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The First to Cry Down Injustice?: Western Jews and Japanese Removal During WWII Paperback – October 7, 2008
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While numerous scholars have noted that American Jews and their organizations were largely absent from the small minority which protested the disgraceful treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Ellen Eisenberg's carefully researched monograph is the first to examine what was said and done in the major west coast cities―Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland―which were the primary contact points between Jewish and Japanese Americans. Her rigorous analysis not only helps us understand the past, but also sheds light on some aspects of contemporary race and ethnic relations. (Roger Daniels, University of Cincinnati)
This work will be a significant contribution to the field. It is a brilliant analysis on many different textured levels of analysis and inquiry. Within the scholarship extant already in this field, this is far and away the best research and conclusions. It is particularly good because it engages several different historiographic traditions and shows the relationship between them. (Marc Dollinger, San Francisco State University)
This work is a reliable accounting of its subject and is easily read by those interested in the subject. It will appeal most interested in Jewish American history and secondarily to Japanese American internment. The scholarship is solid and the work worthwhile. (Oregon Historical Quarterly, Fall 2009)
In her carefully researched study, Ellen M. Eisenberg offers a sober and admirably balanced account of the complex considerations in the region that influenced the response of Jewish leadership to the plight of the Japanese. . . . Eisenberg has done a fine job of presenting a nuanced account of a sad chapter in American history. (Western Historical Quarterly, Spring 2010)
A remarkable, brilliantly researched and wonderfully nuanced study that for the first time fully discloses the western Jewish response to the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Filled with blockbuster revelations concerning the silence, and even the complicity of some leading Jews and one leading Jewish organization in this most sordid of episodes, the book is nevertheless a model of fair-mindedness. A cautionary tale of how bad things can be done by good people. (Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University)
Eisenburg's discovery adds to historical understanding of the incarcerations. More generally, by revealing Jews' contributions to the policy's formulation, Eisenburg also implicitly illuminates how "minority" history is also majority history. She succeeds in what she recognizes to be a difficult task; explaining historical silence, specifically "the constant omission of Japanese Americans from stories in which their plight was the obvious context." Scholars will benefit from this rich, thoughtful examination of a previously unrecognized aspect of the tragic episode in U.S. history. (Shana Bernstein Southwestern University)
Eisenberg makes a strong case.... Explosive.... In short, Eisenberg presents a fascinating and nuanced look at the difficult struggle western Jews faced in balancing their desire to be "white" with their opposition to racial discrimination, and helps us hear the volumes their silence contained. (Southern California Quarterly, Summer 2010)
Recommended. (CHOICE, August 2010)
Eisenberg has done commendable work, both by her research in organizational archives and her close readings of the Jewish press. Her thesis is solid and well-presented, her examination of regional ethnic responses to Japanese American removal not only illuminates a vital aspect of the wartime events but opens up a new chapter of Western history. (American Jewish Archives Journal)
I heartily welcome the number of recent histories on the internment of Nikkei as an indication of a new scholarly generation's (re)appraisal of known or original sources in relation to other racialized and ethnic groups. This is exactly what Ellen M. Eisenberg has done with Jewish America….Eisenberg handles this regional history quite artfully….Eisenberg's interracial, western history uncovers and airs dirty laundry of one putative "model minority" vis-à-vis its ostensible successor to that mythical mantle in such meticulous and engaging fashion. (American Historical Review)
Unique in how it covers Jewish Americans and Japanese Americans in the same time and place, this book offers a fresh perspective on familiar figures, events, and sources related to internment (e.g., the Tolan Committee hearings). It is an excellent example of how bringing together separate ethnic histories sharpens our understanding of historical experiences….Eisenberg presents her arguments with clarity and fairness, yet she is not afraid to make bold interpretations. (Jaeh)
Eisenberg's discovery adds to historical understandings of the incarceration…. She succeeds in what she recognizes to be a difficult task: explaining historical silence…. Scholars will benefit from this rich, thoughtful examination of a previously unrecognized aspect of a tragic episode in U.S. history. (American Jewish History)
Eisenberg's well-documented analysis reveals a heretofore hidden chapter in the history of minority relations in the U.S. The book provides insight into the unique position western Jews held in the U.S. prior to and during World War II as well as documenting their relationship with the western Nikkei during a dark moment in U.S. history.
About the Author
Ellen Eisenberg is Dwight and Margaret Lear Professor of American History at Willamette University.
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Although her sources are relatively good, this book does have its weak areas. Why did she address the issue of the in-betweenness of Jews and not Japanese Americans? Why did her coverage of the print media's reaction virtually ignore publications like the Nation, New Republic, and other liberal publications? To be fair, these are relatively small issues. The one hole in her arguement is that I didn't see anywhere in the book where a Jew actually *said* that they were being silent because of their situation. Rather, Eisenberg assigns a reasoning to a personally unexplained silence. While her arguement is strong, that one point does tend to bother.
Overall, this is a great book and I definately recommend it.