Embracing a Western Identity + The Jewish Oregon Story

A Western Exception

"Even as western Jewish historians began to break free of the East Coast dominance of American Jewish history, new generalizations emerged- now based on California, and particularly San Francisco, rather than New York. One new refrain regards the significance of Zionism, and of its critics. John Livingston argued in the introduction to jaws in the American West that weakness in the Zionist movement was characteristic of the region. Historians of both western Jewry and of Zionism have noted the relative strength of anti-Zionism among western Jews. This chapter tests the validity of this generalization by evaluating the strength of Zionism and anti-Zionism in Portland, using the city as a case study for understanding factors shaping the responses to Zionism in the American West. This analysis demonstrates that, although the anti-Zionist movement (represented most prominently by the American Council for Judaism), gained a solid foothold in San Francisco in the early 1940s, the organization never became popular in Portland. Despite apparent similarities and close personal ties between the San Francisco and Portland Jewish communities, crucial differences, both in the composition of the Jewish population and in the attitudes of the leadership group, made the Portland Jewish community more receptive to Zionism. The anti-Zionist movement in the Rose City never rivaled that in San Francisco." - Ellen Eisenberg

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