We Remember with Reverence and Love
American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962
Publication Year: 2009
Winner of the 2009 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies
Recipient of the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Humanities-Intellectual & Cultural History
It has become an accepted truth: after World War II, American Jews chose to be silent about the mass murder of millions of their European brothers and sisters at the hands of the Nazis.
In this compelling work, Hasia R. Diner shows the assumption of silence to be categorically false. Uncovering a rich and incredibly varied trove of remembrances—in song, literature, liturgy, public display, political activism, and hundreds of other forms—We Remember with Reverence and Love shows that publicly memorializing those who died in the Holocaust arose from a deep and powerful element of Jewish life in postwar America. Not only does she marshal enough evidence to dismantle the idea of American Jewish “forgetfulness,” she brings to life the moving and manifold ways that this widely diverse group paid tribute to the tragedy.
Diner also offers a compelling new perspective on the 1960s and its potent legacy, by revealing how our typical understanding of the postwar years emerged from the cauldron of cultural divisions and campus battles a generation later. The student activists and “new Jews” of the 1960s who, in rebelling against the American Jewish world they had grown up in “a world of remarkable affluence and broadening cultural possibilities” created a flawed portrait of what their parents had, or rather, had not, done in the postwar years. This distorted legacy has been transformed by two generations of scholars, writers, rabbis, and Jewish community leaders into a taken-for-granted truth.
Published by: NYU Press
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I had long been bothered by the often repeated “truth” about post – World War II American Jewry’s Holocaust avoidance, an assertion that to this day runs through the literature on American Jewish history. It struck me as wrong in and of itself and because it almost always came with little evidence to back it up. ...
Introduction: Deeds and Words
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The Jewish teenager who spent the summer of 1956 at the Reform movement’s Camp Institute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, edited a literary magazine, a repository of their fond memories of a summer well spent. They could not possibly have known, as they cobbled together All Eyes Are on the . . . Literary Magazine ...
1 Fitting Memorials
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In 1952, The American Jewish Congress assembled a committee, chaired by author Rufus Learsi, charged with a unique task. Asked to compose a Passover text for both home and public ceremonial use that hallowed the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi catastrophe, the committee, which within a few years ...
2 Telling the World
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"Of making books there is no end,” Shlomo Katz observed in 1962 in Midstream, the Zionist magazine he edited. Quoting Ecclesiastes in this survey of postwar American Jewish letters, he noted that the same compulsion to write which the biblical writer had observed “more than two thousand years ago” ...
3 The Saving Remnant
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In 1946, Ira Hirschmann, then a special envoy to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, published Life Line to a Promised Land, a harrowing description of the desperate plight of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. He dedicated this work, a scathing denunciation of both the United States ...
4 Germany on Their Minds
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In a 1953 opinion piece in the Jewish Spectator, Trude Weiss-Rosmarin spewed vitriol at the “current tin-pan alley hit song” “Auf Wiedersehn!” and the Americans who enjoyed it. Since “popular songs must appeal to the sentiment of the masses by means of subconscious identification,” she pondered why ...
5 Wrestling with the Postwar World
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With their expressive and practical works, postwar American Jews recalled the victims of the Holocaust, launched campaigns to aid the catastrophe’s survivors, and confronted its perpetrators. Similarly, as they reacted to a set of political developments on the domestic scene, in Israel, and in Europe, they found ...
6 Facing the Jewish Future
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The holocaust moved American Jews as they participated in the American world, using it to advance liberalism by invoking it to advocate for the political agenda they considered in their own and America’s best interests. The catastrophe also shaped their understanding of themselves as Jews, providing them with a rationale ...
Conclusion: The Corruption of History, the Betrayal of Memory
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American Jews in the years from the end of World War II into the early 1960s had much to say about the European Jewish catastrophe, doing so in a multiplicity of ways. Whether in liturgy or journalism, in pedagogy or sermons, in staged ceremonies or in the deliberations of their organizational meetings ...
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About the Author
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HASIA R. DINER is Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History and the Director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at New York University. She is the author or editor of numerous books, ...
Page Count: 528
Publication Year: 2009