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Shulamit Reinharz and Mark A. Raider, editors, American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise, Brandeis University Press and University Press of New England, 2005, 373 PP.
TWO LARGE, SEEMINGLY ANTAGONISTIC MISSIONS, the first regarding the American dream for all 'the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,' and the second embodied in Zionism's vision of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, emerged from the bloodshed and suffering of World War I to foster a remarkable set of opportunities for Jewish women living in the United States. Through a paradox that seems incomprehensible, Zionism, itself, helped convince most Americans that the central reason for its existence-the insecurity of life for Jews living in the Diaspora--did not apply to the United States. While helping Jews in Palestine, American Zionists seemed to forfeit their own condition of exile.
Much of the compelling force of the Zionist vision comes from its rejection of other alternatives for Jewish survival. The Balfour Declaration and its subsequent incorporation into the League of Nations Mandate that set the terms for British rule in Palestine appeared, to Zionists, to render the national home as the climatic fulfillment of Jewish history. American Jews, however, could not help but see in their own homeland so many promises, so many opportunities, and so many rewards for energy that they could not conceive of having to seek liberation beyond their own shores.
Shulamit Reinharz and Mark Raider's magnificent study, American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise challenges us to understand how faith in Zionism and in the American dream nourished and changed the meaning of both projects. This is a story not of ideologies or for the most part, of ideologues, but rather of the creators of a new tradition. The essays in this collection bring some of the leaders of Hadassah, Pioneer Women, and of Mizrachi beautifully to life and show how a dedication to the Zionist cause deepened a commitment to American values, and enlarged the Zionist perspective, to preserve a set of liberal principles reaching across the ethnic and national divide in Palestine even in the worst of times and raging communal violence. Reinharz and Raider are as qualified as anyone today to put together this history. Both have written as knowledgeably about American Zionism as about the lives of Jewish women. In this book, Reinharz and Raider assemble essays that chart the rich profusion of movements, institutions, and activities--including Aliyah--that Zionism inspired in Jewish women living in the United States.
"Although the number of American Zionists who actually immigrated to Palestine was never large, the number of Jewish women who …