How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America

By Dinnerstein, Leonard | Shofar, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America


Dinnerstein, Leonard, Shofar


How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America, by Karen Brodkin. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998. 243 pp. $18.00 (p).

I wish that the insights and analyses in Brodkin' s volume were as sparkling and imaginative as her title. Alas, they are not. Karen Brodkin, a professor of anthropology at the University of California (Los Angeles), has tried to trace how Jews traversed the line from being outsiders to becoming insiders. She has combed most of the published works on the subject of Jews, acculturation, assimilation, gender-based experiences and limitations, and institutionalized racism and its decline in the United States since 1945. Her conclusions are that Jews wanted to become part of the mainstream in the United States, but when they did, many of them were ambivalent rather than comfortable with their new status. Moreover, she focuses especially on the complexities with which Jewish women had to contend. Her explorations into why and how Jews tried to "create a Jewish ethnoracial identity" has led her to vast generalizations about white ethnic immigrant experiences and the so-called desires of Jews. These contain many truths, but they also ignore the fact that different European groups brought their own cultural values with them to the New World and that these helped shape both their experiences and development.

Brodkin's assessments and analyses repeat what most educated people already know. We are informed that it is, and always has been, better to be white, male, and Protestant in the United States than it is (was) to be a person of color (or one who, regardless of color, is nonetheless regarded as "non-white"), female, and non-Protestant. We are also instructed about other historical experiences which no educated person today would dispute: only a small minority of immigrants and their children benefited from public education at the rum of the century, women worked (and still work) for lower wages than men, the American government has engaged in racist, and malefocused, policies throughout its history, and societal and family values (often the same) dictate(d) adult choices for women and men.

Brodkin's knowledge of American history is scanty. She narrates how, after World War II, Jewish males crossed over the line, ceased being members of a minority group, and became "white." So far, so good. But Brodkin writes as if everything changed in the 1940s for Jews. She assumes, and this is only a partial truth, that mobility after the war "was due to programs that allowed us [white ethnics] to float on a rising economic tide" (p. 51). Her conclusion that "by the late 1940s . . . economic and social barriers to Jewish aspirations" in the United States had fallen away is unsubstantiated (p. 141). It would be more accurate to state that barriers to equality of opportunity were in the process of falling away at the end ofthat decade. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.