Survival through integration : American Jewish responses to antisemitism and Zionism / by Ofer Shiff.
This study focuses on the optimistic American Jewish belief in the prospects of a viable American-Jewish coexistence and it examines its impact on the pattern of responding to antisemitism. It analyzes the self-justification of the various American Jewish responses to antisemitism, as well as their attitudes toward other responses, as being determined by their perceptions of a "balanced" American-Jewish identification. It claims that these perceptions are always subjected to changing historical and social conditions and therefore, the responses to antisemitism are forever pulled between the quests for distinctive survival and full integration in a continuous search for a new balanced identification. The development of this pattern is demonstrated through the "Americanization" of the European responses to antisemitism, especially Zionism, which were generally more pessimistic regarding the prospects of Jewish-Gentile coexistence. The study examines the elevation of the Zionist ideology into a post-W.W. II American Jewish consensus as a function of American Jews' ability to agree on one expression of Jewish distinctiveness which could be interpreted as reinforcing their shared quest for full integration. Demonstrating the completion of the Americanization of Zionism during the post-W.W.II period, the study then focuses on examining other postwar responses to antisemitism. It presents a parallel between the postwar support of Zionism and the attempt to change the context of antisemitism from a Jewish-Christian fight into an "American-All" struggle against prejudice. In both cases the objective was to render the question of Jewish distinctiveness irrelevant to full acceptance into America. Finally, the study examines the developments which changed the postwar perception of a balanced identification. It concludes that the postwar responses were so successful in changing the Jewish-Christian context of antisemitism that it became almost too difficult for American Jews to assert their Jewish distinctiveness. Thus, the study explains the 1960s shift to a renewed emphasis on Jewish distinctiveness as a reaction to the postwar period and as a demonstration of a pattern of intimate dependency between the goals of Jewish survival and Jewish integration as forever determining the American Jewish response to antisemitism.
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