(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

CHUTZPAH begins by retracing the 1888 exodus of Dershowitz’s great-grandfather, Zecharia, from a religiously repressive Poland to America, where constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom awaited him. Dershowitz treats his own heritage as a reflection of the circumstances faced by all Jews in their efforts to thrive culturally and religiously as a people. Until the founding of America (and later Israel), Jews, throughout history, have lived as guests in other people’s lands. They were tolerated for a time, then “expelled, pogromed, crusaded, inquisitioned, jihaded, and holocausted out.” With respect to this history of anti-Semitism and recurring displacement of Jews, America has become a refuge within which Judaism has flourished.

Dershowitz, however, remains skeptical about the security of Judaism in America. He believes that American Jewry is threatened by many forces, and he cites key moments in American history during which Jews have been at risk; among them, the limited success of movements to declare America officially as a “Christian nation” and impose prayer in school; America’s abandonment of European Jews during the Holocaust; the Ivy League’s imposition of geographical admissions quotas which served to limit the number of Jewish students enrolled, since Jews tended to live in concentrated areas; a Supreme Court ruling which restricted an Orthodox rabbi from wearing his yarmulke while serving as a clinical psychologist in the...

(The entire section is 416 words.)