Modern Jewish History

Henry Feingold

Published by: Syracuse University Press

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Modern Jewish History

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American Jewish Political Culture and the Liberal Persuasion

Henry L. Feingold

American Jewish Political Culture and the Liberal Persuasion begins with the historical background of American Jewish politics before delving into old roots and then moving onto a thematic understanding of American Jewry’s political psyche. This exhaustive work answers the grand question of where American Jewish liberalism comes from and ultimately questions whether the communal motivations behind such behavior are strong enough to withstand twenty-first-century America.

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Assimilated Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1940-1943

by Katarzyna Person

Jews in Nazi-oppupied Warsaw during the 1940s were under increasing threat as they were stripped of their rights and forced to live in a guarded ghetto away from the non- Jewish Polish population. Within the ghettos, a small but distinct group existed: the assimilated, acculturated, and baptized Jews. Unwilling to integrate into the Jewish community and unable to merge with the Polish one, they formed a group of their own, remaining in a state of suspension throughout the interwar period. In 1940, with the closure of the Jewish Residential Quarter in Warsaw, their identity was chosen for them. Person looks at what it meant for assimilated Jews to leave their prewar neighborhoods, understood as both a physical environment and a mixed Polish Jewish community, and enter a new, Jewish one. She reveals the diversity of this group and how its members’ identity shaped their involvement in and contribution to ghetto life. In the first English-language study of this small but influential group, Person illuminates the important role of the acculturated and assimilated Jews to the history and memory of the Warsaw ghetto.

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Bundist Counterculture in Interwar Poland

Jack Jacobs

In the years between the two world wars, the Jewish community of Poland—the largest in Europe—was the cultural heart of the Jewish diaspora. The Jewish Workers’ Bund, which had a socialist, secularist, Yiddishist, and anti-Zionist orientation, won a series of important electoral battles in Poland on the eve of the Second World War and became a major political party. While many earlier works on the politics of Polish Jewry have suggested that Bundist victories were not of lasting significance or attributable to outside forces, Jack Jacobs argues convincingly that the electoral success of the Bund was linked to the work of the constellation of cultural and other organizations revolving around the party. The Bund offered its constituents innovative, highly attractive, programs and a more enlightened perspective: from new sexual mores to sporting organizations and educational institutions. Drawing on meticulously researched archival materials, Jacobs shows how the growth of these successful programs translated into a stronger, more robust party. At the same time, he suggests the Bund’s limitations, highlighting its failed women’s movement. Jacobs provides a fascinating account of this countercultural movement and a thoughtful revision to the accepted view.

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The Children of La Hille

Eluding Nazi Capture during World War II

Walter W. Reed

Following the horrors of Kristallnacht in November of 1938, frightened parents were forced to find refuge for their children, far from the escalating anti-Jewish violence. To that end, a courageous group of Belgian women organized a desperate and highly dangerous rescue mission to usher nearly 1,000 children out of Germany and Austria. Of these children, ninety-three were placed on a freight train, traveling through the night away from their families and into the relative safety of Vichy France. Ranging in age from five to sixteen years, the children along with their protectors spent a harsh winter in an abandoned barn with little food before eventually finding shelter in the isolated Château de la Hille in southern France. While several of the youngest children were safely routed to the United States, those who remained continued to be hunted by Nazi soldiers until finally smuggled illegally across the Swiss Alps to safe houses. Remarkably, all but eleven of the original ninety-three children survived the war due to the unrelenting efforts of their protectors and their own resilience. In The Children of La Hille, Reed narrates this stunning firsthand account of the amazing rescue and the countless heroic efforts of those who helped along the way. As one of the La Hille children, Reed recalls with poignant detail traveling from lice-infested, abandoned convents to stately homes in the foothills of the Pyrenees, always scrambling to keep one step ahead of the Nazis. Drawing upon survivor interviews, journals, and letters, Reed affectionately describes rousing afternoon swims in a nearby natural pond and lively renditions of Molière plays performed for an audience of local farmers. He tells of heart-stopping near misses as the Vichy police roundups intensified, forcing children to hide in the woods to escape capture. The Children of La Hille gives readers an intimate glimpse of a harrowing moment in history, paying tribute to ordinary people acting in extraordinary ways.

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Contemporary Sephardic Identity in the Americas

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Edited by Margalit Bejarano and Edna Aizenberg

Offers a wide overview of the Sephardic presence in North and South America through eleven essays discussing culture, history, literature, language, religion and music.

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The Downfall of Abba Hillel Silver and the Foundation of Israel

by Ofer Shiff

In early February 1949 American Jewry’s most popular and powerful leader, Abba Hillel Silver (1893–1963), had summarily resigned from all his official positions within the Zionist movement and had left New York for Cleveland, returning to his post as a Reform rabbi. In the immediate years prior to his resignation, during the second half of the 1940s, Silver was the most outspoken proponent of the founding of a sovereign Jewish state. He was the most instrumental American Jewish leader in the political struggle that led to the foundation of the State of Israel. Paradoxically, this historic victory also heralded Silver’s personal defeat. Soon after Israel’s declaration of independence, he and many of his American Zionist colleagues were relegated to the sidelines of the Zionist movement. Almost overnight the most influential leader—one who was admired and feared by both supporters and opponents—was stripped of his power within both the Zionist and the American Jewish arenas. Shiff’s book discerns the various aspects of the striking turnabout in Silver's political fate, describing both the personal tragic story of a leader who was defeated by his own victory, and the much broader intra-Zionist battle which erupted in full force immediately after the founding of Israel. Drawing extensively on Silver’s personal archival material, Shiff presents an enlightening portrait of a critical episode in Jewish history. This book is most relevant for anyone who attempts to understand the complex homeland- diaspora relations between Israel and American Jewry.

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Einstein's Pacifism and World War I

Virginia Iris Holmes

To understand how Albert Einstein’s pacifist and internationalist thought matured from a youthful inclination to pragmatic initiatives and savvy insights, Holmes gives readers access to Einstein in his own words. Through his private writings, she shows how Einstein’s thoughts and feelings in response to the war evolved from horrified disbelief, to ironic alienation from both the war’s violence and patriotic support for it by the German people, to a kind of bleak endurance. Meanwhile, his outward responses progressed, from supporting initiatives of other pacifists, to developing his own philosophy of a postwar order, to being the impetus behind initiatives.

In the beginning of the postwar period, Einstein’s writing reflected an optimism about Germany’s new Weimar Republic and trust in the laudatory effects of military defeat and economic hardship on the German people. He clearly supported the principles in US President Woodrow Wilson’s "Fourteen Points" speech. Yet Einstein’s enthusiasm diminished as he became disappointed in the early Weimar Republic’s leaders and as his aversion to the culture of violence developing in Germany grew. He also felt offended at the betrayal of Wilson’s principles in the Treaty of Versailles. Drawing upon personal correspondence and public proclamations, Holmes offers an intimate and nuanced exploration of the pacifist thought of one of our greatest intellectuals.

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Judah L. Magnes

An American Jewish Nonconformist

Daniel P. Kotzin

Judah L. Magnes (1877–1948) was an American Reform rabbi, Jewish community leader, and active pacifist during World War I. In the 1920s he moved to British Mandatory Palestine, where he helped found and served as first chancellor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Later, in the 1930s and 1940s, he emerged as the leading advocate for the binational plan for Palestine. In these varied roles, he actively participated in the major transformations in American Jewish life and the Zionist movement during the first half of the twentieth century.

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Louis Marshall and the Rise of Jewish Ethnicity in America

A Biography

by Matthew Silver

A milestone in modern Jewish history and American ethnic history, the sweeping influence of Louis Marshall’s career through the 1920s is unprecedented. A tireless advocate for and leader of an array of notable American Jewish organizations and institutions, Marshall also spear­headed civil rights campaigns for other ethnic groups, blazing the trail for the NAACP, Native American groups, and environmental protection causes in the early twentieth century. No comprehensive biography has been published that does justice to Marshall's rich;y diverse life as an impassioned defender of Jewish communal interests and as a prominent attorney who reportedly argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any other attorney of his era. Silver eloquently fills that gap, tracing Marshall’s career in detail to reveal how Jewish sub-groups of Eastern European immigrants and established Central European elites interacted in New York City and else­where to fuse distinctive communal perspectives on specific Jewish issues and broad American affairs. Through the chronicle of Marshall’s life Silver sheds light on immigration policies, Jewish organizational and social history, environmental activism, minority politics during World War I, and he bears witness to the rise of American Jewish ethnicity in pre- Holocaust America.

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"We Are Jews Again"

Jewish Activism in the Soviet Union

Translated from the Russian by Stefani Hoffman

Kosharovsky’s authoritative four-volume history of the Jewish movement in the Soviet Union is now available in a condensed and edited volume that makes this compelling insider’s account of Soviet Jewish activism after Stalin available to a wider audience. Originally published in Russian from 2008 to 2012, "We Are Jews Again" chronicles the struggles of Jews who wanted nothing more than the freedom to learn Hebrew, the ability to provide a Jewish education for their children, and the right to immigrate to Israel. Through dozens of interviews with former refuseniks and famous activists, Kosharovsky provides a vivid and intimate view of the Jewish movement and a detailed account of the persecution many faced from Soviet authorities.

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