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Separate And Unequal

Plessy v. Ferguson, a U.S. Supreme Court verdict of immense magnitude, drew little national attention when it was handed down in 1896, but its effects on race relations in the United States were staggering and long-lasting. The ruling, written by Henry Billings Brown, upheld the Separate Car Act, which Louisiana had enacted in 1890 “to … Read More

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The American Alt-Right And The White Ethnostate

The alt-right, a purveyor of an xenophobic and toxic brand of white nationalism, is gaining a foothold in the United States, even as it incurs intense opprobrium in the media. Having emerged during the presidency of Barack Obama, the first African American president, it has attracted still more followers during the era of his successor, … Read More

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A State At Any Cost

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first and perhaps greatest prime minister, was a man of conviction. As Tom Segev observes in his comprehensive and excellent biography, A State At Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), “The Zionist dream was the quintessence of his identity and the core of his personality, and its … Read More

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America’s Schizophrenic Attitude To Racial Equality

The ongoing nation-wide protests in favor of racial equality and justice in the United States, following George Floyd’s wanton murder while in police custody, underscore America’s historically dual approach to race relations. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in Where Do We Go From Here?, a book published in 1967, “Ever since the birth of our … Read More

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Legacies Of Nazi Persecution

Early on in her book, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice (Oxford University Press), Mary Fulbrook writes, “The Nazi past continues to disturb.” What an understatement. In this massive and erudite work, Fulbrook — a professor of German history at University College in London — delves deeply into an interrelated web … Read More

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Hitler, My Neighbor

It is 1930 and Edgar Feuchtwanger, a six-year-old German Jewish boy, is standing adjacent to one of his neighbors, Adolf Hitler. The up-and-coming Austrian-born politician is waiting to be picked up outside his elegant apartment building on 16 Prinzregentenplatz in a sedate residential district of Munich. “I can see he’s cut himself shaving, as my … Read More

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Anti-Jewish Violence In Poland, 1914-1920

Polish Jews invested high hopes in Poland’s campaign for independence from Russia and its rebirth as a sovereign state in 1918. But the period during which these events transpired coincided with the most widespread and possibly deadliest antisemitic violence in modern Polish history. Nearly 300 pogroms and anti-Jewish riots erupted in areas either still under … Read More

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A Mississippi Memoir

New Jewish immigrants arriving in the United States in the first years of the 20th century usually settled in big northern cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston or in nearby smaller towns. Scarcely any went to, say, Mississippi, an antebellum southern state defined by the strictures of segregation and populated by a very small … Read More

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The Guarded Gate: Xenophobia In America

The immortal words of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus, are cast on a bronze plaque on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my … Read More

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From Emancipation To Destruction

The roller coaster process during which Jews in Germany were emancipated in the 19th century, only to be deprived of all their rights during the Nazi era and then murdered in the Holocaust, is the subject of Jay Howard Geller’s superb book, The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoise From Emancipation To Destruction, published … Read More