Jews in Christian America

Jews in Christian America : The Pursuit of Religious Equality

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Separation of church and state has become a veritable creed in the American Jewish community. Focusing on the way in which Jewish actions have contributed to the development of separation, this book examines how American Jews have contended with living in a fundamentally Christian state. In the first part, Cohen covers this history hronologically from colonial times to the Second World War. Throughout this period, Jewish community leaders focused on legislation and judicial opinions that in any way bespoke established Christianity. They were principally concerned with test oaths, Sunday laws, religion in public schools, and Christianity in federal treaties--issues that in one form or another have lasted well into the twentieth century. Dealing with the period after World War II, the second part of the book consists of an in-depth analysis of Jewish participation in, and responses to, litigation on such issues as released time, prayer and bible readings in public schools, Sunday laws, and religious decorations in public places. Cohen also considers how separationism evoked differences of opinion among Jews and how it affected Jewish-Christian more

Product details

  • Hardback | 310 pages
  • 163.1 x 242.8 x 31.2mm | 696.71g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195065379
  • 9780195065374

Back cover copy

A driving force in the history of American Jews has been the pursuit of religious equality under law. Jews reasoned that state and federal legislation or public practices which sanctioned religious, specifically Christian, usages blocked their path to full integration within society. Always a small minority and ever fearful of the outspoken proponents of the Christian state, nineteenth-century Jews became ardent defenders of church-state separation. In the twentieth century, Jewish defense organizations took a prominent role in landmark court cases on religion in the schools, Sunday laws, and public displays of Christian symbols. Over the last two centuries, Jews shifted from support of a neutral-to-all-religions government to a divorced-from-religion government, and from defense of their own interests to the defense of other religious minorities. Jews in Christian America traces in historical context the response of American Jews to the issues presented by a Christian-flavored public religion. Discussing the contributions of each major wave of Jewish immigrants to the reinforcement of a separationist stand, Cohen shows how Jewish communal priorities, pressures from the larger society, and Jewish-Christian relationships fashioned that response. She also makes clear that the Jewish community was never totally united on the goals and tactics of a separationist posture; despite the continued predominance of the strict separationists, others argued the adverse effects of that position on communal well-being and on the very survival of more

Review quote

In the end this book stands on its own. It finally gives American Jewish historiography a picture of its varied legal and institutional response to being 'strangers in the land'. In a host nation that above all else reveres the law, that story is indispensable for understanding the American Jewish experience. * American Historical Review *show more