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American Jews and the Struggle Over Apartheid chronicles American Jewish involvement in a transnational movement to end the system of racial injustice in South Africa. It explores the complex relationships among Jews’ diasporic identity, the contested legacies of the Holocaust, and Jewish commitments to the principles of liberation. Many American Jews saw the fight against apartheid as a natural extension of their American Civil Rights activism. But others worried that critiques of South African apartheid would threaten the pursuit of post-World War II global Jewish unity, diminishing their Zionist loyalties and distracting them from their focus on religious ritual. Even as the immorality of apartheid grew to be universally accepted, American Jews continued to struggle over persistent analogies between South African apartheid and the relationship between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This pioneering analysis of the long historical encounter between American Jews and systems of apartheid argues that American Jews’ commitments to global justice reflect conflicting definitions of Jewishness itself—and that as American Jews worked through their attitudes toward South Africa, they also began the contested work of defining their positions on Israel.

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Race and Ethnicity | Social History