Milton Meltzer Ethel R. Twichell - Essay

Ethel R. Twichell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Jewish Americans is] a thoughtful and well-researched book [that] presents the history of the Jews in America through their own letters, diaries, and recollections. From a soldier's account of a skirmish with the British in 1776 to a description of an American Jew's life on a contemporary kibbutz in Israel, a wide spectrum of experience is reflected, both American and specifically Jewish. A Jewish slave trader ordering his captain to be particularly "'careful of your vessel and slaves, and be as frugal as possible'" is counterbalanced by a rebel who joined John Brown's anti-slavery forces. In the 1880s the great immigrations began; there were high expectations and the reality of wretched jobs. Jews report of service in both world wars and share the nightmare of the Holocaust. Almost every passage resounds with a will to survive, a passion for education, and a shrewd and ready wit. One finds greed and arrogance but also intense loyalty to causes—labor unions, women's rights or, above all, the retention of a Jewish identity. [Milton Meltzer] provides enough historical background to orient his readers, but it is the lively immediacy of his examples which will remain, as he wisely lets his witnesses speak for themselves. (pp. 531-32)

Ethel R. Twichell, in her review of "The Jewish Americans: A History in Their Own Words," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1982 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. LVIII, No. 5, October, 1982, pp. 531-32.