Unclean Lips

Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture

Author: Josh Lambert

Publisher: NYU Press

ISBN: 1479876437

Category: History

Page: 265

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Winner of the 2014 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award presented by the Association for Jewish Studies Jews have played an integral role in the history of obscenity in America. For most of the 20th century, Jewish entrepreneurs and editors led the charge against obscenity laws. Jewish lawyers battled literary censorship even when their non-Jewish counterparts refused to do so, and they won court decisions in favor of texts including Ulysses, A Howl, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Tropic of Cancer. Jewish literary critics have provided some of the most influential courtroom testimony on behalf of freedom of expression. The anti-Semitic stereotype of the lascivious Jew has made many historians hesitant to draw a direct link between Jewishness and obscenity. In Unclean Lips, Josh Lambert addresses the Jewishness of participants in obscenity controversies in the U.S. directly, exploring the transformative roles played by a host of neglected figures in the development of modern and postmodern American culture. The diversity of American Jewry means that there is no single explanation for Jews' interventions in this field. Rejecting generalizations, this bookoffers case studies that pair cultural histories with close readings of both contested texts and trial transcripts to reveal the ways in which specific engagements with obscenity mattered to particular American Jews at discrete historical moments. Reading American culture from Theodore Dreiser and Henry Miller to Curb Your Enthusiasm and FCC v. Fox, Unclean Lips analyzes the variable historical and cultural factors that account for the central role Jews have played in the struggles over obscenity and censorship in the modern United States.
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Cotton Capitalists

American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era

Author: Michael R. Cohen

Publisher: NYU Press

ISBN: 1479881015

Category: History

Page: 288

View: 4919

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A vivid history of the American Jewish merchants who concentrated in the nation’s most important economic sector In the nineteenth century, Jewish merchants created a thriving niche economy in the United States’ most important industry—cotton—positioning themselves at the forefront of expansion during the Reconstruction Era. Jewish success in the cotton industry was transformative for both Jewish communities and their development, and for the broader economic restructuring of the South. Cotton Capitalists analyzes this niche economy and reveals its origins. Michael R. Cohen argues that Jewish merchants’ status as a minority fueled their success by fostering ethnic networks of trust. Trust in the nineteenth century was the cornerstone of economic transactions, and this trust was largely fostered by ethnicity. Much as money flowed along ethnic lines between Anglo-American banks, Jewish merchants in the Gulf South used their own ethnic ties with other Jewish-owned firms in New York, as well as Jewish investors across the globe, to capitalize their businesses. They relied on these family connections to direct Northern credit and goods to the war-torn South, avoiding the constraints of the anti-Jewish prejudices which had previously denied them access to credit, allowing them to survive economic downturns. These American Jewish merchants reveal that ethnicity matters in the development of global capitalism. Ethnic minorities are and have frequently been at the forefront of entrepreneurship, finding innovative ways to expand narrow sectors of the economy. While this was certainly the case for Jews, it has also been true for other immigrant groups more broadly. The story of Jews in the American cotton trade is far more than the story of American Jewish success and integration—it is the story of the role of ethnicity in the development of global capitalism.
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Making Judaism Safe for America

World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism

Author: Jessica Cooperman

Publisher: NYU Press

ISBN: 1479895997

Category: Religion

Page: 224

View: 6083

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A compelling story of how Judaism became integrated into mainstream American religion 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. This volume shows how, at this crucial turning point in world history, the JWB managed to use the policies and power of the U.S. government to advance its own agenda: to shape the future of American Judaism and to assert its place as a truly American religion.
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Hollywood’s Spies

The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles

Author: Laura B. Rosenzweig

Publisher: NYU Press

ISBN: 1479855170

Category: History

Page: 320

View: 6119

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Tells the remarkable story of the Jewish moguls in Hollywood who established the first anti-Nazi Jewish resistance organization in the country in the 1930s In April 1939, Warner Brothers studios released the first Hollywood film to confront the Nazi threat in the United States. Confessions of a Nazi Spy, starring Edward G. Robinson, told the story of German agents in New York City working to overthrow the U.S. government. The film alerted Americans to the dangers of Nazism at home and encouraged them to defend against it. Confessions of a Nazi Spy may have been the first cinematic shot fired by Hollywood against Nazis in America, but it by no means marked the political awakening of the film industry’s Jewish executives to the problem. Hollywood’s Spies tells the remarkable story of the Jewish moguls in Hollywood who paid private investigators to infiltrate Nazi groups operating in Los Angeles, establishing the first anti-Nazi Jewish resistance organization in the country—the Los Angeles Jewish Community Committee (LAJCC). Drawing on more than 15,000 pages of archival documents, Laura B. Rosenzweig offers a compelling narrative illuminating the role that Jewish Americans played in combating insurgent Nazism in the United States in the 1930s. Forced undercover by the anti-Semitic climate of the decade, the LAJCC partnered with organizations whose Americanism was unimpeachable, such as the American Legion, to channel information regarding seditious Nazi plots to Congress, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department. Hollywood’s Spies corrects the decades-long belief that American Jews lacked the political organization and leadership to assert their political interests during this period in our history and reveals that the LAJCC was one of many covert "fact finding" operations funded by Jewish Americans designed to root out Nazism in the United States.
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