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Renowned legal historian Jerold S. Auerbach examines the special contributions of rabbis and lawyers to American Jewish acculturation. Based on extensive research in U.S. and Israeli archives, his analysis of how lawyers displaced rabbis as community leaders at the beginning of the twentieth century illuminates a decisive moment in history. Author of the landmark study of the legal profession, Unequal Justice (1976), Auerbach turns to the more specific issue of the development of the lawyer class in the U.S. and its role in changing the way Jewish Americans assimilated and were perceived by others.
This book challenges the comfortable meme that Jewish leaders did all they could to prevent the Holocaust or promote the basics of pro-Jewish causes at home--with so many worried about being assimilated first and devoted second, if at all. It also explores the upper echelon's devotion to a President Roosevelt who seemed so openly to relegate their plight to a "lesser cause," and did so little to stop the Final Solution. And the reason, Auerbach shows, is that for these leaders--Brandeis, Marshall, Frankfurter, Mack, Frank and others--their religion was ultimately law and their passion was melding Judaism into it. This is not always a comfortable history but it is an important one, an authentic one.
"For nearly a century, by World War II, the fundamental component of American Jewish identity, articulated by rabbis and lawyers alike, was the inherent compatibility of Judaism with Americanism. During World War II, the inconceivable occurred: what was good for the United States was not good for the Jews; what was urgent for the Jews was a matter of insignificance to the American government and to the president. Once the inconceivable happened, American Jews who had accepted the acculturation bargain were paralyzed." And that transition from Torah to Constitution began long before its ultimate effects. This is the story of that turn to the legalistic public face of American Judaism.
JEROLD S. AUERBACH is Emeritus Professor of History at Wellesley College and the author of other acclaimed books on the legal profession, Israel, and the Pueblo Indians.
Part of the LEGAL HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY SERIES from Quid Pro Books. That means this book, unlike most nonfiction ebooks in the market today, contains active contents, linked endnotes, and even an active and complete Index.
American Jews' assimilation required a drastic modification of their commitment to sacred law and holy land, contends Wellesley College historian Auerbach. In his scenario, Jews transferred their allegiance from the Torah to the Constitution--from a covenantal relationship with God to a secular outlook shaped by constitutional principles promoting individual freedom. In a rewarding, challenging study, Auerbach ( Justice Without Law? ) maintains this metamorphosis was abetted by rabbis like Isaac Mayer Wise and such lawyers as Louis Brandeis and Louis Marshall who ``taught Jews how to become Americans.'' He faults Reform rabbi Stephen S. Wise for ``deferential caution'' in his failed attempt to prod FDR into rescuing Europe's Jewry from Hitler's impending bloodbath. He also takes aim at optimistic celebrants of a revitalized Judaism like Charles Silberman and Leonard Fine. Sure to be hotly debated, this book recasts the debate on Jewish acculturation in new terms.