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We Remember with Reverence and Love

We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945-1962

Hasia R. Diner
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 540
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    We Remember with Reverence and Love
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2009 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish StudiesRecipient of the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Humanities-Intellectual and Cultural HistoryIt has become an accepted truth: after World War II, American Jews chose to be silent about the mass murder of millions of their European brothers and sisters at the hands of the Nazis. In this compelling work, Hasia R. Diner shows the assumption of silence to be categorically false. Uncovering a rich and incredibly varied trove of remembrances - in song, literature, liturgy, public display, political activism, and hundreds of other forms - We Remember with Reverence and Love shows that publicly memorializing those who died in the Holocaust arose from a deep and powerful element of Jewish life in postwar America. Not only does she marshal enough evidence to dismantle the idea of American Jewish forgetfulness, she brings to life the moving and manifold ways that this widely diverse group paid tribute to the tragedy.Diner also offers a compelling new perspective on the 1960s and its potent legacy, by revealing how our typical understanding of the postwar years emerged from the cauldron of cultural divisions and campus battles a generation later. The student activists and new Jews of the 1960s who, in rebelling against the American Jewish world they had grown up in a world of remarkable affluence and broadening cultural possibilities created a flawed portrait of what their parents had, or rather, had not, done in the postwar years. This distorted legacy has been transformed by two generations of scholars, writers, rabbis, and Jewish community leaders into a taken-for-granted truth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8523-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Deeds and Words
    (pp. 1-17)

    THE JEWISH TEENAGERS who spent the summer of 1956 at the Reform movement’s Camp Institute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, edited a literary magazine, a repository of their fond memories of a summer well spent. They could not possibly have known, as they cobbled togetherAll Eyes Are on the . . . Literary Magazine—made up of mimeographed short stories, poems, humorous vignettes of camp life, mixed in with some serious pieces which speculated on the religious and cultural programs that they had just experienced—that, a half-century later, their camp yearbook would be used to show how American Jews went...

  5. 1 Fitting Memorials
    (pp. 18-85)

    IN 1952, THE American Jewish Congress assembled a committee, chaired by author Rufus Learsi, charged with a unique task. Asked to compose a Passover text for both home and public ceremonial use that hallowed the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi catastrophe, the committee, which within a few years became independent, as the Seder Ritual Committee, did as charged. It produced in three English and Hebrew paragraphs a reading that encapsulated the labors of postwar American Jewry to keep alive the memory of Europe’s slaughtered Jews.

    The first paragraph of the Seder Ritual of Remembrance intoned...

  6. 2 Telling the World
    (pp. 86-149)

    “OF MAKING BOOKS there is no end,” Shlomo Katz observed in 1962 inMidstream,the Zionist magazine he edited. Quoting Ecclesiastes in this survey of postwar American Jewish lett ers, he noted that the same compulsion to write which the biblical writer had observed “more than two thousand years ago” continued into the present: “This is also true of the great catastrophe that befell the Jews in Europe in our day. . . . A host of books have been written.”¹ Commentators as a whole agreed with this assessment, noting that, since the end of World War II, American Jews...

  7. 3 The Saving Remnant
    (pp. 150-215)

    IN 1946, Ira Hirschmann, then a special envoy to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, publishedLife Line to a Promised Land,a harrowing description of the desperate plight of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. He dedicated this work, a scathing denunciation of both the United States and the British governments and their treatment of Europe’s surviving Jews, “the remnants of a lost people,” with the words, “To the survivors of Hitler’s hate, who will most deeply love and live for freedom.”¹ Like so many American Jews who participated in the public arena, Hirschmann focused much energy and...

  8. 4 Germany on Their Minds
    (pp. 216-265)

    IN A 1953 opinion piece in theJewish Spectator,Trude Weiss-Rosmarin spewed vitriol at the “current tin-pan alley hit song” “Auf Wiedersehn!” and the Americans who enjoyed it. Since “popular songs must appeal to the sentiment of the masses by means of subconscious identification,” she pondered why the songwriter had chosen for this lilting piece of music “aGermanrefrain? And why,” she asked, when “one probes further, is thatGermanrefrain so popular?” Weiss-Romarin detected sinister forces at work in an American culture which depicted “German characters . . . as such woeful and sympathy-deserving ‘innocent’ victims, unwilling instruments...

  9. 5 Wrestling with the Postwar World
    (pp. 266-320)

    WITH THEIR EXPRESSIVE and practical works, postwar American Jews recalled the victims of the Holocaust, launched campaigns to aid the catastrophe’s survivors, and confronted its perpetrators. Similarly, as they reacted to a set of political developments on the domestic scene, in Israel, and in Europe, they found ample opportunity to revisit the Holocaust and use its lessons to try to alter postwar realities. The projects that attracted them kept reminding them, as if they needed any such reminders, of the Nazis’ barbaric deeds. They drew on images and metaphors culled from the horrors of the Holocaust to justify their action,...

  10. 6 Facing the Jewish Future
    (pp. 321-364)

    THE HOLOCAUST MOVED American Jews as they participated in the American world, using it to advance liberalism by invoking it to advocate for the political agenda they considered in their own and America’s best interests. The catastrophe also shaped their understanding of themselves as Jews, providing them with a rationale by which to articulate their responsibilities to the Jewish people and the Jewish tradition, believing that the destruction of the six million Jews of Europe marked and changed them.

    In their public works, American Jews acknowledged the incontrovertible fact that the loss of the great Jewish population center of Europe...

  11. Conclusion: The Corruption of History, the Betrayal of Memory
    (pp. 365-390)

    AMERICAN JEWS IN the years from the end of World War II into the early 1960s had much to say about the European Jewish catastrophe, doing so in a multiplicity of ways. Whether in liturgy or journalism, in pedagogy or sermons, in staged ceremonies or in the deliberations of their organizational meetings and the discussions of their youth groups—in all of these, the tragic fate of European Jewry coursed prominently through their public culture. It moved them, frightened and angered them. It stirred them to action, and they consistently designated times, places, and ways to say so.

    They reflected...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 391-464)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 465-494)
  14. Index
    (pp. 495-528)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 529-529)