Serving in WWII made American Jewish soldiers feel both more Jewish and more American, writes historian Moore (At Home in America, etc.) in this insightful study. Relying mainly on memoirs and oral interviews of 15 veterans, Moore shows how many of them had taken their Jewish identity for granted in the Jewish enclaves where they grew up?and that only in the army did they begin to see its value. For some, simply eating nonkosher food was a challenge. "It was horrible," one soldier wrote home, "but with the help of the coffee I swallowed it much as one would an aspirin." They also had to contend with stereotypes of Jews as weaklings and with outright anti-Semitism, and saw how many anti-Semitic soldiers were also racist, suggesting that the seeds for the black-Jewish alliance of the 1960s were sown during WWII. For many, their Jewishness resonated as they fought for Uncle Sam: they searched for European Jews while on leave, and then saw their worst fears confirmed in the prisoners at concentration camps: one soldier remembered this as his initiation into "Jewish manhood and responsibility." The stories these soldiers tell are compelling, and Moore does an admirable job of knowing when to interpret and when to let the experiences speak for themselves. B&w photos.
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|Author||Deborah Dash Moore|