Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
September 2014
Guest Introduction: Prof. Deborah Dash Moore 
Director, Frankel Center for Judaic Studies
Huetwell Professor of History, University of Michigan  

No one needs reminding this September that war has been pretty much a constant for Jews since the beginning of the "short" twentieth century, that is, since World War I. Yet each of these wars has involved Jews in very different ways. The First World War saw Jewish soldiers in the various European armies confronting each other, their Jewish identities subordinated to demands for military service by the states to which they owed their citizenship and allegiance. World War II, by contrast, placed Jews as soldiers and civilians squarely on one side after Pearl Harbor -- that of the United Nations or Allies. Jews retained that unanimity through 1948 and Israel's War of Independence, even extending to 1967 and the Six Day War. Since then, however -- especially after the end of the draft in the United States in 1973 -- Jews have often held divergent views on late 20th century wars. Vietnam divided American Jews, still subject to mobilization as soldiers, as did the Yom Kippur War, particularly its aftermath. The first Lebanon War (1982) divided Israeli Jews, whether in uniform or not. These divisions extended to their American Jewish peers, now mostly civilians. By the time of the second Lebanon War (2006), American Jews had wrestled with the Gulf War, not to mention the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. These tensions and rifts, some new and others old, endure today as American Jews contemplate the ongoing Syrian Civil War, as well as the several Gaza Wars.


How did American Jews understand wars as they unfolded? This collection of articles in the Berman Jewish Policy Archive lets readers take the pulse of American Jews in the midst of war. It draws extensively upon articles written for the American Jewish Year Book, complemented by fascinating articles in Jewish social science journals that explore questions of psychology and social health. These pieces immerse readers in Jewish worldviews now many decades old, articulating persuasively pressing concerns of a distant era. Starting in the 1960s the collection includes a raft of short, incisive, and often combative pieces published in Sh'ma. Among the most powerful are a series of hard-hitting essays debating whether issues around the Vietnam war demanded that Jews speak out or whether Jews could legitimately "speak" of a morality of silence. Reading these vigorous debates of the early 1970s can be both illuminating and cautionary: illuminating because it helps one grasp how American Jews understood war less than twenty-five years after the end of the great patriotic Second World War; cautionary because the blind spots, passions, and slanted vision so evident to readers today could probably equally describe many of the articles included with a dateline of 2014.


Finally, one notes a cluster of articles by the brilliant and passionate Zionist, Leonard Fein (z'l) whose work never seems to lose its luster and always bears rereading with pleasure. Reading about war is surely not fun, but this BJPA collection offers other rewards -- most notably insight and historical awareness.



Click here* to view the Guide.


*Having trouble with the link above? Copy and paste this into your browser window:


See past newsletters and Reader's Guides: click here.
New & Previously Unpublished: Speeches by Jacob B. "Jack" Ukeles

BJPA is proud to host many works by Jack Ukeles, the city planner and consultant for policy research, planning, and management behind Ukeles Associates. Jack recently opened his archives to BJPA and allowed us to scan and upload speeches and presentations on Jewish communal policy themes from the past four decades, many of them previously unpublished. 

Click here to see Jack's writings on BJPA.

To submit your own work related to Jewish communal policy -- new or old -- email
By Steven M. Cohen 
 In all the reactions to the Pew Research Center's Portrait of Jewish Americans, one critical observation has received scant attention: The coming shrinkage of what may be termed the "Jewish Middle," those located in the central region of the Jewish identity spectrum, roughly encompassed by those affirming a Jewish denominational identity other than Orthodoxy.The number of middle-aged non-Orthodox Jews who are engaged in Jewish life is poised to drop sharply in the next 20-40 years.
And, absent significant policy changes, their numbers will continue to drop for years to come. 

The critical concern is that a large Jewish Middle is vital to the sustenance of so many major institutions in Jewish life. Will a vigorous and self-confident Orthodoxy (as seems most likely) be complemented by a full range of Jewish diversity and vitality? Or will the precincts of active American Jewry come to be numerically dominated by Orthodoxy in all its varieties?...

Click to read more... 
New on BJPA:
In case you missed them -- recent BJPA Reader's Guides


Like/follow us for news, facts at a glance, & important conversations in Jewish communal policy.