In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

142 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 readers. Anti-Semitism in America is cautious but optimistic: Dinnerstein notes that antisemitism in the United States will not disappear because "it is too much a part of Christian culture," but that "in no Christian country has anti-Semitism been weaker." His work is provocative but solidly historical: he refuses to understand the history of antisemitism through its most current manifestations, and it is no accident that Jesse Jackson's unfortunate "Hymietown" comment and Louis Farrakhan's too often repeated rhetoric come only in the final pages of his chapter on antisemitism among African-Americans. Anti-Semitism in America should quickly become required reading in a number offields. It is highly recommended. Jeffrey Lesser Department of History Connecticut College A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness: The Origins and Rise of AntiSemitism in America, by Frederic Cople Jaher. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994. 339 pp. $29.95. From the beginning of North American settlement to the midnineteenth century, Frederic Cople Jaher argues, Jews received ambivalent treatment. Welcomed in labor-poor economies that treasured every hand and enterprise, sheltered with an ad hoc religious pluralism that prevented one denomination from dominating the rest, distant from Europe's murderous peasants and increasingly accorded the rights celebrated by philosophe and republican, Jews enjoyed extensive freedoms and material opportunities. Nevertheless, the New World Eden harbored an antisemitic snake spawned from Christianity's scripturally sanctioned charge of deicide. Whatever their enterprise, patriotism, and sociability, Jews could never unshoulder the cross of rejecting Christ as Savior and had always to contest the prejudices of neighbors proclaiming America a Christian nation. Relished equally by illiterate farmers and educated elites, stereotypes forged in Europe resurfaced in newspapers, sermons, speeches, novels, plays, schoolbooks, and folklore: "Israelites" bled debtors dry, killed children for ritual purposes, communed with demons, and seduced innocent maidens. Prejudice justified excluding them from politics, hampering their businesses, and barring them from clubs. Modern antisemitism, Jaher concludes, derives from the upset of sectional conflict and civil war, when new obloquies developed and discrimination became more violent and systematic. By 1865, resistance to Jews' appropriating Book Reviews 143 America's advantages had become well ingrained habit, and the historical conjunction of liberty and bigotry has endured to the present. Jaher's judgment that antisemitism neither impeded Jewish advancement nor abated in its wake is judicious and sensible. He smartly refuses to lump all Christians together and notes that the anti-Catholicism of America's Protestant majority exceeded and sometimes mitigated attacks on Jews, considered less obnoxious than the French and Spanish papists who terrorized frontiers in the 1700s or the Irish who breached the gates a century later. Much of this story is familiar, butJaher provides abundant details. More problematic, however, are his assertion of and explanation for the putative rise in antebellum antisemitism. Proving the existence of a "Mid-Century Crisis" (p. 170 and passim) requires demonstrating that Jews faced substantially greater discrimination after 1840 than before, which, in the absence of any reliable statistical measurement, depends on establishing plausible qualitative criteria. Such indexes include novel, more virulent forms of antisemitism (e.g., pogroms), heightened awareness that Jews thought their status imperilled, or an increase in the intenSity of customary discrimination, but there is no evidence for the first two conditions and at best ambiguous signs of the last. The multiplication of antisemitic incidents appears consistent with rising population levels, and the introduction of new stereotypes brought variations on conventional themes, not innovations. Vituperation against Jews did escalate during the Civil War, but reactions against antisemitism kept pace-Lincoln's countermanding of Grant's order banishing Jews from the Department of the Tennessee being perhaps the most spectacular-and since the War heightened other ethnic and racial tensions too (e.g., the New York City draft riots), more frequent outbursts against Jews probably manifested pervasive social conflict rather than scapegoating a special minority. If so, and if (as likely) antisemitism declined just after the War, then the notion of a mid-century crisis bears little utility. The thesis that Christian hostility is pre-eminently responsible for universal antisemitism ranges too broadly to discuss here, but although gospel hatred is indisputably...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 142-144
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.