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Deborah Dash Moore - Scholars of the 21st Century - Joint Commission Online

Triumph or Catastrophe?
American Jewry in World War II
Study with Deborah Dash Moore
Recorded February 2003

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In two, 90-minute presentations, Deborah Dash Moore will share her current research examining the transformations in Jewish identity wrought by World War II. The program materials include:

  • Several background articles
  • Excerpts from World War II prayerbooks given to Jewish soldiers
  • Special web-based materials designed by Deborah Dash Moore

Presentations (90 minutes each)

Creating the "Judeo-Christian tradition" in World War II
One of the emblematic moments of the war occurred in February 1943 when the Germans torpedoed a troop ship, the Dorchester. Over seven hundred men drowned in the icy waters off the coast of Newfoundland, among them four chaplains, an interfaith story of personal sacrifice, forms the starting point to consider how cooperation across religious boundaries became "standard operating procedure" in the armed forces and how the creation of this "Judeo-Christian tradition" imagined the equality of Judaism with Christianity within the United States.


Liberating Europe
Jews who identified themselves in public as Jews, especially chaplains, discovered that surviving Jewish civilians often treated them as saviors. The experience unnerved them. But nothing prepared them for their encounter with the survivors of the death camps. Issues of responsibility, guilt, identification, disgust, awe, anger, and an imperative to act influenced Jewish consciousness. We will explore the responses of American Jewish servicemen to their participation in the liberation of Europe, focusing especially on their diverse ways of thinking about the mass murder of European Jews.

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Scholar's Bio

Dr. Deborah Dash Moore is Professor of Religion at Vassar College. An historian of American Jews, she specializes in twentieth century urban Jewish history. Her first book, At Home in America: Second Generation New York Jews (1981), explores how the children of immigrants created an ethnic world that blended elements of Jewish and American culture into a vibrant urban society. To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A. (1994) follows those big city Jews who chose to move to new homes in the era after World War II. Moore argues that the future shape of American Jewish life can be glimpsed in the type of communities and politics that flourished in these rapidly growing centers.

Issues of leadership have also engaged her attention. First in B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of Ethnic Leadership (1981), and more recently in the award-winning two-volume Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (1997), which she edited with Paula Hyman. Moore has identified critical features of authority and accomplishment among American Jews.

Her current work includes a new project, Cityscapes: A History of New York in Images (2001), a book written with Howard Rock that presents the visual dimensions of urban history, using images to narrate history. Returning to American Jewish history, Moore is examining the transformations in Jewish identity wrought by World War II. Using videotaped interviews, she is working on a study of Jewish GI's during World War II that uncovers the ethnic and religious dimensions of American military service.

Click to view many of Professor Moore's books at Amazon.com.)

The Department of Continuing Alumni Education is sponsored by
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
and produced in partnership with the College-Institute's
National Office of Alumni Affairs and National Department of eLearning.
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