Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22

Book Reviews

Book Reviews




The Land That I Show You: Three Centuries of Jewish Life in America.

By Stanley Feldstein. (Garden City; Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1978. xi + 512 p.;

illustrations, selected bibliography, index. $12.95.)


Together with Henry Feingold's Zion in America (Twayne, 1974), there now

exist two full-length histories of the American Jewish experience. While Zion in

America is an exceptionally sophisticated and scholarly survey, wrestling with most

of the enigmas of American Jewish history, Feldstein has produced a popular,

entertaining but generally superficial narrative pastiche of American Jewry from

the mid-seventeenth century New Amsterdam Jews to Goldie Hawn, Barry

Manilow, and Stephen Sondheim.

Despite more than twenty pages of bibliography, which lumps the useful together

with the useless, there are no footnotes; the result is that page after page-except

when Feldstein's relatives are quoted (139-40, 318-19)-one usually seeks in vain

for the source of fascinating quotes. "I guess," said one Jewish TV writer,

"that . . . the powers don't think America is ready yet for a series called

Feinschreiber, Ginsberg or Schlansky." On more than a hundred pages one

searches for the identity of "retired high school principals," "young soldiers from

Brooklyn," or the TV writer. At times, furthermore, there are long quotes from men

and women with names that no reader would recognize (Meyer Goldberg, Stanley

Feldman, etc.) and who receive more print than many American Jews who made

distinctive and significant contributions to Jewish life in America (Judah Magnes,

Solomon Schechter, etc.).

Equally disturbing is Feldstein's strong dislike for various types of Jews and his

penchant for exaggerating certain phenomena in order to present a generally

negative image of the Jewish experience. The only segment of the American

population which rejected Barbara Streisand, Feldstein claims, was Brooklyn

Jewish men who saw her only as a reminder of "pushy little girls" (442), while at the

same time he inflates the Jewish self-hatred and ignores the Jewish affirmations of

Jewish writers such as Muriel Rukeyser (306) and Howard Fast (307).

This is, ultimately, a book filled with generous portions of entertaining but

historically insignificant trivia and sensationalism: Mickey Cohen hustling money

for Jewish philanthropy from the underworld (378); Louis "Lepke" Buchalter and

Max Rubin's conversation before Murder, Inc. shot Rubin in the head (319-20);

Eddie Cantor and George Jessel's Depression dialogue (293-94); and the Jewish

Defense League's threats of "head-knocking" and ass-kicking (453-59). For the

reader seeking a serious introduction to American Jewish history, Zion in America,

not The Land That I Show You, remains the starting place.


The Ohio State University                            Marc Lee Raphael



The National Archives: America's Ministry of Documents, 1934-1968. By Donald

R. McCoy. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

ix+437p.; illustrations, notes, bibliography, index, $19.50)