Cover image for Blacks in the Jewish mind : a crisis of liberalism
Blacks in the Jewish mind : a crisis of liberalism
Forman, Seth.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
x, 274 pages ; 24 cm
Introduction : race relations and the invisible Jew -- The liberal Jew, the southern Jew, and desegregation in the South, 1945-1964 -- Jews and racial integration in the North, 1945-1966 -- The New York intellectuals and their "Negro problem", 1945-1966 -- The unbearable whiteness of being Jewish : the Jewish approach toward Black power, 1967-1972 -- The Jew as middleman : Jewish opposition to Black power, 1967-1972 -- Conclusion : Blacks and Jews in American popular culture.
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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.61 .F7216 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Since the 1960s the relationship between Blacks and Jews has been a contentious one. While others have attempted to explain or repair the break-up of the Jewish alliance on civil rights, Seth Forman here sets out to determine what Jewish thinking on the subject of Black Americans reveals about Jewish identity in the U.S. Why did American Jews get involved in Black causes in the first place? What did they have to gain from it? And what does that tell us about American Jews?

In an extremely provocative analysis, Forman argues that the commitment of American Jews to liberalism, and their historic definition of themselves as victims, has caused them to behave in ways that were defined as good for Blacks, but which in essence were contrary to Jewish interests. They have not been able to dissociate their needs--religious, spiritual, communal, political--from those of African Americans, and have therefore acted in ways which have threatened their own cultural vitality.

Avoiding the focus on Black victimization and white racism that often infuses work on Blacks and Jews, Forman emphasizes the complexities inherent in one distinct white ethnic group's involvement in America's racial dilemma.

Author Notes

Seth Forman is a Ph.D. in American history.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Forman's book is an intriguing examination of the tension between assimilation and the preservation of cultural, ethnic, and religious identity for American Jews. All ethnic and racial groups have had to wrestle with the conflict between assimilation into the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominant culture (or "Anglo-conformity") and the preservation of ethnic group identity. Forman discusses how that tension has been handled by Jews, and contrasts this with the experience of blacks. Jews were "white" and could assimilate, provided they became invisible as Jews. The price of acceptance was assimilation and ethnic invisibility (to become "like everybody else"). In contrast, blacks were segregated by law and not permitted to assimilate no matter how hard they tried. Ironically, since 1964 when the Civil Rights Act opened a few doors to permit assimilation, most blacks have rejected the goal of assimilation into the melting pot. Today, most blacks still hold tenaciously to their ethnic and cultural identity. Jews found the discourse of individualism, universality, and merit the road to upward mobility; blacks have found group consciousness, distinctiveness, and claims to compensation for group mistreatment to be useful means of achieving upward mobility. A must read. All levels. W. Glasker; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Race Relations and the Invisible Jewp. 1
1 The Liberal Jew, the Southern Jew, and Desegregation in the South, 1945-1964p. 24
2 Jews and Racial Integration in the North, 1945-1966p. 55
3 The New York Intellectuals and Their "Negro Problem," 1945-1966p. 97
4 The Unbearable "Whiteness" of being Jewish: The Jewish Approach toward Black Power, 1967-1972p. 135
5 The Jew as Middleman: Jewish Opposition to Black Power, 1967-1972p. 193
Conclusion: Blacks and Jews in American Popular Culturep. 216
Notesp. 223
Indexp. 265
About the Authorp. 274