The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Jews and Race: Writings on Identity and Difference, 1880–1940

Edited by Mitchell B. Hart

Cover of "Jews and Race: Writings on Identity and Difference, 1880–1940"

Anthology of writings by Jewish thinkers on Jews as a race

Jews were famously the targets of racial thinking in modern times, but they also engaged in it. Many Jews used the methods of racial science to analyze Jewish history and contemporary life. Such discourse was in part apologetic, a response to racial antisemitism; however, it also served other political and ideological needs.

Focusing primarily on works written at the height of the racial hygiene and eugenics movements, this diverse anthology shows how Jewish scholars and popular writers in Europe, North America and Palestine raised fascinating and thorny issues about the nature and history of racial discourse. Designed for class adoption, the volume contains helpful annotations and a contextual introduction by the editor.

“A provocative and fascinating collection of primary sources on a highly sensitive historical subject. Situated on the cusp between intellectual, cultural, and social history, these sources demonstrate that there is far more to ‘Jewish thought’ than philosophy and theology, and that racialized identities have been a major component of modern Jewish sensibility.” —Derek Penslar, University of Toronto

“Race, this remarkable anthology demonstrates, was about much more than science. Race was truly protean and reached far into the intricacies of collective existence. Race enslaved but it also emancipated; it stigmatized but it also became a medium of self-understanding, indeed, an almost indispensable instrument of thought, an organon. . . . Hart’s erudite introduction and judicious selection impeccably illustrate the extensive—and central—significance of race in modern Jewish thought.” —Gil Anidjar, Columbia University

“It is impossible to understand the myriad ways in which Jews defined themselves in the six decades before World War II without comprehending the pervasiveness of notions of racial difference. Hart has made a signal contribution to the scholarship on Jewish self-definition from the fin de siècle to World War II.” — Todd M. Endelman, University of Michigan

About the Author

Mitchell B. Hart is a professor in the history department and Alexander Grass Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of Florida. He is the author of "The Healthy Jews: The Symbiosis of Judaism and Modern Medicine" and "Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity."