Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America

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Overview

This book explodes the myth of a monolithic, liberal Judaism and tells the story of the many fierce battles that raged in postwar America over what an authentically Jewish position ought to be on issues ranging from desegregation to Zionism, from Vietnam to gender relations, sexuality, and family life.
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Editorial Reviews

Choice

[Staub] challenges commonly held notions regarding the purported liberalism of US Jewry while underscoring the growing importance of spirituality for left-of-center Jews... This is an important work... highly recommended.

History

Torn at the Roots contributes significantly to our understanding of what Jewish identity meant to different groups of American Jews, those marching on the left, sitting in the establishment's center, and leaning towards the conservative right in the decades after the Holocaust.

— Pamela S. Nadell

Tikkun Magazine

Jewish liberalism and its history is a familiar subject, but this book by Michael Staub offers a great deal of new insight and information; indeed, it is arguably the best treatment of the rightward drift of the Jewish mainstream from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

Journal of American Studies

Another welcome addition to the already large literature on the suprisingly tenacious adherence of Jews to liberalism.

— Nathan Abrams

Journal of American History

[T]hrough Staub's book we have a much clearer and better appreciation for the depths of the intra-Jewish, internecine struggles that took place within the American Jewish community from the end of World War II until the end of the war in Vietnam. Torn at the Roots paints a sobering picture of a Jewish community torn by ideological conflict.

— Abraham J. Peck

Journal of American Ethnic History

Torn at the Roots will force important and powerful historiographic changes. It is a rich, well-researched, and intricate study.

— Marc Dollinger

American Jewish History

Masterful... A vibrant history of the liberal quest for improving the world, a history relevant for the present and future, and one which deserves wide reading and discussion.

The Minnesota Review

Staub's work is important precisely because it records the history of competing visions of Jewishness.

— Marjorie N. Feld

Jewish Quarterly Review

Staub's carefully researched and cogently argued book explores the evolution and complex dimensions of Jewish politics, calling into question many widely-held assumptions about Jewish liberalism.... [ Torn at the Roots] offer[s] new insights into the dimensions of Jewish culture in postwar America.

— Beth Wenger

Jewish Post of New York

a vibrant history of the liberal quest for improving the world

— Gad Nahshon

JAAR

A window into just how complex the conservative - liberal split has been in the American Jewish community... It adds an important chapter to the story of what the American Jewish community is really like.

— Peter J. Haas

Library Journal
Staub (English and American studies, Bowling Green State Univ.) explores divisions within Jewish liberalism during the Sixties and into the Seventies, showing that Jews have long differed in their stances on political issues. Chapters examine such key topics as Jewish attitudes toward the sexual revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Cold War. Staub shows that the initial Jewish response was often very different from what one might expect. Instead of being uniformly liberal, many Jews felt uncomfortable with the seemingly radical role embraced by Vietnam War peace demonstrators. The Jewish community in this country could be very complacent about Jewish identity, and it wasn't until the Six Day War in 1967 that many Jews began having a greater feeling of Jewish identity and pride. Staub also discusses the role of Jews in civil rights, which was often very ambivalent; many northern Jews professing liberal ideals felt weary about pushing Jews in the conservative South to greater action. Staub's book will be best appreciated by an academic audience and is recommended for libraries with strong holdings in Jewish studies or in the social sciences. Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Tikkun Magazine

Jewish liberalism and its history is a familiar subject, but this book by Michael Staub offers a great deal of new insight and information; indeed, it is arguably the best treatment of the rightward drift of the Jewish mainstream from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

Journal of American History
[T]hrough Staub's book we have a much clearer and better appreciation for the depths of the intra-Jewish, internecine struggles that took place within the American Jewish community from the end of World War II until the end of the war in Vietnam. Torn at the Roots paints a sobering picture of a Jewish community torn by ideological conflict.

— Abraham J. Peck

History
Torn at the Roots contributes significantly to our understanding of what Jewish identity meant to different groups of American Jews, those marching on the left, sitting in the establishment's center, and leaning towards the conservative right in the decades after the Holocaust.

— Pamela S. Nadell

Choice

[Staub] challenges commonly held notions regarding the purported liberalism of US Jewry while underscoring the growing importance of spirituality for left-of-center Jews... This is an important work... highly recommended.

American Jewish History

Masterful... A vibrant history of the liberal quest for improving the world, a history relevant for the present and future, and one which deserves wide reading and discussion.

The Minnesota Review
Staub's work is important precisely because it records the history of competing visions of Jewishness.

— Marjorie N. Feld

Jewish Quarterly Review
Staub's carefully researched and cogently argued book explores the evolution and complex dimensions of Jewish politics, calling into question many widely-held assumptions about Jewish liberalism.... [ Torn at the Roots] offer[s] new insights into the dimensions of Jewish culture in postwar America.

— Beth Wenger

Journal of American Studies
Another welcome addition to the already large literature on the suprisingly tenacious adherence of Jews to liberalism.

— Nathan Abrams

Journal of American Ethnic History
Torn at the Roots will force important and powerful historiographic changes. It is a rich, well-researched, and intricate study.

— Marc Dollinger

Jewish Post of New York
a vibrant history of the liberal quest for improving the world

— Gad Nahshon

JAAR
A window into just how complex the conservative - liberal split has been in the American Jewish community... It adds an important chapter to the story of what the American Jewish community is really like.

— Peter J. Haas

Journal of American History - Abraham J. Peck

[T]hrough Staub's book we have a much clearer and better appreciation for the depths of the intra-Jewish, internecine struggles that took place within the American Jewish community from the end of World War II until the end of the war in Vietnam. Torn at the Roots paints a sobering picture of a Jewish community torn by ideological conflict.

History - Pamela S. Nadell

Torn at the Roots contributes significantly to our understanding of what Jewish identity meant to different groups of American Jews, those marching on the left, sitting in the establishment's center, and leaning towards the conservative right in the decades after the Holocaust.

The Minnesota Review - Marjorie N. Feld

Staub's work is important precisely because it records the history of competing visions of Jewishness.

Jewish Quarterly Review - Beth Wenger

Staub's carefully researched and cogently argued book explores the evolution and complex dimensions of Jewish politics, calling into question many widely-held assumptions about Jewish liberalism.... [ Torn at the Roots] offer[s] new insights into the dimensions of Jewish culture in postwar America.

Journal of American Studies - Nathan Abrams

Another welcome addition to the already large literature on the suprisingly tenacious adherence of Jews to liberalism.

Journal of American Ethnic History - Marc Dollinger

Torn at the Roots will force important and powerful historiographic changes. It is a rich, well-researched, and intricate study.

Jewish Post of New York - Gad Nahshon

a vibrant history of the liberal quest for improving the world

JAAR - Peter J. Haas

A window into just how complex the conservative - liberal split has been in the American Jewish community... It adds an important chapter to the story of what the American Jewish community is really like.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Michael E. Staub teaches English and American Studies at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of Voices of Persuasion: Politics of Representation in 1930s America. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

"Making My Jewishness Too Visible": An Introduction 1
1 "The Racists of America Fly Blindly at Both of Us": Atrocity Analogies and Anticommunism 19
2 "Liberal Judaism Is a Contradiction in Terms": Antiracist Zionists, Prophetic Jews, and Their Critics 45
3 "Artificial Altruism Sows Only Seeds of Error and Chaos": Desegregation and Jewish Survival 76
4 "Protect and Keep": Vietnam, Israel, and the Politics of Theology 112
5 "If There Was Dirty Linen, It Had to Be Washed": Jews for Urban Justice and Radical Judaism 153
6 "We Are Coming Home": New Left Jews and Radical Zionism 194
7 "Are You Against the Jewish Family?": Debating the Sexual Revolution 241
8 "If We Really Care About Israel": Breira and the Limits of Dissent 280
Notes 309
Acknowledgments 365
Index 367
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