GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation

Jews may have looked just like other American soldiers, and in important ways they were just like their comrades in arms. But beneath the uniforms, Jews struggled with a different reality, a Jewish reality.

Lecture Description

Over half a million Jews entered the armed forces of the United States, joining every branch of the military and seeing action on all fronts of the war. Integrated into their units, American Jews not only discovered what it meant to be men but also learned what it meant to be Jews. Their experience in uniform made them unwilling to accept the insults and exclusions that had been standard issue for American Jews before the war. Few Jewish men sought to transform themselves. Most accepted military service as their duty to their nation. But irrespective of motivation, Jews underwent a sea change. They came to internalize their Jewishness as a private aspect of their personalities rather than a public dimension of their culture. The war intensified the interdependence of the men’s American and Jewish identities. Jews may have looked just like other American soldiers, and in important ways they were just like their comrades in arms. But beneath the uniforms, Jews struggled with a different reality, a Jewish reality.

CATEGORIES

Jewish Military

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