A driving force in the history of American Jews has been the pursuit of religious equality under law. Jews reasoned that state and federal legislation or public practices which sanctioned religious, specifically Christian, usages blocked their path to full integration within society. Always a small minority and ever fearful of the outspoken proponents of the Christian state, nineteenth-century Jews became ardent defenders of church-state separation. In the twentieth century, Jewish defense organizations took a prominent role in landmark court cases on religion in the schools, Sunday laws, and public displays of Christian symbols. Over the last two centuries, Jews shifted from support of a neutral-to-all-religions government to a divorced-from-religion government, and from defense of their own interests to the defense of other religious minorities.
Jews in Christian America traces in historical context the response of American Jews to the issues presented by a Christian-flavored public religion. Discussing the contributions of each major wave of Jewish immigrants to the reinforcement of a separationist stand, Cohen shows how Jewish communal priorities, pressures from the larger society, and Jewish-Christian relationships fashioned that response. She also makes clear that the Jewish community was never totally united on the goals and tactics of a separationist posture; despite the continued predominance of the strict separationists, others argued the adverse effects of that position on communal well-being and on the very survival of Judaism.
"In the end this book stands on its own. It finally gives American Jewish historiography a picture of its varied legal and institutional response to being 'strangers in the land'. In a host nation that above all else reveres the law, that story is indispensable for understanding the American Jewish experience."--American Historical Review
"A first-rate study that deserves a careful reading by all who are interested in the subtle ways American life has favored Protestantism and in the multifaceted struggle to translate the ideal of religious equality from theory into practice."--History: Reviews of New Books
"A well-written and thoroughly documented book, and it has much to contribute not only to Jewish studies in America but to 19th- and 20th-century American history and minority studies in the US."--Choice
"In this meticulously documented work, Naomi W. Cohen provides much relevant information on the varied attitudes and roles of Jews in America's turmoiled search for genuine religious freedom from colonial times to the mid-1960s, largely through a careful historical examination and interpretation of vast and complex archival and periodical sources. Her work is a brilliant and distinctive contribution, valuable not only for those concerned with the history of
church-state, religion-government, and interfaith relations in America, but also for those seeking a fuller understanding in depth of many controversial issues now before Supreme, state, and local courts."--Robert T. Handy, Union Theological Seminary
"Jews in Christian America is an exceptionally important, well-researched, and well-written book that will make a valuable contribution to American Jewish history and to the study of American religion generally."--Jonathan Sarna, Brandeis University
"Once again, Naomi Cohen has astutely explored the American Jewish historical experience. Jews in Christian America is a comprehensive analysis of the enduring tension between religious identity and civic obligation."--Jerold Auerbach, Wellesley College
"Naomi Cohen, the premier historian of American Jewish history today, once again displays her talent and ability to synthesize an aspect of American Jewish history in a new way. She is the first historian to deal with the full scope of how American Jews dealt with the Christian state from colonial days to the present."--Leonard Dinnerstein, University of Arizona
"All who are concerned with the identity-constructing role church-state issues play in American Jewish life will want to consult this important text."--Jewish Political Studies Review
"Meticulously researched....the standard historical study of the Jewish quest for religious freedom and equality in Christian America."--First Things
"Cohen's unearthing of previously unused archival sources and skillful rendering of the historical nexus and language in which cases were argued makes the work outstanding."--The American Journal of Legal History
"Cohen's investigation is especially valuable....An excellent book."--Review in American History