SEND THESE TO ME: Jews and Other Immigrants in Urban America by John Higham

SEND THESE TO ME: Jews and Other Immigrants in Urban America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This collection of essays, some written as long ago as the 1950's and all of them revised, comes at a favorable time. Given a general surfeit of the ""affirm your blood roots"" approach to immigration and ethnicity, Higham's challenge against ""the assumption that we are all ethnics. . . with an uncomplicated attachment to a specific line of descent originating outside the U.S."" is refreshing. With due moderation, he rejects both the everyone-an-immigrant view of America and the view that a dominant Anglo-Saxon culture squashed diversity. Several rather colorless essays deal with anti-Semitic discrimination in the U.S.; Higham imputes it to ""social competition"" rather than ""ideology,"" an opposition not always clear to those uninitiated in the relevant scholarly debates, but seemingly sensible. Ignoring various eruptions during the McCarthy period in particular, Higham asserts that American anti-Semitism ""faded away"" after an early-1920's peak and especially after World War II. To the large extent that this is true, the book plausibly attributes the decline to a general acceptance of ""the urban ethos."" Higham is also plausible and interesting when he calls The Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno et al. a pretentious, dubious work, but in accusing the authors of ""fixating"" on anti-Semitism, he misses the fact that much of Adorno's book is devoted to profiling of liberals and other non-prejudiced but manipulatable types. On the subject of immigration, the book is extremely weak. A survey of the politics of immigration restriction briefly refers to changing labor needs while managing to leave out the polyglot and feared Wobblies, the anti-immigration pressure by much of the Socialist Party, the foreign-born base of the early Communist Party in the U.S., and even Sacco and Vanzetti! Moreover, the government's refusal to admit Jews fleeing from Nazism is never mentioned: only ""apprehensions about spies"" in 1940 and a vague exclusion of ""Eastern European D.P.'s"" after the war. A mixed bag, like its subject.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1975
Publisher: Atheneum