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Open Access Thesis
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Scholars of American Jewish history have long debated the complicity of the American Jewish community in the loss of six million Jewish lives in Europe during the Holocaust. After Hitler took power in 1933, American Jewish leaders took to the streets to protest the Nazi Party’s abuse of German Jews. Two central figures in this history are Reform Rabbi Stephen Wise and Revisionist Zionist Ben Hecht because of their wide-reaching protest movements that operated in competition with each other. Although the historiography presents Wise and Hecht's inability to unite as the product of difference, my examination of their protest performances presents a novel picture of similarity. Despite their ideological antagonism, Wise and Hecht's shared cultural identities, as both Americans and Jews, produced pageants with decidedly similar elements. The three productions studied here – The Case of Civilization Against Hitler (1934), Stop Hitler Now (1943), and We Will Never Die (1943) – were reflective of these identities. Appealing to their Americanness, they performed rituals of democratic justice. Appealing to their Jewishness, they presented Jewish prayer, iconography, and ritual related to divine justice. In highlighting the parallels in the performances, I read their actions as successful insofar as they appealed to a diverse American Jewish audience.
Gonzalez, Maya C., "Imagining the “Day of Reckoning”: American Jewish Performance Activism during the Holocaust" (2023). Masters Theses. 1375.