Against All Odds: Holocaust Surviviors and the Successful Lives they Made in America / Edition 2

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Against All Odds is the first comprehensive look at the 140,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors who came to America and the lives they have made here. William Helmreich writes of their experiences beginning with their first arrival in the United States: the mixed reactions they encountered from American Jews who were not always eager to receive them; their choices about where to live in America; and their efforts in finding marriage partners with whom they felt most comfortable—most often other survivors.

In preparation, Helmreich spent more than six years traveling the United States, listening to the personal stories of hundreds of survivors, and examining more than 15,000 pages of data as well as new material from archives that have never before been available to create this remarkable, groundbreaking work. What emerges is a picture that is sharply different from the stereotypical image of survivors as people who are chronically depressed, anxious, and fearful.

This intimate, enlightening work explores questions about prevailing over hardship and adversity: how people who have gone through such experiences pick up the threads of their lives; where they obtain the strength and spirit to go on; and, finally, what lessdns the rest of us can learn about overcoming tragedy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"What happened to the victims of the Holocaust after their ordeal was over? How did Jewish survivors cope with their anguished memories? How did they manage to adjust? How did they manage not to succumb to despair and insanity? In William Helmreich's well-documented, well-researched, and sensitive account, you will discover the nobility of their struggle to remain loyal to the dead and yet committed to the living. This document is of rare human quality." —Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate "Against All Odds is a powerful study of resilience and rebirth. It is superb discussion of the regeneration of Jewish life." —Michael Berenbaum, project director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum “Against All Odds is a book about agency as much as survival.… Helmreich has done a fine job of moving us beyond thinking of those who survived the Holocaust as mere victims; he sees them instead as agents in the making of their own lives. In addition, he offers a portrait of the Holocaust community as a cultural sub-group within the larger Jewish community…. Helmreich raises important sociological questions not only about the study of Holocuast communities, but also about assimilation, identity, and identity politics in a multicultural society…. The study provides some important insights into the ways in which the Holocaust becomes key to this group’s identity as American Jews.” —Debra Renee Kaufman, Contemporary Sociology “[A] thoughtful and empathetic study of Jewish Holocaust survivors in America…. The qualities and characteristics that Helmreich discovered among this special group of Jews are identified and explicated in a most effective way by his lucid narrative style. Against All Odds is a balanced text that avoids maudlin descriptions of the European past and eschews triumphalist trumpeting of present day successes…. This volume achieves its scholarly objectives by effectively integrating meaningful comments cleaned from close to two hundred interviews with survivors with documentary evidence from periodicals and the reports of those American Jewish agencies that came to know these newcomers the best. Their stories of adjustment and economic rise, which Helmreich weaves so well into this narrative, contribute not only to our understanding of Jewish immigration and adjustment but may also be easily contextualized within the general history of American migration as well…. Against All Odds is American Jewish immigration and communal history at its best.” —Jefferey S. Gurock, Journal of American Ethnic History “William B. Helmreich’s study, a comprehensive analysis of the survivors who came to the United States and the lives they have built, is a welcome addition to this field… He demonstrates that those who experienced some of the most horrible treatment humans have ever faced are not chronically depressed, anxious, and fearful.… [T]his book demonstrates that people can overcome the most formidable odds and maintain a lifelong capacity for change.” —Deborah E. Lipstadt, American Historical Review “William Helmreich’s new book focuses on a different aspect of life after a living death. Against All Odds records instances where the human spirit vigorously reasserted itself, enabling shattered Displaced Persons to start over again in the United States.… [Helmreich’s] prose [are] fluent and assured, and he obeys the first rule of Holocaust Writing: Record the horrific actualities matter-of-factly, without rhetorical inflation.” —Stephen J. Whitfield, New Leader “[W]ell-researched work, Helmreich… presents the first comprehensive study of Holocaust survivors who emigrated to the United States after World War II.… The reader learns about the survivors’ struggle to leave European Displaced Persons camps to come to the United States, their difficulties in being accepted by American Jews as well as gentiles, the almost obsessive role work plays in their lives, their need to be connected other survivors, and the ways they cope with memories of the horrors they experienced. This book would be an excellent addition to any public or academic library and a necessary one for those building Judaica or immigrant studies collections.” —Rose Cichy, Library Journal “Powerful and evocative, fictionalized accounts of the Holocaust survivor’s encounter with the New World like those crafted by Ozick or I. B. Singer pale by comparison with the real life tales of survival and renewal that take pride of place in William Helmreich’s book Against All Odds… [W]hat emerges most tellingly from Helmreich’s account is the way these individual stories combine to form a larger whole, an American Jewish subculture with its own, distinctive pattern of behavior.” —Jenna Weissman Joselit, Society “Helmreich’s findings refute the common view that Holocaust survivors suffered from exceptional psychological difficulties…. We live in a world of increasing numbers of refugees from disaster. Helmreich offers optimism…. Jewish experience has produced Jewish scholarship of high quality. Helmreich has made an important contribution to this tradition.” —Michael Freeman, Ethnic and Racial Studies "Essential for clinicians working with anyone who has survived tragedy. It is equally important for all humanists who will be heartened by man's ability to overcome adversity." —Dorit Whiteman, Psychotherapy
Jewish Book World
New edition of the psycho-social investigation into Holocaust survivors living in the United States. Intensively investigates the attempts by Holocaust survivors to rebuild their shattered lives and the relative success that they experienced in America. A new introduction responds to some of the critics who saw Helmreich's thesis as too facile and positivist.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560008651
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Series: Judaica and Hebraica
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 356
  • Sales rank: 1,027,319
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

William B. Helmreich is professor of sociology at CUNY Graduate Center and City College of New York and served as director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College. He is author of eleven books, including The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of American Orthodoxy and Against All Odds: Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives They Made in America, which won the 1993 National Jewish Book Award.

William B. Helmreich is professor of sociology at CUNY Graduate Center and City College of New York and served as director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College. He is author of eleven books, including The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of American Orthodoxy and Against All Odds: Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives They Made in America, which won the 1993 National Jewish Book Award.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition 5
Acknowledgments 9
Introduction 13
1 Beginnings of a New Life 19
2 The Struggle to Rebuild 58
3 Making a Living in America 86
4 All for the Children 120
5 The Social World of the Survivor 148
6 Reaching Out 183
7 Living with Memories 217
8 Overcoming Tragedy 263
Methodological Note 277
Source Notes 280
Index 333
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