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Jewish Identities in the American West

Relational Perspectives

Edited by Ellen Eisenberg

Since the onset of the New Western History in the 1980s, the complexity of race and ethnicity as it developed in the US West has increasingly been recognized by scholars and the wider public alike. Ethnic studies scholars have developed new perspectives on racial formation in the West that complicate older notions that often relied on binary descriptions, such as Black/white racialization. In the past few decades, these studies have relied on relational approaches that focus on how race is constructed, by both examining interactions with the white dominant group, and by exploring the multiple connections with other racial/ethnic groups in society. Historians are discovering new stories of racial construction, and revising older accounts, to integrate these new perspectives into the formation of racial and ethnic identities. This collection of essays on Jews in the US West advances this field in multiple ways. With essays that cover the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, these authors present a collective portrait of change over time that allows us to view the shifting nature of Jewish identity in the West, as well as the evolving frameworks for racial construction. Thorough and thought-provoking, Jewish Identities in the American West takes readers on a journey of racial and ethnic identity in the US West.

Paper: $40 | Cloth: $120 | E-book: $39.95
ISBN-13: 9781684581283
Pages: 408 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: December 15, 2022
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Eisenberg offers a brilliant introduction, with fittingly nuanced perspective about Jewishness and difference in the American West. She also provides useful through-line section introductions that weave together the book’s timely, well-informed, fine-grained, readable, and fascinating case studies.

David Koffman 
J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry, York University

Reviews

  • Jewish Identities in the American West uses a well-theorized “relational” approach to help readers understand how Jewishness has been construed, and sometimes racialized, in different ways in different times, in relation to other minorities’ experiences, construals and racializations. Complicating the simple “whitening” thesis, the contributors to this volume think of their Jewish subjects alongside Black, Chinese, Indigenous and Mexican peoples, resulting in a volume in deep dialogue with both Western U.S. and global Jewish diaspora studies’ scholars. Eisenberg offers a brilliant introduction, with fittingly nuanced perspective about Jewishness and difference in the American West. She also provides useful through-line section introductions that weave together the book’s timely, well-informed, fine-grained, readable, and fascinating case studies.

    David Koffman
    J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry, York University, and author of The Jews' Indian: Colonialism, Pluralism, and Belonging in America
  • Most of these provocative essays draw on diverse scholarship and a range of primary and secondary sources. Their chronological and topic breadth is considerable, and together they make an undeniable case that in understanding the history and people of the American West — and by implication of the nation at large-the familiar dichotomy of Black and White is at once preposterous and quaint.

    American Jewish History

About the Author

Ellen Eisenberg

Ellen Eisenberg holds the Dwight and Margaret Lear Professorship in American History at Willamette University. Her published work includes five books on American Jewish history and, particularly, the history of Jews in the American West, including National Jewish Book Award finalist The First to Cry Down Injustice? Western Jews and Japanese Removal during WWII and a two-volume history of Jews in Oregon, Embracing a Western Identity: Jewish Oregonians, 1849–1950 and …

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