Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relationships in the American Century

Cheryl Lynn Greenberg, Author . Princeton Univ. $29.95 (351p) ISBN 978-0-691-05865-8

Affirmative action ended the longstanding coalition between American Jews and blacks, claimed Detroit mayor Coleman Young in 1980 after many national Jewish groups filed amicus briefs challenging affirmative action in two Supreme Court cases. But as Greenberg notes in this smart and comprehensive analysis, Young's statement was far from accurate. Not only was the "great coalition" a complicated mixture of social and political alliances but the "divide" over affirmative action was never decisive. A professor of history at Trinity College, she uncovers new material—in the early 1940s the Anti-Defamation League spied on and reported to law enforcement officials on black organizations and newspapers it felt were sympathetic to the Axis powers—and never shies away from sensitive issues. Committed to exploring the historical complexity of the black-Jewish relationship in a balanced way, Greenberg notes, for instance, that Southern Jews were reluctant to integrate but also mentions their well-founded fears of anti-Semitic retaliation. As for the failure of the black-Jewish alliance, Greenberg notes the rise of identity politics, "with its rejection of pluralism," as a factor. Greenberg's is one of the best of a spate of new books on this topic, with her fine research and careful delineation of the facts. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Paperback - 351 pages - 978-0-691-14616-4
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