Faculty Book Recognized for Uncovering West Coast Jewish Response to Japanese Incarceration

The First to Cry Down Injustice? Western Jews and Japanese Removal During WWII, a book that has created controversy for its recognition of an overlooked piece of history, was recently named a finalist for the 2008 National Jewish Book Award. The book, by Willamette University Professor Ellen Eisenberg, looks at how West Coast Jews reacted to the wartime policy of Japanese incarceration. The award, the oldest Jewish literary award in the nation, honors the best and most exciting authors in the field of Jewish literature.

Very few individuals or organizations spoke out against the policy of removal, Eisenberg said, even Jews, whose long history of oppression had led them to champion civil rights and protest discrimination. Because of the brutal treatment of Jews in Germany, American Jews wanted to support the war effort against the Nazis.

On the West Coast, while a few spoke out, most Jews remained tensely silent as their Japanese-American neighbors were railroaded to incarceration camps. One Los Angeles Jewish organization even reported on Japanese-Americans, contributing to the propaganda that led to their incarceration. Eisenberg anticipates that her finding -- that a Jewish organization contributed to the propaganda against Japanese Americans -- will create surprise and discomfort.

Eisenberg will give a reading Monday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Congregation Neveh Shalom, 2900 SW Peaceful Lane, in Portland. The public is invited.