STRUGGLES IN THE PROMISED LAND by Jack Salzman

STRUGGLES IN THE PROMISED LAND

Towards a History of Black-Jewish Relations in the United States

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A useful if not altogether satisfying anthology regarding the two great minorities, whose relationship sometimes seems mired, in one contributor's felicitous if depressing phrase, in ``confusion, misunderstanding, and ahistoricism.'' Salzman (director, Center for American Culture/Harvard) and West (African-American Studies and Philosophy of Religion/Harvard; Race Matters, 1993, etc.) have brought together about an equal number of black and Jewish scholars in these 21 original essays. Their focus is overwhelmingly on political and socioeconomic interaction during the 20th century, after the massive immigration of Eastern European Jews and the ``great migration'' of blacks to the North led to increased intercommunal encounters. A noteworthy exception is the opening essay by David Goldenberg, which demolishes the idea, advanced by black anthropologist St. Clair Drake and others, that the ancient rabbis were racist. The book also ends with four interesting essays by Patricia Williams, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Michael Walzer, and West. Unfortunately, too many pieces deal with material covered in greater depth elsewhere, on such matters as the crucial financial and political support of largely assimilated German Jews (for instance, Jacob Schiff and Julius Rosenwald) for such black institutions as Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute, the NAACP, and the Urban League. While Gary Rubin's essay demonstrates convincingly that, despite the headline-grabbing demagoguery of a Farrakhan or a Leonard Jeffries, the black masses are not anti-Zionist, it also reminds us that we lack adequate data or even a good historical overview of the extent of racism within the American Jewish community. While the scholars, journalists, and activists represented here unearth a great deal of interesting information about the vicissitudes of the black-Jewish encounter, their work more often points out the many unexplored facets of the interrelationship of two groups caught ``in an inescapable web of mutuality.''

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-19-508828-X
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997




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