cover image Bad Jews: A History of American Jewish Politics and Identities

Bad Jews: A History of American Jewish Politics and Identities

Emily Tamkin. Harper, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-307401-9

Journalist Tamkin (The Influence of Soros) illuminates in this vibrant study the multifaceted nature of the Jewish experience in America. Interweaving historical vignettes, contemporary interviews, and personal reflections, Tamkin argues that “as a monolithic or hegemonic entity... the Jewish community does not exist.” She examines how restrictions placed on Jewish immigration in the 1920s intensified “assimilation and acculturation,” as well as tensions over “what it meant to be an American Jew,” and notes that while some Jews became deeply involved in socialist politics, others founded the neoconservative movement. She also delves into the boom in suburban synagogue construction after WWII, the creation of the “Jewish American Princess” stereotype, and the collaboration between conservative Jews and the Christian right. Throughout, Tamkin brings nuanced perspective to such controversial matters as the alleged antisemitism of Muslim congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and the “active role” some American Jews “play[ed] in upholding America’s racist, slave-based society” (she notes that the first Jewish person to hold a cabinet position in North America was Confederate attorney general and secretary of state Judah P. Benjamin). Heartfelt, nuanced, and empathetic, this revelatory ethnography is a must-read. (Oct.)