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.
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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
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
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
Deborah Dash Moore tells [the] unique story [of 15 Jewish GIs] with eloquence and restraint. (Irma Kurtz Jewish Chronicle
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
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
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
Moore's greatest strength is her ability to integrate the story of the individual into the wider issues facing America. (Frederic Krome Library Journal