Lila Corwin Berman asks why, over the course of the twentieth century, American Jews became increasingly fascinated, even obsessed, with explaining themselves to their non-Jewish neighbors. What she discovers is that language itself became a crucial tool for Jewish group survival and integration into American life. Berman investigates a wide range of sources—radio and television broadcasts, bestselling books, sociological studies, debates about Jewish marriage and intermarriage, Jewish missionary work, and more—to reveal how rabbis, intellectuals, and others created a seemingly endless array of explanations about why Jews were indispensable to American life. Even as the content of these explanations developed and shifted over time, the very project of self-explanation would become a core element of Jewishness in the twentieth century.
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