Jessica Cooperman joins us to discuss her new book Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism. Program is co-sponsored by the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council with introduction from Rabbi Irving Elson, Director.
In 1956, the sociologist Will Herberg described the United States as a “triple-melting pot,” a country in which “three religious communities – Protestant, Catholic, Jewish – are America.” This description of an American society in which Judaism and Catholicism stood as equal partners to Protestantism begs explanation, as Protestantism had long been the dominant religious force in the U.S. How did Americans come to embrace Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism as “the three facets of American religion?”Historians have often turned to the experiences of World War II in order to explain this transformation. However, World War I’s impact on changing conceptions of American religion is too often overlooked.
This book argues that World War I programs designed to protect the moral welfare of American servicemen brought new ideas about religious pluralism into structures of the military. Jessica Cooperman shines a light on how Jewish organizations were able to convince both military and civilian leaders that Jewish organizations, alongside Christian ones, played a necessary role in the moral and spiritual welfare of America’s fighting forces. This alone was significant, because acceptance within the military was useful in modeling acceptance in the larger society.
The leaders of the newly formed Jewish Welfare Board, which became the military’s exclusive Jewish partner in the effort to maintain moral welfare among soldiers, used the opportunities created by war to negotiate a new place for Judaism in American society. Using the previously unexplored archival collections of the JWB, as well as soldiers’ letters, memoirs and War Department correspondence, Jessica Cooperman shows that the Board was able to exert strong control over expressions of Judaism within the military. By introducing young soldiers to what it saw as appropriately Americanized forms of Judaism and Jewish identity, the JWB hoped to prepare a generation of American Jewish men to assume positions of Jewish leadership while fitting comfortably into American society.
Jessica Cooperman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion Studies and Director of Jewish Studies at Muhlenberg College.
Thursday, October 18th, 2018, 7:00 pm
Professor Leah Garrett joins us to discuss her book Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel.
Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel shows how Jews, traditionally castigated as weak and cowardly, for the first time became the popular literary representatives of what it meant to be a soldier and what it meant to be an American. Revisiting best-selling works ranging from Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and uncovering a range of unknown archival material, Leah Garrett shows how Jewish writers used the theme of World War II to reshape the American public’s ideas about war, the Holocaust, and the role of Jews in postwar life. In contrast to most previous war fiction these new “Jewish” war novels were often ironic, funny, and irreverent and sought to teach the reading public broader lessons about liberalism, masculinity, and pluralism.
Leah Garrett is Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Hunter College.
Sunday, November 4th, 2018, 1:00 pm
Omar Bradley rose to the pinnacle of the American military establishment and was the last of the major World War II military leaders to pass from the scene. Usually included as the last and youngest of the “five stars,” he had the most combat experience of the three American Army Group commanders in Europe during World War II and was our most important ground commander. Bradley’s postwar career ensures his legacy as one of the architects of U.S. Cold War global strategy. These latter contributions, as much as Bradley’s demonstrable World War II leadership, shaped U.S. history and culture in decisive, dramatic, and previously unexamined ways.
Steven L. Ossad is an independent historian and retired Wall Street technology analyst focused on leadership, command, and adapting military technology for executive management training.
He is the author (with Don R. Marsh) of Major General Maurice Rose: World War II’s Greatest Forgotten Commander. In 2014, he received a General and Mrs. Matthew Ridgway Research Award from the Army War College for his work on Omar Bradley. In 2003 he was presented an Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award. His article “Out of the Shadow and into the Light: Col. David ‘Mickey’ Marcus and U.S. Civil Affairs in World War II,” published in Army History, was a runner up for that same award in 2016.