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Literary Treatments of Jewish Children

The purpose of this research is to examine the portrayal of Jewish children in American twentiethcentury children's literature. The plan of the research will be to set forth the principal themes that emerge in literature and to show, as appropriate, shifts in such portrayals in works written before World War II and after, and to discuss, with reference to specific works, how and why the portrayal of Jewish children changed in postwar literature, in response to shifts in the culture at large.

The specialized quality of Jewish culture has been a subject of concern to some who have studied the prewar experiences of Jews in America and Europe. Its most striking characteristic is the degree to which, prior to the Nazibaiting period, it was essentially ignored. Before World War II, and particularly before 1920, East European Jews, who had comprised a good deal of turnofthecentury immigration, were considered entirely unassimilable into mainstream American culture and so were basically ignored by the publicschool curriculum. Indeed, as late as 1976, Schwartz and Isser note, most elementaryschool textbooks offered only token notice of Jews or other minority groups and so offered either stereotypes or virtually no role models for pupils. The implications of failure of children to assimilate on one hand and an insistence upon submerging the Jewish culture on the other are discussed in a study of elementary education of Jewish children in Weimar Germany (19201932), where the majority culture, not progressive minority reformers of education, set the educational agenda. Even within the Weimar Jewish culture, where social discrimination was always more or less a fact of life, a specifically minorityoriented education was not considered especially significant; far more important were more generalized (i.e., mainstreamculture) economic and social considerations (Levine passim; Schwartz and Isser 18790). Curiously, the inculcati...

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Literary Treatments of Jewish Children. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:46, May 26, 2020, from