The American Jewish Historical Society has awarded We Remember With Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence After the Holocaust, 1945-1962 (NYU Press, 2009), authored by New York University Professor Hasia Diner, its Saul Viener Prize.
The Saul Viener Prize, which includes a cash award of $1,000, is given biannually to a book on the history of the Jews in America.
“Her study results in a seismic shift of the paradigm through which we analyze the social and intellectual history of American Jewry,” wrote the prize committee in announcing its selection of Diner’s work. “It is an extraordinarily well-mounted, organized, relentless, and persuasive attack on the remarkably durable conventional wisdom that Jewish Americans were silent about the Holocaust in the post-war period…(N)o one will be able to say any longer that the subject of the Holocaust was ‘swept under the rug’ in the public Jewish American dialogue of the 1940s and 1950s.”
We Remember With Reverence and Love finds that silence about the Holocaust among American Jews is not supported by a trove of religious, cultural, and journalistic archival material. In fact, Diner writes, “American Jews told and retold details of the catastrophe in multiple forms. Over and over, men and women asserted the necessity of revisiting it in their institutions and organs of public opinion, in all its horrors. By virtue of belonging to the people who had been targeted for extinction and as the victims’ kin, both literal and metaphoric, they considered it their duty to recite the story of the six million.”
Diner adds that these actions “laid the foundation for the better organized, bigger, and more elaborately funded Holocaust projects of the last decades of the twentieth century.”
Diner’s work challenges the existing post-war narrative of the Holocaust that posits American Jews turned away from the genocide in Europe and instead focused on the comforts of suburbia and other benefits generated by the 1950s economic boom. Previous scholars have contended it was the offspring of Holocaust survivors who brought the horrors of World War II to the public sphere—a development that occurred in the 1960s as a result of either the Eichmann trial early in the decade or the June 1967 Six-Day War in Israel.
Diner, a professor in NYU’s Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and its Department of History, has also authored: The Jews of the United States, 1645 to 2000 (2004); Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration (2002); and The Lower East Side Memories: The Jewish Place in America (2000), among other works. She is the director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at NYU.