A three-generation narrative, "Jacob s Voices "is the autobiography of an American Jew who discovered in Israel a way to unravel the legacy of Jewish ambivalence transmitted by his immigrant grandfather and American father.
Jerold S. Auerbach explores the uncomfortable spaceremote from Jewish memory between the Eastern European shtetl and American suburbia. Members of his "third generation" of American Jews were taught to invert the classic formula of Jewish emancipation: they learned to become marginal Jews at home and wary Americans on the street. To reconcile the Jewish and American claims on their loyalty, they sublimated their Judaism in American liberalism. Along the way, they became the last generation of Jews to know the consequences of Jewish powerlessness and the first to experience the restoration of Jewish national sovereignty. Their American Jewish identity was indelibly marked by the Holocaust and by Israel.
Auerbach begins with recollections of a New York Jewish boyhood in the 1940s and 1950s. The themes are acculturation and social mobility, accompanied by the sublimation of Jewishness in personal success and liberal politics. But his is a narrative of self-discovery that unfolded both in his American home and in the Jewish homeland. An unexpected visit to Israel prompted a series of encounters with Jewish memory, both personal and historical, resulting in the author s hairpin turn of Jewish identity. Finding pockets of Jewish memory in Israel, Auerbach heard his grandfather Jacob s voice for the first timeand thus discovered his own.
Auerbach sets much of "Jacob s Voices "in Israel, where he positions his quest for Jewish identity within the larger struggle of the Jewish state to define itself. Ironically, Auerbach left liberalism for Judaism even as Israel redefined Zionism as liberalism. In the end, after seriously considering moving to Israel, he returned to the United States. Auerbach analyzes the reasonshistorically rooted in Jewish emancipationwhy Israel has become for him merely a state of the Jews, more an appendage of the United States than a Jewish state."""
Jerold S. Auerbach is a professor of history at Wellesley College. His books include "Labor and Liberty, Unequal Justice, Justice Without Law?, "and "Rabbis and Lawyers. "His essays on Jewish subjects have appeared in "Commentary, Forward, "the "Boston Globe, Midstream, "the "Jewish Spectator, "and the "Jerusalem Post. ""