By Lila Corwin Berman
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Extra info for Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity
When JCS leaders decided to shift their attention from Jewish to nonJewish audiences, they did not repudiate their earlier concern with Americanization. Instead the leaders of the organization came to believe that Americanization had two vectors: Jews adapted to American culture, but they also could mold American culture to embrace Jews and their Judaism. 64 The Jewish Chautauqua Society was not alone in believing that Jews would gain a more secure position in the United States if they learned to reach out beyond the Jewish world.
Chapter 2 The Ghetto and Beyond The Rising Authority of American Jewish Social Science in Interwar America The Social-Scientific Turn Louis Wirth had done very little to endear himself to the organized Jewish community. The sociologist had argued in his first book that Jews were perennial ghetto-dwellers. Whether or not the places they lived were walled in reality, he wrote, the mentality Jews carried with them was one of insularity. At the time of the book’s publication in 1928, and for many years after, Jewish leaders were cool to Wirth’s conclusions, and as a secular intellectual married to a non-Jewish woman and immersed in the non-Jewish academic world, Wirth was hardly a likely candidate to lead or advise the Jewish community.
Rabbi Schulman, who spoke with an air of authority in the discussions about a Jewish mission—after all, he had read Kohler’s germinal paper and had been a close friend of the now ailing rabbi (Kohler died the next year)—objected strenuously. Reviewing a draft of the manual as late as 1927, he wrote to the chair of the committee, “I am uncompromisingly opposed to any attempt to write a history of the Jew . . for this Manual. . ”41 Nonetheless, in the years to 22 S P I R I T U A L M I S S I O N S A F T E R T H E G R E AT WA R follow, rabbis wove historical claims into their missionary pronouncements, both to argue that Jews had once been a missionary people and to explain why they had abandoned the task for so many years.
Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity by Lila Corwin Berman