Ambivalent Embrace

Jewish Upward Mobility in Postwar America

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Rachel Kranson
  • Durham, NC: 
    University of North Carolina Press
    , November
     2017.
     232 pages.
     $27.50.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781469635439.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

This new cultural history of Jewish life and identity in the United States after World War II focuses on the process of upward mobility. Rachel Kranson challenges the common notion that most American Jews unambivalently celebrated their generally strong growth in economic status and social acceptance during the booming postwar era. In fact, a significant number of Jewish religious, artistic, and intellectual leaders worried about the ascent of large numbers of Jews into the American middle class.

Kranson reveals that many Jews were deeply concerned that their lives—affected by rapidly changing political pressures, gender roles, and religious practices—were becoming dangerously disconnected from authentic Jewish values. She uncovers how Jewish leaders delivered jeremiads that warned affluent Jews of hypocrisy and associated “good” Jews with poverty, even at times romanticizing life in America’s immigrant slums and Europe’s impoverished shtetls. Jewish leaders, while not trying to hinder economic development, thus cemented an ongoing identification with the Jewish heritage of poverty and marginality as a crucial element in an American Jewish ethos.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Rachel Kranson is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

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