This talk employs the case of American Jewry in 1948 to expand the concepts of “emotional regime” (Reddy) and “emotional community” (Rosenwein) to encompass non-state actors bound by ethno-religious solidarity. During the war for Israel’s establishment, American Jewish philanthropic support for Israel was motivated by a complex blend of emotions: pride in the state’s establishment and fear for its survival, compassion for Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and guilt for having passed World War II in on safe ground while two thirds of European Jewry was murdered. These feelings were shared by Jews far beyond the relatively small circle of Zionist activists. During the 1948 War, American Jews formed a diffuse, informal, voluntary, yet tightly-bound emotional community.
Derek Penslar is the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History. His research specialties are the history of modern European Jewry, Zionism, and the state of Israel. Penslar’s books include Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870-1918 (1991, Hebrew version 2001); In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria, 1918-1933 (1998, co-edited with Michael Brenner); Shylock’s Children: Economics and Jewish Identity in Modern Europe (2001); Orientalism and the Jews (co-edited with Ivan Kalmar, 2004); Contemporary Antisemitism: Canada and the World (2005); Israel in History: The Jewish State in Comparative Perspective (2006); The Origins of the State of Israel 1882-1948: A Documentary History (with Eran Kaplan, 2011); and Jews and the Military: A History (2013). Penslar’s book Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader will be published early next year in Yale University Press’ “Jewish Lives” series. He is currently writing a book titled Zionism: An Emotional State, for Rutgers University Press’ series on Keywords in Jewish Studies. Penslar is co-editor of The Journal of Israeli History and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and president of the American Academy for Jewish Research.