Blacks in the Jewish Mind

Blacks in the Jewish Mind: A Crisis of Liberalism

Seth Forman
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Blacks in the Jewish Mind
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2890-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Race Relations and the Invisible Jew
    (pp. 1-23)

    Since the early 1970s, the relationship between Blacks and Jews has been the subject of a substantial amount of scholarly attention, not least because of the conflicts between the two groups that came to the surface in the 1960s. During this period, long-standing differences over such issues as community control of school districts, racial preferences, the role of Israel in world politics, open admissions at universities, and the anti-Semitism of some controversial Black leaders began to outweigh the mutually perceived common interests that had for decades worked to cement cooperation between significant segments of both groups.¹

    In light of these...

  5. 1 The Liberal Jew, the Southern Jew, and Desegregation in the South, 1945–1964
    (pp. 24-54)

    Of all the changes in American life that resulted from World War II, perhaps none was as profound as the reformulation of American ideology in the sphere of intergroup relations. The victory over the axis powers and European fascism compelled the United States to rectify the disparity between the reality of its group life and the ideals of equality and freedom. The Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal thought that the war had made the contradiction between the system of values to which Americans were in theory committed and the nation’s actual racial practices particularly glaring and that circumstances provided the United...

  6. 2 Jews and Racial Integration in the North, 1945–1966
    (pp. 55-96)

    From the time that the Supreme Court declared race segregation in public schools unconstitutional on May 17, 1954, until around 1960, the story of racial segregation and the battle to end it was primarily a story of the South and the border region, where segregation was enforced as a matter of law. But by 1960 the number of Black Americans living in Northern cities had swelled considerably, moving the focus of the fight for equality to the North. Between 1950 and 1960 the twelve largest cities gained nearly two million Black residents. Whereas in 1950 the resident population of only...

  7. 3 The New York Intellectuals and Their “Negro Problem,” 1945–1966
    (pp. 97-134)

    Comparisons of contemporary Black intellectuals with the famed “New York Intellectuals” of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s provide a convenient backdrop for the discussion of the approach to art, politics, and race of that mostly Jewish group of intellectuals Norman Podhoretz once referred to as the “family.”¹ The New York Intellectuals constituted a loosely knit group of writers and critics who came of age during the 1930s to challenge the Communist influence in American intellectual life.² Over the next fifty years, and through roughly three generations of writers, these intellectuals used a small coterie of low-circulation, high-brow journals likePartisan...

  8. 4 The Unbearable “Whiteness” of Being Jewish: The Jewish Approach toward Black Power, 1967–1972
    (pp. 135-192)

    For many American Jews, the late 1960s signaled the end of one era and the beginning of another. On the one hand, the passage of the two most comprehensive civil rights laws by the federal government in 1964 and 1965 represented the high-water mark of the postwar liberal coalition within which American Jews had figured so prominently. On the other hand, the year 1967 brought with it a number of troubling developments. For the second time in thirty years, war in the Middle East in May and June of that year brought Jews throughout the world face-to-face with the possibility...

  9. 5 The Jew as Middleman: Jewish Opposition to Black Power, 1967–1972
    (pp. 193-215)

    There were, of course, American Jews who did not share with liberal and leftist Jews the penchant for sustaining a commitment to or a relationship with Black Americans. For the most part, those Jews who advocated a more conservative stance toward the Black revolution tended to be more religiously observant. By the late 1960s, events had made it so even the orthodox could no longer maintain their traditional silence on contemporary issues. “In the area of political life,” wrote an orthodox journalist in 1967, “orthodox Jewry is now evolving into an ethnic pressure group, much the same in character as...

  10. Conclusion: Blacks and Jews in American Popular Culture
    (pp. 216-222)

    Arguing that it is in some ways more difficult to be a Jew in the United States than it is to be Black, as this book does, is in no way an attempt to minimize the very real impact of three hundred years of racial degradation or the continuing burden of contemporary racism. Nor is it to say that what American Jews as individuals, and sometimes as a group, have achieved under the freedom and opportunity they have enjoyed since the Second World War is in any way negligible. It is, rather, at its core, simply an attempt to demonstrate...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 223-264)
  12. Index
    (pp. 265-273)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 274-274)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 275-275)