American Jewish History- Vol 107, No. 4, October 2023

June 18, 2024
by Judah Cohen, Jessica Cooperman, and Marni Davis

Dearest AJH Reader,

Breathe. It’s summer. We’ll wait.

Welcome back.

Perhaps you’re just returned from the AJHS Biennial, refreshed and inspired by the latest ideas in American Jewish history scholarship. Perhaps you’re thinking about what to read first in that stack of (virtual?) materials you’ve been setting aside for months. We hope you place the latest issue of American Jewish History, featuring George Washington and his steed on the front cover, near the top.


It will bring back memories. Here you’ll find Beth Wenger’s updated Friedman medal remarks from the 2022 biennial conference. “We historians know that we and the scholarship we generate are both products of our times,” she writes, with a series of observations as relevant today as they were when she delivered them two years ago.

It will change your view of key documents. Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island here gains a whole new perspective in the hands of John M. Nixon. To Nixon the letter fits more effectively into the context of Atlantic history, where small Jewish populations regularly needed to negotiate their rights with the prevailing powers. Only later, Nixon notes, was the letter repurposed into a core component of the American Jewish story.

It will deepen your perspective of American politics and identity through Eric Eisner’s account of Maryland’s “Jew Bill.” Following its various iterations from 1818 through 1826, Eisner explores how the status of Jews in Maryland moved from election issue to law via the state population’s debates about religion and race.

It will present a roadmap for problem-solving. In “Birch Watching: the Anti-Defamation League and Countermobilization Against the Radical Right,” David Austin Walsh describes the Anti-Defamation League’s organizing role in pressuring the John Birch Society to “demonstrate its commitment to nonsectarianism” as it rose to prominence in the 1960s, blunting its strongest tendencies toward antisemitism in the process

It will keep you up to date on the field. Book review editor Melissa Klapper ably brings us expert perspectives on five books from 2023, and all eligible for your summer reading list… And thanks to public history review editor David Weinstein, Rebecca Rossen’s review of Bridget Murnane’s film Bella, on dancer Bella Lewitzky, robustly acknowledges our field’s reach beyond the written page (look for the film on PBS and in local film festivals).

And with the issue complete, you can now sleep, perchance to dream of the treasures that await you in the next issue…

–Jessica, Marni, and Judah

Read Volume 107, No. 4 of American Jewish History online.