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The Foundations of American Jewish Liberalism

Book description

American Jews have built a political culture based on the principle of equal citizenship in a secular state. This durable worldview has guided their political behavior from the founding to the present day. In The Foundations of American Jewish Liberalism, Kenneth D. Wald traces the development of this culture by examining the controversies and threats that stimulated political participation by American Jews. Wald shows that the American political environment, permeated by classic liberal values, produced a Jewish community that differs politically from non-Jews who resemble Jews socially and from Jewish communities abroad. Drawing on survey data and extensive archival research, the book examines the ups and downs of Jewish attachment to liberalism and the Democratic Party and the tensions between two distinct strains of liberalism.


‘This is a thorough and thoughtful scholarly contribution to the place of Jews in American society, a topic of great interest not only to Jews but to Americans of all religious beliefs and no religious beliefs. A valuable addition to our scholarly understanding of both Jewish and American exceptionalism, The Foundations of American Jewish Liberalism is a standard work, equivalent to the work of Lipset and Raab for a previous generation.'

Alan Wolfe - author of The Politics of Petulance: America in an Age of Immaturity

‘The Foundations of American Jewish Liberalism is a significant contribution to scholarship in political science, Jewish studies, and American studies. Wald's argument is fresh, the evidence compelling, and the use of mixed methods exemplary. A significant contribution to the field, given its novel explanation, theoretical grounding and methodological pluralism.'

Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz - Senior Director of Research and Analysis and Director of the Berman Jewish DataBank, The Jewish Federations of North America

‘To solve the riddle of American Jewish electoral choices, Kenneth D. Wald ably injects data drawn from social science to buttress his savvy historical judgments in explaining the enduring attraction of liberalism. Few if any scholars exhibit his masterly command of this material or can interpret its meaning with such crispness. Wald's invaluable book is bound to re-ignite a debate over why Jews have constituted so anomalous a minority in the body politic.'

Stephen J. Whitfield - Brandeis University, Massachusetts

‘Kenneth D. Wald, in a book that handily blends history and political science, deftly tackles an issue that has grabbed the attention of scholars, journalists, political commentators and Jewish communal leaders since the 1950s: why Jewish liberalism in the United States, where did it spring from, and will it last? Wald offers a gripping narrative with a scope that extends back to the era of the Civil War and moves with elegance into our own times. While the national and global circumstances of the Jews have changed radically, their political liberalism barely moves off course. What has intrigued so many before Kenneth D. Wald becomes clearer here in this deeply researched and well written excursion into an issue that, like Jewish liberalism itself, seems to never die.'

Hasia R. Diner - New York University, author of The Jews of the United States, 1654–2000

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