Frankel's two-pronged reconceptualization of American Jewish philanthropy. First, Frankel worked to reshape philanthropic priorities from a direct social-service agenda that met immediate needs to one of proactive social change that identified and addressed long-term root causes by offering sustainable solutions. For Frankel, the difference between the two approaches could be compared to the difference between a fire fighter and fire prevention education. After an alarm sounded, "the engine was on the way and before long the fire was out . . . The firemen had done their task. It consisted in putting out fires." Yet he believed there was a more effective method. "It was not their concern to know that in the long run to educate people regarding the use of matches is more economical than to pay for heroic acts of rescue." By encouraging such a shift in thinking, and by addressing causes of poverty that were rooted within social systems, Frankel hoped to foster systemic change within American Jewish philanthropy.
Second, and closely intertwined with the first approach, Frankel also sought to change how American Jewish philanthropic organizations identified priorities and conducted business. He advocated a transition from an observational, individualized approach to one that relied on trained professionals to scientifically analyze data and suggest the most efficient, economically sustainable solutions. Frankel's approach mirrored the professionalization of medicine that was occurring in this same era, and it also in many ways reflected how the Progressive movement advocated similar goals within government. While an emphasis on science and efficiency may have appeared cold, Frankel...
In 1912, the Protestant missionary journal Our Hope sought an explanation for the origin and meaning of Jewish "nervous disorders." Like other American periodicals of the Progressive Era, it suggested that hysteria and neurasthenia constituted a significant issue for many Americans, and Jews in particular. But this journal did not, like others, posit a neo-Freudian explanation about repression. Nor did it offer a Lamarckian explanation of the inherited effects of persecution. Instead, as the organ of the largest American mission to the Jews, Our Hope provided theological reasons for the presence of "nervousness" in Jewish bodies. Even though the widespread diagnosis of nervous disorders had only begun after George Beard's 1881 American Nervousness, the journal saw the "divine prediction" of these ailments in Deuteronomy 28:64-67. According to Arno Gaebelein, longtime editor of Our Hope and later contributor to The Fundamentals pamphlet series, Deuteronomy explained that Jews should expect "a trembling heart, and failing of eyes and sorrow of mind" and "fear day and night." He then provided a contemporary exegesis for the verses: "This prediction has found its fulfillment, as well as many others, among the Jews for many generations. A leading Jewish specialist on nervous diseases declares that Jews are more subject to diseases of the nervous system than the other races among whom they dwell. Hysteria and neurasthenia appear to be the most frequent." Using a complex definition of Jewishness that relied on both religion and race, Gaebelein suggested that Jews suffered for both hereditary and theological reasons. He went on to cite another scientist's work indicating that Jews were "almost exclusively the inexhaustible source for the supply of hysterical males for the whole [European] Continent. This liability to nervous disorders is the result of the curse which rests upon the race, 'the trembling heart and the sorrow of mind' as mentioned in the above passage of Deuteronomy." Popular medical discourse had linked these diseases to women or to a failure of proper masculinity. It also recommended that they should be prevented by strenuous physical activity or combated with fresh air. Confounding any essentially biological notion of nervousness, Arno Gaebelein and the readers of Our Hope proposed a different solution to the plight of these nervous Jews: conversion.
Gaebelein's interests point to a larger missionary attention to the relationship between Jewishness and masculinity. Other missionaries, in particular Jews who converted and subsequently became missionaries to other Jews, grappled with ways to understand Jewish difference in the context of both religion and gender. On the one hand, they painted Christian masculinity with the broad strokes of physical prowess, might, and willingness to fight. On the other, they associated Jewish masculinity with gentleness and quietness in the face of suffering. These missionary sources suggest that this difference in masculinity represented an instance of Joan Wallach Scott's now axiomatic proposition of gender as a "primary way of signifying relationships of power." In the context of American Protestant missions to the Jews, the available signifiers were not simply masculine versus feminine, but rather different kinds of masculinity. For instance, instead of a situation in which one might feminize the enemy or masculinize the victor, Christian missionaries perceived a situation in which two religions each espoused a different version of manhood.
As Jews who had converted and then become Christian missionaries to other Jews, "Hebrew-Christian" missionaries, as they were called, occupied a liminal space in the religious landscape. As such, missionaries Samuel Freuder, Joseph Goldman, Leopold Cohn, and others on the missionary margins associated a physically powerful and intimidating masculinity with Protestants and a gentle, non-violent masculinity with Jews. Although these men represented a tiny segment of the population, their rhetoric suggests that the discourse on manliness and religion may be more complex than historians have proposed. These missionary sources offers a new perspective on the cultural construction of Jewish masculinity and the interactions of Protestant and Jewish masculinities.
American Protestant missions to American Jews grew in both number and visibility between 1880 and 1920, despite few baptisms and permanent converts. The increase resulted from a combination of the rise of premillennialist theology, which emphasized the role of Jews in the end times, and...
The early writers of American Jewish history whose works appeared in the inaugural issues of the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (PAJHS) were ill-disposed and ill-equipped to examine the ongoing saga of East European immigrants to the United States. These amateur chroniclers were committed to evidencing the long association of Jews with America from the very discovery of the New World, and to extolling the “considerable numbers [who] saw service in the Colonial and Revolutionary wars, some of them with distinction.” They also were sure to elaborate on the “active role [Jews] have played in the political affairs of the country” and on the fact that “they have been called upon to hold important public positions.”
A crucial target audience for their heartfelt expositions was made up of the gentiles around them who were then being told by nativists and antisemites that Jews and other minorities were, at best, late-arriving interlopers who had done little to build their great country. This was an era that witnessed the rise of so-called “patriotic” organizations, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, which argued forcefully that their ancestors alone were the real Americans. Stung by this criticism, frequent contributors—for example, Leon Hühner, Max J. Kohler, Samuel Oppenheim and Albert Friedenberg—set out, year in and year out, to put into the record sources and discussions on such themes as the “Naturalization of Jews in New York under the Act of 1740” and “Phases in the History of Religious Liberty in America with Particular Reference to the Jews.”
Essentially, these voices of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) were “cautious defenders” of Jewish status in America. Without taking on their opponents directly, writers emphasized the loyalty and contribution of Jews, such as those from their own families, who had been in the land of freedom for several or more generations. Filiopietistic to a fault, they were also anxious to note their ancestors’ stories of integration and acceptance within the majority society. It also helped their cause, and added luster to their saga, when sympathetic Christians were recruited to attest that there were no blemishes on the Jewish group’s record. Thus, for example, when he documented the “temper and conduct “of the first Jews in Georgia, Charles C. Jones Jr.—a Presbyterian, who in the late nineteenth century, earned a reputation as the “historian of Georgia”—concluded, “[In] the record there are no stains. To the present day, the Jews of Georgia have been industrious, thrifty, law abiding and substantial citizens.”
Given the defensive posture of their writings, the East European Jewish newcomers around them did not fit their apologetic and forebear-worshiping narratives. Although Jews from Poland and Lithuania, in fact, had been among the very first settlers in America—for example, the most famous Jew of the mid-1660s, Asser Levy, who struggled against Peter Stuyvesant in New Amsterdam, hailed from Vilna—the sagas of the hundreds of thousands who were arriving at the very moment that the society came into existence in 1892 were not deemed worthy or appropriate for publication. Arguably, those who were populating the Lower East Side with all of their problems of adjustment fed into the nefarious story lines that the nativists were projecting. So, perhaps, their part of American Jewish history might be best left untold.
Additionally, even if a Hühner or a Kohler desired to broaden the scope of the journal’s interest, they lacked the language tools and cultural connections to write about groups of Jews with whom they had little or no personal association. Axiomatically, to study the so-called “downtown” East European community required then—as it does today—a facility with Yiddish and, to a lesser extent, Hebrew, to read the immigrants’ newspapers, to examine synagogue minute books, and to understand rabbinic religious disputes, etc. Moreover, the earliest writers—primarily those of Central European extraction—did not have ongoing relationships with their potential subjects that would have afforded them the chance to hear, record and then publish their first-person accounts of their life and times. In the first eight editions of the PAJHS, in which eighty-three articles were published...
Far from the frontlines of the boutique Yiddish revival, alumni from Camp Boiberik descended on their old Rhinebeck, New York, campground for a reunion in May 2009. While the event attracted about 150 participants, the ranks of the old timers, those who attended the camp during its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s, had thinned considerably since the previous reunion ten years earlier. Representatives from that era felt an acute need to document the camp’s history and the larger story of Yiddish secular education.
Fradle Pomerantz Freidenreich, herself a product of the Yiddish culture that pervaded Boiberik and scores of other educational institutions, is animated by this sense of urgency. The daughter of Yiddish educator and activist I. Chaim Pomerantz, she also came into possession of an extensive archive of letters and memorabilia. This trove became the basis for Passionate Pioneers, a comprehensive compendium of Yiddish secular education in North America during the first half of the twentieth century. Freidenreich supplemented her father’s archive with correspondence, interviews, and materials from hundreds of former students and campers representing many of the over 1,000 Yiddish secular schools and approximately forty summer camps that dotted the North American landscape between 1910 and 1960.
The Yiddish educational system in the United States and Canada developed more or less simultaneously with the system of modern Talmud Torahs, Hebrew schools, and culture camps and was stimulated by similar concerns about assimilation. Yet unlike the communal and synagogue-based Hebrew schools and camps, which were essentially religious in orientation, their Yiddish counterparts were avowedly secular and often socialist in orientation. The idealistic educators who conceived and directed these institutions viewed them as tools in class struggle. They infused their pupils, primarily the children of working-class Jews, with the knowledge, values, and world outlook that would encourage them to realize a new egalitarian social order.
Freidenreich guides the reader through the ideological thicket of socialist, Bundist, communist, and Zionist organizations that sponsored the schools and camps and sets them in historical context. She also painstakingly documents basic information about schools and camps in scores of communities large and small. Class photographs, diplomas, letterhead, publicity flyers and other images help to evoke this bygone era, as does an accompanying CD of fifteen Yiddish school and camp songs. (Yiddish lyrics and English translations appear in an appendix.)
Freidenreich’s undertaking was mammoth and accomplished with great deftness and attention to detail. Clearly, this was a labor of love. The service she has provided to historians and nostalgia-seekers alike cannot be overestimated. The book is especially interesting in those places where she digresses from her recitation of facts and figures and discusses larger trends. For example, her chapter on Boiberik, which was sponsored by the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute, allows her to explore longtime director Leibush Lehrer’s philosophy and contribution to Jewish education. Freidenreich seems almost apologetic about devoting so much space to Boiberik. She needn’t be. While she is correct that Boiberik’s significance and success were rivaled by other camps, like Kinderland and Kinderwelt, the in-depth portrait provides the reader with an appreciation for the rhythms and texture of Yiddish secular camping and allows for an evaluation of its successes and failures. It is unfortunate that a similarly detailed case study is not offered in her section on Yiddish schools.
Indeed, the greatest weakness in Freidenreich’s book is its lack of analytical framework and absence of any central argument save for the observation that these institutions once flourished and have largely been forgotten. Freidenreich was so engrossed in the work of documentation that she neglected to ask the types of questions that would shed light on the larger meaning and significance of the Yiddish secular education movement in North America. Nor does she give her readers more than an inkling of why fraternal groups like the Labor Zionist Farband and the Arbeter Ring embraced programs of elementary education. She suggests a central role in the development of the schools for writer and literary critic Chaim Zhitlowsky, and intriguingly suggests that he was motivated, at least in part, by a rejection of the prevailing melting pot ethos in favor of cultural...
Biblical Interpretation and Middle East Policy is offered as "a case study of the influence of cultural tradition on international relations, specifically of the influence of the Christian Bible on British and American Middle Eastern policy in the twentieth century" (ix). Its thesis is that "Christian familiarity with and interpretation of the Bible created the seedbed" within which Zionist lobbying took hold and flourished (2). To understand why American support of Israel has been so constant, one has therefore to understand the elements of "biblical interpretation" and their place in our culture. This being so, Anderson embarks at once upon some biblical interpretation of his own.
Anderson's biblical exegesis is disconnected, bouncing from one colorful point to another, showing no acquaintance with the traditional theological or biblical commentaries, propping things up with quotations from deconstructionist populizers. Magnus Magnusson's Archaeology of the Bible (1977), a coffee-table book based upon a television documentary series, is Anderson's authority for the Old Testament; for the New Testament, he depends upon the same Jesus Seminar types who have inspired the Dan Brown books [The Da Vinci Code, (2003), et al.] and, of course, the egregious Karen Armstrong, author of The Battle for God (2000). In his preface, he names and acknowledges the many scholars who "provided considerable help with recent biblical scholarship" (ix)—but it is surely from none of these that he learned that "the first ten books of the Bible [are] . . . called the Pentateuch" (15).
Given that the rationale for Anderson's excursus into biblical hermeneutics is to demonstrate the monumental damage that follows from the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God, Anderson really ought to demonstrate a modicum of appreciation for what that term means as it appears in the long, learned, and sophisticated tradition of Christian dogmatics. Instead, there is nothing in Anderson's bibliography to suggest that he has ever dipped anywhere into biblical scholarship prior to the 1980s. Having glanced into university textbooks on biblical literature, he feels equipped to summarize the literature on textual criticism in a few cloudy lines, but seems totally unaware of the scholarly assailants of the documentary hypothesis such as R.K. Harrison or Umberto Cassuto.
Anderson's summary of the vast and vital tradition of Christian eschatology, in particular, is sadly underwhelming. The section of the Gospels which scholars call the Synoptic Apocalypse (Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21: 5–36) he casts out scornfully on the advice of his Jesus Seminar sources, from whom he has learned: "There has been considerable controversy as to whether or not Jesus actually made the statements about his Second Coming attributed to him" (142, n. 44).
Anderson's examination of the mind of faith belongs to the well-known visiting-anthropologist-from-Mars school:
The human brain is a fascinating phenomenon. . . . Faced with unclear or ambiguous information, it tends to organize incoming data around old beliefs . . . . Having grown up hearing Bible stories of Abraham, Joshua, and the Promised Land, or having read about or listened to accounts of the End Times and the ingathering of Jews to Palestine as a prelude to the Second Coming, it is not surprising that many, though certainly not all, Americans simply assume that it is right and proper for Jews to return to Palestine and create their own state there".
Anderson distrusts religion because it recruits disproportionately the weak-minded elements in our democracies, inducing them to imagine that they understand what they cannot possibly understand—what he calls the "ambiguous" things, like economics and geopolitics. "In troubled times, religion in general and fundamentalism in particular provide an explanation of the world, a sense of purpose, a guide to action, and the satisfaction of being part of a social group of like mind. The prophetic view especially provides reassurance that God is, indeed, in charge. He has a plan, and we can be part of that plan. This is powerful stuff" (108–109). Indeed it is.
Having consulted the Christian anti-Zionists (notably, Donald Wagner, Grace Halsell and Stephen Sizer), Anderson has picked up the red-herring that Christian Zionists are all infected with Premillennial-Dispensationalism. This eccentric, although admittedly very popular...
American Jewish History 88.3 (2000) 377-406
In 1967, retired Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, a lifelong friend and trusted confidant of Herbert Hoover, offered a postmortem appraisal of the president's racial attitudes: "He appreciated talent. He didn't care whether the man who had it was of his political persuasion. He was absolutely color-blind as to race, and he didn't care anything about denomination." Granted, this strong endorsement of Hoover's weltanschauung as one untainted with the ignorance of bigotry and racism did come from a close friend, but it was also based on years of experience and cooperation with Hoover in humanitarian and relief efforts.
Hoover's attitude on race, particularly his views on Jews, has received little attention from biographers, and the overall consensus is not favorable. While revisionist historians have successfully rehabilitated the damaged persona of Hoover by stressing his organizational genius and humanitarian progressivism, the prevailing opinion of Hoover's racial views holds that he did not rise above the prejudice of his time. Even Donald J. Lisio concedes that the Chief's encounter with racism is "the tragic yet instructive tale of a good man who insisted that he was color-blind but could not even see and understand the racism that engulfed him and his society."
The following examination of Hoover's record on Jewish relations is limited in scope to his years of public service between 1917 and 1928. Based on one chapter of a doctoral thesis that deals with the ambiguity and ambivalence surrounding both American Zionism and the actions of the Hoover administration, this study tries to ascertain the early relationship patterns between Hoover and the American Jewish community. Hoover lived a long and full life, encompassing an impressive career both as a private citizen and public servant. His relations with the Jewish community were thus varied, depending upon the changing circumstances over time, and can be roughly divided into three phases: the years of public service between 1917 and 1928, the years of Hoover's presidency, and his activities during the post-presidential years. This study is an attempt to address the first phase of the dynamics between Hoover and American Jews and to set the parameters for an evaluation of Hoover's performance on Jewish matters during his presidency.
An analysis of Hoover's record on Jewish relations between 1917 and 1928 defies simple explanations and must be understood within the confines of ideology, politics, and culture. Hoover's Quaker mentality and engineering background prepared him well for American relief efforts overseas and defined his cooperation with Jewish relief organizations. Hoover cultivated relations with the non-Zionist, highly assimilated and largely German-Jewish leadership of American Jewry that seemed far removed from the masses of recent eastern European immigrants. A common interest in humanitarian work cemented a friendship and political partnership between Hoover and leading members of the American Jewish community like Louis Marshall and Felix Warburg, both wealthy philanthropists and loyal supporters of the Republican party. Yet, a closer look at Hoover's record on the Jewish question in Poland reveals the inherent tensions between humanitarian concerns and larger foreign policy objectives. Moreover, his near silence on anti-Semitism during the 1920s and his attitude toward Zionism show that the relationship between Hoover and the shtadlanim operated within the parameters of Americanism as much as humanitarianism.
Hoover was an ideologue and a visionary, his philosophy of life deeply rooted in his Quaker upbringing and experience as an engineer. He was born in 1874 in West Branch, Iowa, to practicing Quaker parents who imbued young Herbert with the values of their faith. He learned to accept the precepts of hard work, plain living, and honest faith and was deeply influenced by the Quaker sense of harmony and unity of voluntary community cooperation. A cooperative work ethic, whereby all members of the community did their best in their particular "callings" in life for the good of everyone, would stay with him throughout his private and public careers.
Hoover's strong work ethic and education at Stanford turned him into a successful mining engineer, the progressive ideal of the scientific business manager, and a millionaire at age...
When scholars speak of situating Jews within the American racial landscape, typically, they are speaking metaphorically. How have Jews seen themselves? How have they been perceived others? I offer here an alternative, more literal approach to understanding the nexus of Jews, race, and place: How have Jews situated themselves in relationship to whites with respect to where they choose to live? Even though Jewish residential choices have been to some extent constrained both by their economic resources and restrictive covenants that excluded them, every major Jewish community has seen a succession of neighborhoods where Jews have been concentrated. Even if some neighborhoods might have been closed to Jews over the course of the twentieth century, Jews have made choices among neighborhoods to which they did have access. How have Jews chosen where to live? This is not a simple question to answer because Jews do not appear to behave like white ethnics, even though sociological theory has assumed that they ought to. Indeed, when the assumption of Jewish whiteness is lifted, Jewish residential patterns, especially in their Sunbelt variety, appear most similar to those of nonwhite ethnics generally, and to the Asian-American “ethnoburb” in particular.
Two perspectives, both deeply influenced by racial understandings, have influenced the understanding of urban residential migration: spatial assimilation and place stratification. Spatial assimilation posits a pull of migrants to mainstream (i.e., Anglo — persons who are white but not Hispanic, Latino, or Jewish) communities and amenities. Place stratification posits a push of migrants away from economically and socially stigmatized (i.e., black, Latino and poor) locales. Both theories, as we shall see, have been deeply flawed in their attempts to understand Jewish residential patterns, and, as a result, have had to defer to awkward caveats to explain Jewish differences from other white ethnics.
The idea of spatial assimilation goes back to the beginnings of American sociology with urban sociologists Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess. They understood the city as an ecology consisting of concentric rings emanating out from the city center, where social and physical deterioration were concentrated. The most prosperous areas were to be found at the city’s periphery. Those with the means to do so moved away from the center to the periphery. Douglas Massey named this process “spatial assimilation.” The literature on spatial assimilation argues that upwardly mobile minorities leave their urban enclaves in favor of the superior amenities offered by the non-ethnic suburbs.
The theory argued that an important outcome of socioeconomic advancement for minorities is residential integration within Anglo communities. A host of characteristics important to people’s social and economic well-being are determined by residential location. For example, health, quality of education, access to employment, exposure to crime and, of course, social prestige all depend, in part, on where one lives. As social status rises, therefore, minorities attempt to convert their socioeconomic achievements into an improved spatial position, which usually implies assimilation with majority members.
A renewed interest in spatial assimilation arose following passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which replaced national origin (i.e., racial) quotas with a system of preferences based on immigrants’ skills and family relationships with U.S. citizens. Spatial assimilation applies both to Latinos and to Asians, communities that constitute most of the post-1965 immigration, as well as to the white ethnics who immigrated to the United States in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Spatial assimilation, in general, and postwar suburbanization, in particular, were also part of the process of being seen as white for Irish, Southern European, and Eastern European immigrants.
The attempt to use spatial assimilation as a model to understand the residential patterns of Jews goes back to the Chicago School. Louis Wirth, a student of Robert Park, observed in 1928 that when Jews left Chicago’s Maxwell Street ghetto, they re-concentrated in the Lawndale neighborhood, a move that did not fit the normative white-ethnic pattern. Wirth explained this failure of Jews to capitalize on upward social mobility as the result of the Jews’ exceptional levels of insecurity. Writing forty years after Wirth, Judith Kramer and Seymour Leventman took up Wirth...