Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 255 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Barry Trachtenberg

Committee Members

Carl Bon Tempo, Kori Graves


Jewish Assimilation, Jews, Neoconservative, Race Relations, African Americans, Civil rights

Subject Categories

United States History


This dissertation examines the relationship between American Jews and African Americans through the prism of evolving Jewish whiteness. In the post-World War II period, American Jews were an outsider group that were moving into the mainstream. American Jews interested in assimilating tied themselves to the cause of African American civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. This was partially motivated by a desire to help an oppressed minority work towards equality in the United States. However, it was also motivated in part by a desire to aid in their own assimilation process. The idea of creating a colorblind American society was desirable for American Jews, as they were members of a minority religious group. However, the idea that the creation of such a society was even possible was challenged in the mid to late 1960s by the rise of the Black Power movement. Jews who had hoped that participating in civil rights advocacy would help Jewish assimilation now themselves as being targeted as members of the white community. The accusation that caused the most consternation was that Jews were whites and had historically acted as whites in African American communities. While Jews were trying to move toward assimilation, they did not want to be seen as being white. However, the next several decades would see some formerly liberal Jews form the backbone of the neoconservative movement. Liberal Jewish groups would turn their sights on limiting Affirmative Action advances. In the 1980s, Jews were at the forefront of opposition to the presidential candidacy of Jesse Jackson. In these three decades, Jews in the United States were working toward becoming white. By the 1970s and 1980s, they had achieved a degree of whiteness that allowed them to reject changes that were taking place in the civil rights movement.