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Jewish identity between "religion" and "race" in Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb

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  • "This dissertation approaches legal processes and the evolving social categories of religion and race as ways of creating meaning and perpetuating an unfolding cultural narrative that construct and situate Jewish identity. It examines the significance of Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb in these cultural and legal contexts and posits what the case might teach us about how social constructions of religion and race inform Jewish identity in the 1980s and today. I argue that the civil suit entails a negotiation of the congregation's perspective on Jewish identity in the context of the bounded civil rights categories available, and that this negotiation exemplifies the broader social attempts of both Jews and non-Jews to situate Jewish identity in terms of religion and race. Chapter one constructs a genealogy of scholarship by historians of religions on myth and illustrates how analyses of myth aid in thinking about religion and race as they influence Jewish identity in Shaare Tefila. Chapter two reviews the historical construction of Jewish social location via U.S. law and Jewish American legal resistance. Chapters three and four address the disparate judicial and congregational conceptions of Jewish identity via legal documents and interviews with lawyers and synagogue members."
  • "On May 18, 1987 in Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, the United States Supreme Court granted race-based protection to Jewish Americans for the first time, a landmark in Jewish American history. Shaare Tefila, a Conservative synagogue in Silver Spring, Maryland, filed a lawsuit against eight young men who defaced the synagogue walls in 1982 with phrases and images that invoked Nazi and Ku Klux Klan ideologies. The congregation argued that although Jews are not a race, they should be able to claim race-based protection under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 because they were targeted as a race. The Supreme Court decided that because Jews would have been considered a race in 1866, they could claim protection under the act. The key issues debated in the courts were whether Jews are "only" a religious group or are entitled to race-based protection, and what such protection would mean in terms of Jewish racial categorization."

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  • "Jewish identity between "religion" and "race" in Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb"