Growing up in Palos Verdes as “the only Jewish kid around,” Professor Marc Dollinger became fascinated by the way Jewishness and Americanness intersected. Dollinger, the 18th Annual Community Scholar Program (CSP) One Month Scholar, became convinced that “Jewish things are really American things that we think are Jewish” and that people understand Jewishness in American terms.
For instance, he said, Jewish social justice, or tikkun olam, took on different forms at different times. “People from all over the political range can come up with a quote that makes something Jewish,” he added. “Jews need to mediate between the culture around them and their Jewishness.”
According to Dollinger–an author and an expert in the fields of Jews and American politics, American Zionism and California Jews–the Jews tend to follow the culture of the community around them. While some Jews in the 1960s got involved in the civil rights movement because they could relate to being marginalized and oppressed, they also pulled their children out of public schools and bought homes elsewhere when integration came. When other religious groups in America gained identities, Jews became more religiously affiliated.
In his book, “Quest for Inclusion, “Dollinger points out that Jews in America have looked for ways to be more American, sometimes finding conflicts with their Jewish values. Different segments of the Jewish people have found themselves in different places on the political spectrum as well, Dollinger, who sits on the California advisory committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, was named 2008 Volunteer of the Year by the SF Jewish Community Federation and was awarded the San Francisco
JCRC’s 2015 Courageous Leader award for his work against the BDS movement, explained.
Dollinger will share his perspectives in lectures at various venues in Orange County and Long Beach in “A Journey through American Jewish History” from January 3 to 27. From Jewish beginnings in colonial America to contemporary debates over Jewish identity, Dollinger—the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility at San Francisco State University—intends to “reframe the lessons you learned growing up, as we explore new perspectives in American Jewish life.”
The initial lecture, on January 3, will be an overview entitled, “New Interpretations of American Jewish History: What really happened and what did it mean?” The closing lecture, a wrap-up, will be, “Past, Present, and Future: Deploying our understanding of history to frame contemporary American life and wonder about its future.” Additional topics are:
American Jews, Power, and Israel in the Contemporary Era: the history and significance of an ever-changing American Jewish relationship to the State of Israel, a history and sociology-based presentation intended to educate attendees about the various positions taken in these questions
American Zionism: the American Jewish community’s changing relationship to Zionism from its nineteenth century patriotic anti-Zionism to a post-1967 celebration of Jewish nationhood
“Anti-Israelism, Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism”: historical background into each category, outlining the points of debate in this highly contentious subject
Anti-Semitism From the Right and the Left: Jews and the American University: challenges from political leftists, whose anti-Israel and anti-Zionist beliefs sometimes cross the line into anti-Semitism, far right marginalization of Jews in anti-Semitic discourse and an exploration of the intersection of anti-Semitism, leftism, rightism, and the university
“California Jews”: how California became the new promised land, even as it challenged many New York-centered assumptions about American Jewish life
“Civil Rights and Social Justice,” The Untold Story of American Jews in the 1960s: the impetus (and limits) of Jewish i n v o l v e m e n t in civil rights and the tumultuous 1960s, and the hidden reasons for a rebirth of Jewish identity and Jewish life in America
Jews and Politics: why American Jews vote more liberal and Democratic than any other white ethnic group in the United States, yet several distinct subgroups within American Jewish life embrace conservatism and the Republican party, including the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jews
Jews and Whiteness: whether Jews have remained separate and distinct from the rest of middle-class America or assimilated so much that they have become white
“What do we owe Peter Stuyvesant?” 350 Years of American Jewish History: an overview lecture of American Jewish history
“Campus Anti-Semitism—SF State, A Personal Reflection”: a behind-the-scenes description of Prof. Dollinger’s his three-year effort to combat anti-Semitism on the campus of San Francisco State University, where student protestors prevented the Mayor of Jerusalem from speaking, the University president proclaimed that “not all Zionists are welcome on campus,” and a group of students, faculty and staff excluded Hillel from a university function
“American Jewish History”: three-part exploration – the colonial period, the first three generations of American Jews from Europe with a special focus on World War II and the Holocaust, and 1945-present: Quest for Inclusion
“Land of Opportunity and Land of Challenges”: three-part series—an overview of different competing models of immigrant acculturation to the United States
For a complete listing of the topic, time and location of each lecture, see “Jlife Extra,” our online extended calendar of community activities. For additional information or to register for any or all of the lectures, contact CSP at (949) 682-4040 or www.occsp.org.
ILENE SCHNEIDER is a contributing writer to jlife magazine.