Program Recap: Postwar Stories

March 29, 2024
by Rebeca Miller

This program originally aired on March 19th, 2024 at 6:30pm Eastern at the Center for Jewish History.

Author Rachel Gordan joined us for an in-person discussion of her new book Postwar Stories: How Books Made Judaism American with moderator and longtime friend Dara Horn. Rachel’s research pulled from magazine articles, nearly-forgotten bestsellers and numerous archives including collections at the American Jewish Historical Society. She examined how positive depictions of Jews found in Jewish middlebrow literature of the mid-20th century helped to shape a newer American Jewish identity post-Holocaust. The depiction of Jewish people in literature and the press evolved significantly between 1920 and 1970; Jews went from being described as persecuted, alienated, and marginalized race of people, to being Americans who belonged to a specific religion, before largely being identified as a cultural group. Rachel Gordan’s work examines how writers of popular culture were instrumental in educating the American public about Jewishness, while also reminding readers how un-American it was to be antisemitic.

Topics covered in this program: Harpers Weekly, highbrow middlebrow lowbrow, Marjorie Morningstar, “In God We Trust,” resurgence of the KKK in the 1930s, Harry Wolfson, Laura Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement, Charles Lindberg, anti anti-Semitism, patriotism as a means of rejecting anti-Semitism, Jewishness as a religion vs ethnic identity,