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Historian Svonkin traces how all three national agencies shifted their focus from defense against anti-Semitic groups to opposing prejudice of all types and promoting the new ideal of intergroup relations. They did so using a broad and often innovative strategy involving research, radio and TV ads, curricular materials, and human-relations workshops. In the process, their staffs and the social scientists associated with them played down the socioeconomic causes of discrimination; influenced by Freudianism, they tended to see prejudice in terms of individual pathology. Svonkin also demonstrates how the agencies' intergroup-relations agenda was undercut when they embraced (though very reluctantly in the case of the AJCongress) "a constrained and defensive cold war liberalism" that denied civil liberties to "avowed communists, and even some suspected communists." In a concluding chapter Svonkin analyzes how, beginning during the 1960s, "a reassertion of ethnoreligious particularism" characterized Jewish leaders, who were already coming to view assimilation as at least as much of a threat to Jewish life as anti-Semitism. Clearly written and extremely well documented, Svonkin's book could have benefited from more exploration of the American historical and sociological context.
A bit dry and targeted toward the specialist, this is, however, an informative and at times absorbing exploration of the roots of both the human-relations movement that characterized the civil-rights era and of current Jewish communal ideologies and policies.
|Introduction: Intergroup Relations and the Fear of Fascism||1|
|1||From Self-Defense to Intergroup Relations||11|
|2||Propaganda Against Prejudice||41|
|4||Law and Social Action||79|
|5||The Adoption of Liberal Anticommunism||113|
|6||The Contradictions of Cold War Liberalism||135|
|7||The Anticommunist Campaign in the Jewish Community||161|
|8||Return and Renewal||178|