The First to Cry Down Injustice?: Western Jews and Japanese Removal During WWII

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Overview

The First to Cry Down Injustice explores the range of responses from Jews in the Pacific West to the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. While it is often assumed that American Jews_because of a commitment to fighting prejudice_would have taken a position against this discriminatory policy, the treatment of Japanese Americans was largely ignored by national Jewish groups and liberal groups. For those on the West Coast, however, proximity to the evacuation made it difficult to ignore. Conflicting impulses on the issue_the desire to speak out against discrimination on the one hand, but to support a critical wartime policy on the other_led most western Jewish organizations and community newspapers to remain tensely silent. Some Jewish leaders did speak out against the policy because of personal relationships with Japanese Americans and political convictions. Yet a leading California Jewish organization made a significant contribution to propaganda in favor of mass removal. Eisenberg places these varied responses into the larger context of the western ethnic landscape and argues that they were linked to, and help to illuminate, the identity of western Jews both as westerners and as Jews.

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Editorial Reviews

Southwestern University - Shana Bernstein
Eisenburg's discovery adds to historical understanding of the incarcerations. More generally, by revealing Jews' contributions to the policy's formulation, Eisenburg also implicitly illuminates how "minority" history is also majority history. She succeeds in what she recognizes to be a difficult task; explaining historical silence, specifically "the constant omission of Japanese Americans from stories in which their plight was the obvious context." Scholars will benefit from this rich, thoughtful examination of a previously unrecognized aspect of the tragic episode in U.S. history.
Southern California Quarterly
Eisenberg makes a strong case.... Explosive.... In short, Eisenberg presents a fascinating and nuanced look at the difficult struggle western Jews faced in balancing their desire to be "white" with their opposition to racial discrimination, and helps us hear the volumes their silence contained.
August 2010 Choice
Recommended.
Roger Daniels
While numerous scholars have noted that American Jews and their organizations were largely absent from the small minority which protested the disgraceful treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Ellen Eisenberg's carefully researched monograph is the first to examine what was said and done in the major west coast cities—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland—which were the primary contact points between Jewish and Japanese Americans. Her rigorous analysis not only helps us understand the past, but also sheds light on some aspects of contemporary race and ethnic relations.
Marc Dollinger
This work will be a significant contribution to the field. It is a brilliant analysis on many different textured levels of analysis and inquiry. Within the scholarship extant already in this field, this is far and away the best research and conclusions. It is particularly good because it engages several different historiographic traditions and shows the relationship between them.
Jonathan D. Sarna
A remarkable, brilliantly researched and wonderfully nuanced study that for the first time fully discloses the western Jewish response to the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Filled with blockbuster revelations concerning the silence, and even the complicity of some leading Jews and one leading Jewish organization in this most sordid of episodes, the book is nevertheless a model of fair-mindedness. A cautionary tale of how bad things can be done by good people.
August 2010 CHOICE
Recommended.
Fall 2009 Oregon Historical Quarterly
This work is a reliable accounting of its subject and is easily read by those interested in the subject. It will appeal most interested in Jewish American history and secondarily to Japanese American internment. The scholarship is solid and the work worthwhile.
Spring 2010 Western Historical Quarterly
In her carefully researched study, Ellen M. Eisenberg offers a sober and admirably balanced account of the complex considerations in the region that influenced the response of Jewish leadership to the plight of the Japanese. . . . Eisenberg has done a fine job of presenting a nuanced account of a sad chapter in American history.
Summer 2010 Southern California Quarterly
Eisenberg makes a strong case.... Explosive.... In short, Eisenberg presents a fascinating and nuanced look at the difficult struggle western Jews faced in balancing their desire to be "white" with their opposition to racial discrimination, and helps us hear the volumes their silence contained.
H-Judaic
Eisenberg's well-documented analysis reveals a heretofore hidden chapter in the history of minority relations in the U.S. The book provides insight into the unique position western Jews held in the U.S. prior to and during World War II as well as documenting their relationship with the western Nikkei during a dark moment in U.S. history.
Oregon Historical Quarterly
This work is a reliable accounting of its subject and is easily read by those interested in the subject. It will appeal most interested in Jewish American history and secondarily to Japanese American internment. The scholarship is solid and the work worthwhile.
Western Historical Quarterly
In her carefully researched study, Ellen M. Eisenberg offers a sober and admirably balanced account of the complex considerations in the region that influenced the response of Jewish leadership to the plight of the Japanese. . . . Eisenberg has done a fine job of presenting a nuanced account of a sad chapter in American history.
Southwestern University
Eisenburg's discovery adds to historical understanding of the incarcerations. More generally, by revealing Jews' contributions to the policy's formulation, Eisenburg also implicitly illuminates how "minority" history is also majority history. She succeeds in what she recognizes to be a difficult task; explaining historical silence, specifically "the constant omission of Japanese Americans from stories in which their plight was the obvious context." Scholars will benefit from this rich, thoughtful examination of a previously unrecognized aspect of the tragic episode in U.S. history.
— Shana Bernstein
American Jewish Archives Journal
Eisenberg has done commendable work, both by her research in organizational archives and her close readings of the Jewish press. Her thesis is solid and well-presented, her examination of regional ethnic responses to Japanese American removal not only illuminates a vital aspect of the wartime events but opens up a new chapter of Western history.
American Historical Review
I heartily welcome the number of recent histories on the internment of Nikkei as an indication of a new scholarly generation's (re)appraisal of known or original sources in relation to other racialized and ethnic groups. This is exactly what Ellen M. Eisenberg has done with Jewish America….Eisenberg handles this regional history quite artfully….Eisenberg's interracial, western history uncovers and airs dirty laundry of one putative "model minority" vis-à-vis its ostensible successor to that mythical mantle in such meticulous and engaging fashion.
Jaeh
Unique in how it covers Jewish Americans and Japanese Americans in the same time and place, this book offers a fresh perspective on familiar figures, events, and sources related to internment (e.g., the Tolan Committee hearings). It is an excellent example of how bringing together separate ethnic histories sharpens our understanding of historical experiences….Eisenberg presents her arguments with clarity and fairness, yet she is not afraid to make bold interpretations.
American Jewish History
Eisenberg's discovery adds to historical understandings of the incarceration…. She succeeds in what she recognizes to be a difficult task: explaining historical silence…. Scholars will benefit from this rich, thoughtful examination of a previously unrecognized aspect of a tragic episode in U.S. history.
H-Judiac
Eisenberg's well-documented analysis reveals a heretofore hidden chapter in the history of minority relations in the U.S. The book provides insight into the unique position western Jews held in the U.S. prior to and during World War II as well as documenting their relationship with the western Nikkei during a dark moment in U.S. history.
American Historical Review
I heartily welcome the number of recent histories on the internment of Nikkei as an indication of a new scholarly generation's (re)appraisal of known or original sources in relation to other racialized and ethnic groups. This is exactly what Ellen M. Eisenberg has done with Jewish America….Eisenberg handles this regional history quite artfully….Eisenberg's interracial, western history uncovers and airs dirty laundry of one putative "model minority" vis-à-vis its ostensible successor to that mythical mantle in such meticulous and engaging fashion.
Southwestern University
Eisenburg's discovery adds to historical understanding of the incarcerations. More generally, by revealing Jews' contributions to the policy's formulation, Eisenburg also implicitly illuminates how "minority" history is also majority history. She succeeds in what she recognizes to be a difficult task; explaining historical silence, specifically "the constant omission of Japanese Americans from stories in which their plight was the obvious context." Scholars will benefit from this rich, thoughtful examination of a previously unrecognized aspect of the tragic episode in U.S. history.
— Shana Bernstein
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739113813
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 9/26/2008
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Eisenberg is Dwight and Margaret Lear Professor of American History at Willamette University.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Western Jews, Whiteness, and the Asian "Other" Chapter 3 A Studious Silence: Western Jewish Responses to Japanese Removal Chapter 4 To Be the First to Cry Down Injustice? Western Jews and Opposition to Nikkei Policy Chapter 5 Fighting Fascism: The LAJCC and the Case for Removal Chapter 6 Epilogue

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