Jewish Power in America: Myth and Reality

Overview

Jewish political power exists as a separate agency in the American polity, but before it can be determined whether it is inordinate, historian Henry L. Feingold declares that it first needs to be identified and defined. Jewish power is not associated with military armaments as with a sovereign state like Israel. Nor is it personal power. There are many influential Jews today who have raised huge sums for office seekers, but there are none whose use of financial resources was inordinate. With the exception of an ...

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Overview

Jewish political power exists as a separate agency in the American polity, but before it can be determined whether it is inordinate, historian Henry L. Feingold declares that it first needs to be identified and defined. Jewish power is not associated with military armaments as with a sovereign state like Israel. Nor is it personal power. There are many influential Jews today who have raised huge sums for office seekers, but there are none whose use of financial resources was inordinate. With the exception of an abiding concern with the security of Israel, there are no overriding public policy concerns that differentiate Jewish voters from the informed, educated segment of the American electorate.

Feingold acknowledges that American Jews do have political power. But what kind is it, and how does it compare to the power exercised by other ethnic and interest groups that thrive in the American polity? The basic charge of those who have raised the alarm about Jewish power—that it is used conspiratorially against the national interest—is addressed and repudiated. This book addresses the question of Jewish power by examining five recent major instances, beginning with the New Deal, when the play of Jewish power, or power exercised by Jews, was evident.

The engagement of American Jewry in the political process is amply documented by survey research and evidenced by the disproportionate number of Jewish office holders on all levels of government. It can be traced in some measure to its relationship to European Jewish migration and to the inherent activism of the political left. The work presents the reader with a broadly comprehensive and highly informative picture of American Jewish participation in the American polity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An incisive and often profound analysis of the illusions and ironies of Jewish political heft in twentieth-century America…This is a book of apercus that illuminate the complex Jewish involvement in the American political process for the last century, with implications for this dimension of Jewish history as a whole.” Robert M. Seltzer, American Jewish Archives Journal “Henry L. Feingold’s book combats the increasing amount of academic and popular literature committed to proving the Jewish conspiracy… Feingold has succeeded in presenting a coherent and persuasive picture of actual Jewish power in America. He shows that Jewish power, to the extent that it does exist, is right out there in the open, and that it has been unfocused and ineffectual about as often as it has been successful. For those unaware of its basic contours, Feingold’s book is by far the best avenue to knowledge… Feingold’s essay reads like an uncut diamond… [he] shuns the use of sparkling prose; yet what he mediates in this book feels starkly true. At the very least, he has proven himself to be the finest theorist of American Jewish power of his generation.” – Michael Scott Alexander, Studies in Contemporary Jewry "The brevity of Feingold's work combined with the developed perspective and comprehensiveness makes this book ideal for training Jewish youth to defend their identity against charges that they may face dealing with the public." Sanford R. Silverburg, Catawba College, Salisbury, NC "Nothing could be more timely than Henry Feingold's new book, Jewish Power in America: Myth and Reality. On the much-addled and myth-strewn subject of secret Jewish power deployed nefariously for evil purposes, his work is unpolemical, nuanced, insightful, profound, and free of jargon, stereotype, or ideological bias. The reader benefits from the historical depth attained by a lifetime's research and reflection on the Jewish experience in America. Feingold's is the most searching refutation of their indictment of 'Jewish power' that has appeared to date. We are warned once more, as we need to be, against the 'terrible simplifiers' of history and human affairs." Frederick M. Schweitzer, Emeritus Professor of History and Director of the Holocaust Resource Center, Manhattan College "Henry Feingold is the preeminent historian of 20th-century American Jewish politics. In this stimulating and provocative book, Feingold addresses the facts of Jewish Americans' role in the political process and forcefully skewers the myths that have been circulated on the subject. What passes for Jewish political 'power,' he reminds us, is often little more than a public relations campaign. But Jews do speak to power with a particular engagement—in part historical in origin, and in part an effect of their economic, academic, and social efficacy. Feingold writes trenchantly and often eloquently of the Jews' participation in what he calls the 'soft power' that makes for a better world. Apart from his deft parrying of the truculent myths about Jews and political power, Feingold also raises the fundamental and disturbingly lingering question of how much their reliance upon 'moral power' is conditioned on the Jews' own history of powerlessness." Eli Lederhendler, Professor, The Avraham Harman Institute for Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem "The powerful, conspiratorial Jew has been a staple antisemitic myth for centuries. In Jewish Power in America, Henry Feingold analyzes Jewish influence on both American foreign policy and domestic politics, concluding that the fear of Jewish controlling influence is an irrational fantasy. Timely, insightful, and well-written, this book should appeal to students of American history, Jewish history, and political science and to the general reader." Marvin Perry, co-author of Antisemitism: Myth and Hate from Antiquity to the Present (2002) and co-editor of Antisemitic Myths: A Historical and Contemporary Anthology (2008) "Historian Henry Feingold brings a lifetime of scholarly engagement to this intelligent, nuanced and well-argued book. Drawing upon five historical case studies, he highlights complexity and paradox as central to understanding the power of Jews in the United States. A wise and reasoned response to the polemicists, conspiracy theorists and antisemites of our time." Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University and author of American Judaism: A History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412842167
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/14/2011
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry L. Feingold is professor emeritus of history at the Graduate Center and Baruch College, City University of New York. He is the author of numerous books including Silent No More: Saving the Jews of Russia, the American Jewish Effort, 1967-1989; A Time for Searching: Entering the Mainstream, 1920-1945 ; and Bearing Witness: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust . Henry L. Feingold is professor emeritus of history at the Graduate Center and Baruch College, City University of New York. He is the author of numerous books including Silent No More: Saving the Jews of Russia, the American Jewish Effort, 1967-1989; A Time for Searching: Entering the Mainstream, 1920-1945 ; and Bearing Witness: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust .

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