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Beyond Alliances: The Jewish Role in Reshaping the Racial Landscape of Southern California

Bruce Zuckerman Editor
George J. Sánchez Guest Editor
Lisa Ansell Associate Editor
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Alliances
    Book Description:

    This volume focuses on the special role that Jews played in reshaping the racial landscape of southern California in the twentieth century. Rather than considering this issue in terms of broad analyses of organizations or communities, each contribution instead approaches it by examining the activity of a single Jewish individual, and how he or she navigated the social terrain of a changing southern California. In particular, this volume is one of the first to take seriously the unique racial/ethnic makeup of southern California for Jewish activism, with a particular focus on the relationship between Jews and Mexican Americans in the area around Los Angeles. The Jewish individuals who are this volume’s subjects represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives, ranging from an elected official to an activist lawyer, and from a local businessman to a Democratic Party organizer. The volume culminates with an interview with one of the most beloved of local university rabbis, who has been operating in the ever-changing environment of higher education in Los Angeles over the past thirty years. While its overall message is one of optimism, the volume does not shy away from taking on some of the more vexed issues in the scholarship of racial/ethnic interaction. While Jewish activism in shaping local civil rights is thoroughly discussed, the specific and unequal dynamics of power within the civil rights community is also analyzed. The changing relationship of Jews to “whiteness” in southern California during the late twentieth century, in both geographic and political terms, shapes many of these ongoing relationships. Finally, the volume provides a unique historical perspective on our understanding of contemporary Los Angeles in all its ethnic complexity, and specifically in thinking through the future of Jewish role in urban southern California.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-226-1
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Bruce Zuckerman

    In my role as an editor, I always find my reading through of the draft articles of a newAnnual Reviewa rather intense experience. As the one responsible for the final form of theAnnual, I read each and every article, at one time or another, at least a half-dozen times; so I flatter myself thatno oneconsiders every word of each volume as closely as I do. Besides being intense, this is invariably a pleasurable experience as well. In this case, that is primarily due to the stellar efforts of my colleague and friend George J. Sánchez,...

  2. Introduction: Beyond Alliances
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    I want to thank my colleague Bruce Zuckerman, Myron and Marian Casden Director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life at the University of Southern California, for the opportunity to work on this volume of the CasdenAnnual Review. Although this was a project that my schedule as Vice Dean of Diversity and Strategic Initiatives for the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at USC did not make easy, I accepted the challenge because of the wonderful reputation of Bruce as an editor and leader, as well as the...

  3. Unexpected Allies: David C. Marcus and His Impact on the Advancement of Civil Rights in the Mexican-American Legal Landscape of Southern California
    (pp. 1-32)
    Genevieve Carpio

    In 1944, Soledad Vidaurri went to the 17th Street Elementary School in Orange County, California to enroll her children and their cousins, the Méndezes, for the upcoming school year.¹ While the administration accepted her two children into the so-called “American School,” they rejected her niece and nephews because of their darker skin and Spanish surname. When she was directed to enroll them in the “Mexican School,” Vidaurri removed all five children from the office, including her own, without registering them. While this type of segregation against Latino students was all too common in Southern California at that time, this particular...

  4. Multicultural Music, Jews, and American Culture: The Life and Times of William Phillips
    (pp. 33-70)
    Anthony Macías

    This essay traces the personal and professional story of William “Bill” Phillips, contextualized within the multiracial history of Los Angeles, and the larger discourse surrounding multiculturalism, whiteness, assimilation, and what historian Eric Goldstein calls “racial Jewishness” (ch. 7). Phillips’s life is particularly useful to examine because it can help us better understand the historical impact of Jews on American culture, specifically through the music industry: how Jews interacted with other ethnic and racial groups, and how these two processes changed Jewish cultural identity and socioeconomic position over time.

    Phillips’s father was a Russian Jew and his mother was an Austrian...

  5. Rosalind Wiener Wyman and the Transformation of Jewish Liberalism in Cold War Los Angeles
    (pp. 71-110)
    Barbara K. Soliz

    The end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War represented a transformative period for Jewish politics in Los Angeles. Jews, as a religious minority subject to discrimination, were an integral part of leftist and liberal interracial organizing from the 1930s through the 1940s. As the ideological stakes of the War bolstered the plight of racial minorities in the postwar political culture and the Cold War climate tempered left-wing political activity, Los Angeles became increasingly segregated by race and its political culture became increasingly polarized in terms of white and non-white. This transformation of the racial and...

  6. Fighting Many Battles: Max Mont, Labor, and Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Los Angeles, 1950–1970
    (pp. 111-142)
    Max Felker-Kantor

    Los Angeles-based Jewish labor organizer and civil rights activist, Max Mont, developed a commitment to social justice at an early age. “When I was six years old,” Mont recalled in 1987, “I was trying to make speeches in our living room about the ‘oppressed people’” (“Max Mont, ‘Labor Pioneer’”). While Mont remembered his concern for the oppressed as part of his childhood identity, his work as an organizer began in earnest on the floors of machine shops and union halls during the 1930s and 1940s in and around New York City. Still, while Mont’s lifelong commitment to social justice and...

  7. The USC Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life
    (pp. 145-146)