The Fatal Embrace

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In an impressive introductory chapter, Ginsberg traces the entire history of Jewish involvement with statism from the middle ages to the Communist revolution; from political and administrative leadership in Islamic courts of the tenth century to the financing of the imperial and religious wars of seventeenth century Europe; from providing funding to the last absolutist states to active participation in the liberal revolutions of the nineteenth century that moved these states toward democracy. Because they are often prominent on several sides of a political situation, Jews became the perfect “touchstones of opposition to the states they helped build.” This often makes them ideal scapegoats.

The bulk of Ginsberg’s book, however, is devoted to the history of Jews in the political life of the United States. In the period after the Civil War, Jews gradually began to play important roles in financial and government circles, but this trend was reversed by the growth of populism, which often took an anti-Semitic turn, and the Red Scare after World War I. The large Jewish immigration at the turn of the century encouraged anti-Semitic leanings throughout American society. Despite strong anti-Semitism all the way through World War II, Franklin Roosevelt’s inclusion of Jews in his New Deal administration of the 1930’s initiated a precedent that both political parties have more or less honored through the 1980’s—namely, the active involvement of Jews in...

(The entire section is 410 words.)