Must Read Book

Dollinger, Marc, Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America (2000).

Dollinger's book isolates a challenging and important subject, for not only did liberalism become the dominant ideology of American Jewry in the 1930s (remaining so until at least the early 1970s), but Jewish liberalism has long proved a decisive component of American liberal politics and ideology. Dollinger's notion of the "Politics of Acculturation," the ways in which the demands of acculturating into American society created and slowly metamorphosed Jewish liberalism, unlocks interpretive possibilities for the histories of other demographic groups in contemporary America and explains much of the rise and fall of post-war liberalism. The first chapters of Quest for Inclusion investigate the ways in which the Jewish experience in the United States decisively shaped the evolution of the New Deal and of the reciprocal impact of the burgeoning federal establishment on organized Jewry. Dollinger shows that the assumption of relief work by the federal government allowed Jewish welfare agencies to concentrate, financially and practically, on religious education and cultural activities. That is, the integration of ghetto Jews into the nation's economic and political mainstream stimulated a revival of ethnic and religious awareness and touched off a heated debate about American Jewry's proper relationship to society at large. Dollinger next turns to international matters, particularly American Jews' responses to Nazism and the challenges of World War II. Here, Dollinger challenges received views about the relative quiescence of Jewish Americans in response to early reports of the Holocaust, and investigates Jewish liberals' ambivalent record in regard to wartime racial and civil liberties issues, particularly the internment of Japanese-Americans. The final chapters focus on civil rights and the politics of acculturation. They contain detailed studies of the participation of organized Jewry in the debates over federal aid to education and released time from school, segregation of public accommodations, the Fair Employment Practices Commission, and the Brown decision. Dollinger also uses a deft contrast of southern and northern Jewish reaction to the Civil Rights movement in the South to show the ways the demands of the acculturation process produced different responses to the civil rights revolution. Dollinger elucidates the varied responses both between northern and southern Jewry and among disparate northern Jewish communities.

Recommended by Bruce J. Schulman, Boston University

Professor Schulman is the author of From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Policy, Economic Development, and the Transformation of the South, 1938-1980 (1991), Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism (1995), and The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. In 1989-90 he was director of the History Project in California, a joint effort of the University of California and the California State Department of Education to improve history education in the public schools. In 1993, as Associate Professor at UCLA, Schulman received the Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award and the Eby Award for the Art of Teaching. In September 1997 he became Director of the American and New England Studies Program at Boston University.