World War Two and the establishment of the State of Israel significantly altered American Jewish attitudes toward Zionism. American Jews supported Israel during times...

World War Two and the establishment of the State of Israel significantly altered American Jewish attitudes toward Zionism. American Jews supported Israel during times of conflict, like the 1948 war. However, it was not until 1967 that Israel rose to the top of the American Jewish political agenda. Emily Alice Katz, in her new book, argues that the consumption of Israeli culture after 1948 laid the ground work for this political transformation.

Katz’ book, Bringing Zion Home: Israel in American Jewish Culture, 1948-1967 (SUNY Press, 2015) examines the role of cultural engagement with Israel in American Jewish communities after the establishment of the State. During this period, American Jews increasingly read books about Israel, danced Israeli folk dances, consumed Israeli art and music, and purchased Israeli products. These cultural practices were informed by multiple ideologies and agendas. For some they were part of a desire for authentic Jewish practice, for others they marked American Jews as modern middle-class Americans; and while some thought engagement with Israel should signal commitment to immigration oriented Zionism, most American Jews, it seems, understood Zionism as Jewish cultural revival. American Jews insisted that the United States and Israel shared common beliefs and interests and that, therefore, Israel had a natural place in American culture. Likewise, non-Jews embraced Israeli culture as part of a post war trend of internationalism, which advocated pluralism at the same time that the United States was using cultural exports to exert influence abroad as part of the cold war. All these cultural factors played an important role in the development of the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel, which continues until this day.

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