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Jewish Identities in the American West

Relational Perspectives

Jewish Identities in the American West fills a significant gap in racial identity scholarship.
Since the onset of New Western History in the 1980s, the complexity of race and ethnicity as it developed in the American West has increasingly been recognized by scholars and the wider public alike. Ethnic studies scholars have developed new perspectives on racial formation in the West that complicate older notions that often relied on binary descriptions, such as Black/white racialization. In the past few decades, these studies have relied on relational approaches that focus on how race is constructed, by both examining interactions with the white dominant group, and by exploring the multiple connections with other racial/ethnic groups in society. Historians are discovering new stories of racial construction, and revising older accounts, to integrate these new perspectives into the formation of racial and ethnic identities. This collection of essays on Jews in the American West advances this field in multiple ways. With essays that cover the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, these authors present a collective portrait of change over time that allows us to view the shifting nature of Jewish identity in the West, as well as the evolving frameworks for racial construction. Thorough and thought-provoking, Jewish Identities in the American West takes readers on a journey of racial and ethnic identity in the American West.

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“Jewish Identities in the American West uses a well-theorized 'relational' approach to help readers understand how Jewishness has been construed, and sometimes racialized, in different ways in different times, in relation to other minorities’ experiences, construals and racializations. Complicating the simple “whitening” thesis, the contributors to this volume think of their Jewish subjects alongside Black, Chinese, Indigenous and Mexican peoples, resulting in a volume in deep dialogue with both Western U.S. and global Jewish diaspora studies’ scholars. Eisenberg offers a brilliant introduction, with fittingly nuanced perspective about Jewishness and difference in the American West. She also provides useful through-line section introductions that weave together the book’s timely, well-informed, fine-grained, readable, and fascinating case studies.”

David Koffman, J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry, York University, and author of The Jews' Indian: Colonialism, Pluralism, and Belonging in America

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables

By George J. Sánchez


By Ellen Eisenberg

Chapter One: White Jews of Victoria, 1858-1914
By Lynne Marks and Jordan Stanger-Ross

Chapter Two: “Negotiating Jewish Identities in Oregon: From White Pioneer to Ethnic Minority”
By Ellen Eisenberg

Chapter Three: Jewish Border Merchants between Economies of Extraction and Policing, 1848 –1910
By Maxwell E. Greenberg

Chapter Four: Locating Jewish Youth in the L.A. Young Communist League, 1925-1940
By Caroline Luce

Chapter Five: Unexpected Allies: David C. Marcus and his Impact on the Advancement of Civil Rights in the Mexican American Legal Landscape of Southern California
By Genevieve Carpio

Chapter Six: “Intermediate Types”: Ottoman Jews and the Ambivalence of Belonging in Seattle
By Devin Naar

Chapter Seven: For the “Wrong” Reasons: Los Angeles Jews and Busing
By Sara Smith

Chapter Eight: “Sephardic Jewish persons are classified as white”: Education, Race, and Sephardic Jews in the 1970s
By Max Modiano Daniel

Chapter Nine: Complicating Jewish Whiteness: Jews of Color in the American West
By Bruce Phillips

Contributor Biographies

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