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GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation Paperback – May 30, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674021029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674021020
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Serving in WWII made American Jewish soldiers feel both more Jewish and more American, writes historian Moore (At Home in America, etc.) in this insightful study. Relying mainly on memoirs and oral interviews of 15 veterans, Moore shows how many of them had taken their Jewish identity for granted in the Jewish enclaves where they grew up—and that only in the army did they begin to see its value. For some, simply eating nonkosher food was a challenge. "It was horrible," one soldier wrote home, "but with the help of the coffee I swallowed it much as one would an aspirin." They also had to contend with stereotypes of Jews as weaklings and with outright anti-Semitism, and saw how many anti-Semitic soldiers were also racist, suggesting that the seeds for the black-Jewish alliance of the 1960s were sown during WWII. For many, their Jewishness resonated as they fought for Uncle Sam: they searched for European Jews while on leave, and then saw their worst fears confirmed in the prisoners at concentration camps: one soldier remembered this as his initiation into "Jewish manhood and responsibility." The stories these soldiers tell are compelling, and Moore does an admirable job of knowing when to interpret and when to let the experiences speak for themselves. B&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Rich in detail and insight, this deeply affecting book pays tribute to both the unsung heroism of the American Jewish servicemen of World War II and to the historian's craft. A must read for anyone whose grandfather, father, brother, uncle and cousins proudly lay claim to being a 'GI Jew.' (Jenna Weissman Joselit, author of The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880-1950)

Imagine yourself a young man just become an American soldier in World War II, burdened by the same anxieties and fears of those around you but compelled to overcome by your bearing virulent stereotypes of those like you - - as weaklings, malingerers, cowards. How Jewish GIs fought prejudice, won respect and in the process strengthened their identities as Americans and as Jews is the fascinating and exceptionally well-told story Deborah Dash Moore offers us in GI Jews. (Gerald Linderman, author of The World within War: America's Combat Experience in World War II)

GI Jews recounts the story of American Jews in World War II and explains why that story matters. Based on a wealth of interviews and contemporary letters, this gracefully-written work stands as a monument to American Jewry's own 'greatest generation.' (Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History)

World War II profoundly changed the face of American society. So too did it dramatically change the lives of the Jewish GIs who served in the American military. Deborah Dash Moore's powerful portrayal of their experience illuminates that change. It is a fascinating and important story and Moore tells it in a compelling fashion. (Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory)

Serving in WWII made American Jewish soldiers feel both more Jewish and more American, writes historian Moore in this insightful study. Relying mainly on memoirs and oral interviews of 15 veterans, Moore shows how many of them had taken their Jewish identity for granted in the Jewish enclaves where they grew up...The stories these soldiers tell are compelling, and Moore does an admirable job of knowing when to interpret and when to let the experiences speak for themselves. (Publishers Weekly 2004-07-19)

In this impressively written book, Moore takes as her focus a number of Jewish individuals--among them rabbis, college graduates, manual laborers, and her own father--and demonstrates how military service in World War II transformed their worldviews. The transformation often began during military training, where many Jews broke out of their insular ethnic world and discovered the diversity of America. During their military service, they confronted anti-Semitism, racism, the fear of combat, the loneliness of being a minority, and the challenge of living a Jewish life in a military that regarded ham products as one of the four basic food groups. Moore's greatest strength is her ability to integrate the story of the individual into the wider issues facing America. In the process, she helps lay to rest the notion that there was a single Jewish response to the wartime experience. (Frederic Krome Library Journal 2004-08-01)

Deborah Dash Moore tells [the] unique story [of 15 Jewish GIs] with eloquence and restraint. (Irma Kurtz Jewish Chronicle 2005-02-11)

Moore has produced a lucid account of Jewish military service during World War II, telling her tale largely through the experiences of 15 Jewish soldiers, including her own father...Deborah Dash Moore ably conveys the subtleties and intricacies of why my father and others serving during World War II did not surrender or feel compelled to hide their Jewishness. Throughout her narrative, she points out that military service empowered these young men as Jews as well as Americans. (Judy Bolton-Fasman Jerusalem Report 2005-01-10)

The great surprise of the season in World War II books is Deborah Dash Moore's wonderful GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation...It is an enjoyable read. Moore, a Vassar professor, writes well and knows how to tell a story...She has an eye for interesting characters and for what makes them interesting...She keeps up a lively pace and intersperses evocative vignettes with insightful analysis of what these Jewish troops' experiences meant to them, their families, their communities and the nation as a whole...For postwar generations, her book reveals how the experience of the war changed the generation that fought it and why it helped launch the civil rights movement, the Great Society and America's rise to global predominance. GI Jews should not be missed by anyone with an interest in World War II or the history of the American people. (Kenneth M. Pollack Washington Post Book World 2005-06-05)

Moore's history demonstrates just how significant soldiering was to the full acceptance of Jews in the U.S....[A] trenchant and fluent book...As Moore deftly weaves a narrative from the varied experiences of her informants--tracking them from Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 to battlefield victory and the liberation of the death camps in 1945--she refuses to merely celebrate. Her book includes instances of anti-Semitism in boot camp here and on the fronts overseas. In one especially searing moment, a Jewish chaplain is excluded from an ecumenical memorial service after the battle for Iwo Jima because he is an outspoken foe of racial segregation in the American military. Such unclouded vision makes Moore all the more credible in describing the more-common process of Jews proving their mettle to gentiles and securing their place in a more-tolerant postwar America. (Samuel G. Freedman Chicago Tribune 2005-06-12)

Moore's greatest strength is her ability to integrate the story of the individual into the wider issues facing America. (Frederic Krome Library Journal 2004-08-01)

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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A. Talcott on January 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Deborah Dash Moore's GI Jews is a moving book which provides insight into the Jewish American experience in World War II. Following the tales of more than fifteen Jewish GIs from before the United States' involvement in World War II through their return home, Moore paints a picture of what it was like to be a Jewish American and a Jewish American soldier in World War II.

Focusing primarily on the European Theater where American Jews were fighting not just for their country but also for the fate of European Jews, Moore discusses how Jewish GIs dealt with their Jewishness and integrated their religion into their identity as a soldier. Moore begins by describing how American Jews who would later fight in the war reacted to the outbreak of war in Europe. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Nazi domination of the European continent forced many of these men to reevaluate their philosophies and fight in support of FDR's four essential freedoms.

But before these men could engage the true enemy, they had to battle anti-semitism while trying to enlist in the United States' armed forces and also later on when confronting the prejudices of their fellow soldiers who believed Jews were cowards, sloths, poor soldiers and poor leaders. These Jewish GIs would go on to prove themselves in battle, but first they would be forced to fight for their comrades' respect as soldiers.

Along the way, Jewish GIs would also come face to face with Nazi persecution and slaughter of Europe's Jews, and Moore spends some time describing the ways Jewish GIs reacted to what they saw of the Holocaust. Several of the men were Zionists before the war, but Moore describes how witnessing the effect of the Holocaust first hand made many Jewish Gis ardent Zionists.

This book is simply a superb and well-written account of the Jewish GI experience. As such, it provides a much needed and unique perspective on World War II.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John P. Rooney on May 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
"GI Jews" by Deborah dash Moore. "How World War II Changed A Generation". Belknap Press, Harvard University, 2004.

The title is catchy: "GI Jews", reminding me of the toys, called "GI Joe". My son, Sean, (now a Marine Corps veteran), played with GI Joes in the early1980s. The real theme of this book, however, is expressed in the subtitle: "How World War II Changed a Generation ". How the War changed a generation of Jews. Prior to the War, both Judaism and Catholicism had been outsiders to the American dream. As Dr. Moore says on page 10, "Judaism assumed an American legitimacy unanticipated at the start of the war. Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism were deemed to share common values that made them the religions of democracy". Further, "... (a)cceptance of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the armed forces would force Protestants to share the Christian label with Catholics and include Jews as equal partners in America". (p.10). Tis a consummation devoutly to be prayed for.

In general, this book deals with the impact on individual Jews, from Jews who were exceedingly pious to men who were hardly observant Jews ... i.e. Jews in name only. The author traces, generally in chronological order, how young Jewish men became part of the American Armed Forces, were trained and then shipped to overseas assignments, both combat and non-combat. Many of the men who were subjects of this book, came from the New York City environment, (of interest to me, since I was born, raised and educated in Hell's Kitchen. I also went to high school at 161st Street and Grand Concourse in the Bronx see page 60).

Dietary restrictions presented a challenge to religious Jews.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By d 3 PO on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Author, born in '46, writes about her dad, a Jewish veteran of WW II and about his friends and contemporaries from different backgrounds. These young men faced challenges and had fascinating experierences, confronting the war, other GI's from different American backgrounds-- small towns, anti-semites, southerners, etc. They also faced the Germans and the Japanese and many served with distinction and great honor to their country. For anyone interested in the period and especially for those with fathers who served in WW II, it's a great read. Those stories your dad told you about his experiences-- true... and more.
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