American Anti-Semitism: New Approaches and Frameworks

Endorsed by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS)

Thursday, April 2, 2020, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Ethnicity; Race; Religion


This roundtable seeks to think anew about the intersections of anti-Semitism, racism, and populism as well as its connections to right-leaning discourses of white victimhood and male entitlement. What can we learn about anti-Semitism by looking at it from America as a starting point rather than Europe? What does thinking about anti-Semitism and its new forms reveal about America and American culture historically and during our contemporary moment of heightened nationalism and exclusionary politics? What are the opportunities and limits of using anti-Semitism as a term for historical analysis for the study of America and American racism?

Session Participants

Chair: Alan M. Kraut, American University
Alan M. Kraut is Distinguished Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C. and a Nonresident Fellow of the Migration Policy Institute. He is a former President of the Organization of American Historians and current President of the National History Coalition. He is an elected fellow of the Society of American Historians. Kraut is a specialist in U.S. immigration and ethnic history and the history of medicine and public health in the United States. He is the author or editor of nine books including, The Huddled Masses: The Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1921 (1982; rev. 2001), American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933-1945 (co-authored, 1987), and Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, and the “Immigrant Menace” (1994). The latter volume received the Theodore Saloutos Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. His 2003 volume, Goldberger’s War: The Life and Work of a Public Health Crusader was honored with the Henry Adams Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government, the Arthur J. Viseltear Prize from the American Public Health Association, and the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. In 2007, Kraut and his wife, Deborah, co-authored Covenant of Care: Newark Beth Israel and the Jewish Hospital in America. His most recent volume, Ethnic Historians and the Mainstream: Shaping America’s Immigration Story (co-edited) was published in November 2013. He is currently writing a history of anti-immigrant behavior throughout American history. Dr. Kraut chairs the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island History Advisory Committee of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. In 2017 Kraut received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society for his contributions to scholarship on immigration history.

Panelist: Lila Corwin Berman, Temple University
Lila Corwin Berman is Professor of History at Temple University, where she holds the Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History and directs the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. She is author of Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity (California, 2009) and Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit (Chicago, 2015), and she is currently working on a book called “The American Jewish Philanthropic Complex: The Historical Formation of a Multi-Billion Dollar Institution.” Her articles have appeared in many publications, including the American Historical Review, Journal of American History, Jewish Social Studies, American Jewish History, Religion and American Culture, the Forward, and Sh’ma.

Panelist: Rebecca A. Kobrin, Columbia University
Rebecca Kobrin, Russell and Bettina Knapp Associate Professor of American Jewish History, Department of History, Columbia University, works in the field of American Jewish History, specializing in modern Jewish migration. Her book Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora: (Indiana University Press, 2010), focuses on migrant Jews’ relationship to their former homes in Eastern Europe and to other Jewish immigrant outposts prior to the Second World War. It was awarded the Jordan Schnitzer prize for best book in modern Jewish history concerning the Americas (2012), was a National Jewish Book finalist (2010). She is the editor of Chosen Capital: The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism (Rutgers University Press, 2012), and is co-editor with Adam Teller of Purchasing Power: The Economics of Jewish History (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). In 2015, she was awarded Columbia University’s Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Award for her outstanding teacher and her inspirational mentoring of her students. Her forthcoming book, A Credit to the Nation: Jewish Immigrant Bankers and American Finance, 1870-1930 (Harvard University Press, 2020), brings together scholarship in Jewish history, American immigration studies and American economic history.

Panelist: Ari Joel Perlmann, Levy Institute of Bard College
Joel Perlmann is a senior scholar and director of the Institute’s Immigration, Ethnicity, and Social Structure research program. He is the Levy Institute Research Professor at Bard College, where he teaches courses in history and sociology.

Joel Perlmann is a Senior Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and Levy Institute Research Professor at the college. Among his publications are Ethnic Education and Social Structure among the Irish, Italians, Jews and Blacks of an American City, 1880-1935 (Cambridge UP, 1988) and America Classifies the Immigrants: From Ellis Island to the 2020 Census (Harvard UP, 2018). In these and other publications, he deals extensively with American Jews.

Panelist: Annie Polland, American Jewish Historical Society
Dr. Annie Polland is the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. She was formerly the Vice President for Programs & Education at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where she oversaw exhibits and interpretation. She is the co-author, with Daniel Soyer, of Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. She received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, and also served as Vice President of Education at the Museum at Eldridge Street, where she wrote Landmark of the Spirit (Yale University). She also teaches at New York University.

Panelist: Britt P. Tevis, Yale University
My bio: Britt Tevis is a Lecturer of Law at Deakin Law School in Melbourne, Australia. She has published articles in American Jewish History and American Journal of Legal History, and is currently writing a book about early twentieth-century radical Jewish lawyers in the United States.