The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism

The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism

The Menorah Association and American Diversity
Greene, Daniel
Distribution: World
Publication date: 04/15/2011
Format: Paperback 12 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22334-0
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Winner, American Jewish Historical Society's Saul Viener Book Prize for 2011-2012

Daniel Greene traces the emergence of the idea of cultural pluralism to the lived experiences of a group of Jewish college students and public intellectuals, including the philosopher Horace M. Kallen. These young Jews faced particular challenges as they sought to integrate themselves into the American academy and literary world of the early 20th century. At Harvard University, they founded an influential student organization known as the Menorah Association in 1906 and later the Menorah Journal, which became a leading voice of Jewish public opinion in the 1920s. In response to the idea that the American melting pot would erase all cultural differences, the Menorah Association advocated a pluralist America that would accommodate a thriving Jewish culture while bringing Jewishness into mainstream American life.

Author Bio

Daniel Greene is Director of the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture at the Newberry Library in Chicago and a former curator and historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.


Greene lucidly exposes one of the central tensions in American Jewish history--between the desire for acceptance and the commitment to difference--and shows how this tension . . . took on a new life in the minds of these highly self-conscious and intellectual Jewish men. . . . He does a wonderful job mediating between the broader American context and the more specific contexts of his actors.Greene makes visible the Jewish strand of a larger American story, an intervention that will help readers to better understand how and why the concept of cultural pluralism came about in the way it did. . . . It adds in important ways to the conversation about racial and ethnic differences and the way they have been understood in American culture.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: "Kultur Klux Klan or Cultural Pluralism"
1. The Harvard Menorah Society and the Menorah Idea
2. The Intercollegiate Menorah Association and the "Jewish Invasion" of American Colleges
3. Cultural Pluralism and Its Critics
4. Jewish Studies in an American Setting
5. A Pluralist History and Culture
6. Pluralism in Fiction
Epilogue: "The Promise of the Menorah Idea"


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