Synopses & Reviews
The First to Cry Down Injustice explores the range of responses from Jews in the Pacific West to the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. While it is often assumed that American Jews because of a commitment to fighting prejudice would have taken a position against this discriminatory policy, the treatment of Japanese Americans was largely ignored by national Jewish groups and liberal groups. For those on the West Coast, however, proximity to the evacuation made it difficult to ignore. Conflicting impulses on the issue the desire to speak out against discrimination on the one hand, but to support a critical wartime policy on the other led most western Jewish organizations and community newspapers to remain tensely silent. Some Jewish leaders did speak out against the policy because of personal relationships with Japanese Americans and political convictions. Yet a leading California Jewish organization made a significant contribution to propaganda in favor of mass removal. Eisenberg places these varied responses into the larger context of the western ethnic landscape and argues that they were linked to, and help to illuminate, the identity of western Jews both as westerners and as Jews.
Although American Jews had already embraced the principle of fighting prejudice in all forms, western Jews often did not apply it to specific local issues involving Japanese Americans during World War II. In The First to Cry Down Injustice?, Eisenberg analyzes the range of Jewish responses_including silence, opposition to, and support for the policy_to the mass removal of Japanese Americans as the product of a distinctive western ethnic landscape.