A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness: The Origins and Rise of Anti-Semitism in America

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Harvard University Press, 1996 - History - 339 pages
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Home to nearly half of the world's Jews, America also harbors its share of anti-Jewish sentiment. In a country founded on the principle of religious freedom, with no medieval past, no legal nobility, and no national church, how did anti-Semitism become a presence here? And how have America's beginnings and history affected the course of this bigotry? Frederic Cople Jaher considers these questions in A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness, the first history of American anti-Semitism from its origins in the ancient world to its first widespread outbreak during the Civil War. Comprehensive in approach, the book combines psychological, sociological, economic, cultural, anthropological, and historical interpretation to reveal the nature of anti-Semitism in the United States. Jaher sets up a comparative framework, in which American anti-Semitism is seen in relation to other forms of ethnic and religious bigotry. He compares America's treatment of Jews to their treatment in other eras and countries, and notes variations by region, social group, and historical period. Jaher shows us that although anti-Semitism has been less pronounced in America than in Europe, it has had a significant place in our culture from the beginning, a circumstance he traces to intertwining religious and secular forces reaching back to early Christianity, with its doctrinal animosity toward Jews. He documents the growth of this animosity in its American incarnation through the 1830s to its virulent and epidemic climax during the Civil War. Though Christianity's dispute with Judaism accounts for the persistence of anti-Semitism, Jaher reveals the deeper roots of this pathology of prejudice in the human psyche - in primalconcerns about defeat, enfeeblement, and death, or in visceral responses of intergroup and interpersonal envy and rivalry. An in-depth study of all phases of anti-Jewish feeling as it is manifested in politics, economic behavior, cultural myth and legend, religious and social intera

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A scapegoat in the new wilderness: the origins and rise of anti-semitism in America

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The field of American Jewish history is proving a fruitful one for many scholars. Jaher (history, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana) here presents an overview of European anti-Semitism and an analysis of the ... Read full review


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About the author (1996)

Frederic Cople Jaher is Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of several books, including "A Scapegoat in the New Wilderness: The Origins and Rise of Anti-Semitism in America.

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