[ skip to content ]

News @ ODU

New Book by ODU Prof Examines Rise of Jewish Political Prominence in America

"Politics, Faith and the Making of American Judaism"

A forthcoming book by Old Dominion University professor Peter Adams explores the only instance of Jewish expulsion in America and the subsequent assimilation and political mobilization that came to define modernized Judaism in the United States.

Adams's book, "Politics, Faith and the Making of American Judaism," is scheduled to be published May 30 by the University of Michigan Press. In it, Adams recounts the history of the American Jewish community's efforts to assimilate and mobilize politically during the post-Civil War 19th century, creating a new brand of Judaism that was unique to America.

Adams is an adjunct English instructor at ODU.

The book cites as a key event, the 1862 order by U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant that Jewish citizens be banished from the region under his military control. Grant's decision, which was quickly revoked by President Abraham Lincoln, marked a growing sense of anti-Semitism in America.

"Convinced that assimilation was their best defense, Jews sought to Americanize by shedding distinctive dress, occupations and religious rituals," according to a synopsis on the University of Michigan Press website.

In his book, Adams maintains that, as a result of this assimilation, American Jews became a growing influence in the politics of both parties and more were eventually appointed to office during Grant's presidency, from 1869-1877, than any president before him.

"This book will appeal to all those interested in United States Jewish history and Jewish history in general. It also makes important contributions to our understanding of the Civil War, the election of 1868, and Ulysses S. Grant," said William Pencak, professor of American history at the Pennsylvania State University.

Andrew M. Schocket, associate professor of history at Bowling Green State University, described Adams' book as a "lucid and concise" place to start for those who want to know how the American Jewish community rose to political prominence.

For more information about "Politics, Faith and the Making of American Judaism," visit the University of Michigan Press website.