This book focuses on the first Supreme Court case to grant Jewish Americans race-based civil rights and highlights the complexity of White-perceived Jewish racialization in the United States. In 1982, vandals defaced Shaare Tefila Congregation in Silver Spring, Maryland, with Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi images and slogans. Because no religion-based statutes applied to the desecration, the synagogue’s lawyers were required to utilize race-based statutes. In her close study of what became the 1987 case Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, Annalise Glauz-Todrank offers a nuanced analysis of the ways in which the members of the congregation, their lawyers, and the vandals’ lawyers used the concepts of race and religion to argue their case. Judging Jewish Identity in the United States understands “race” and “religion” as White, Christian categories and illustrates how they have been accepted and internalized in the American environment. Glauz-Todrank examines how the judges went through a process of constructing the legal meaning of Jewish identity. Likewise, she narrates how the congregants responded to the vandalism, were relieved by the cleanup day that incorporated their neighbors, and pursued the case as “religious” Jewish Americans.
Annalise E. Glauz-Todrank is assistant professor in the Department for the Study of Religions at Wake Forest University.
Chapter 1. “It Was a Crime against the Community”
Chapter 2. Preparing to Take Legal Action
Chapter 3. Judging ‘Religion’ and ‘Race’ in the Federal District Court of Maryland and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
Chapter 4. Judging ‘Religion’ and ‘Race’ in the Supreme Court
Chapter 5. The Shaare Tefila Congregation after the Supreme Court Decision
Conclusion: Why Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb Matters
The US Supreme Court case of Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb (1987), the subject of this book, established the right of Jews to claim discrimination as a race under the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Glauz-Todrank recounts the story behind this important case, beginning with the initial act of synagogue defacement in 1982 and continuing to the court-approved settlement in 1988. She highlights the synagogue’s confrontational approach to anti-Semitism, which challenged the "don’t give them the publicity they seek" approach common in the 1980s. She provides legal commentary on the key issues of religion and race connected to the case and explains the companion Muslim case, St. Francis College v. Al-Khazraji, which the Court decided in the same way in the same year… The book's underlying question of whether to apply the "racial" protection of civil rights to Jews and Muslims, setting them on par with African Americans, makes this book deeply timely. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; practitioners.
Judging Jewish Identity in the United States masterfully examines a seminal legal case to provide a grand, trenchant narrative about the vital yet overlooked role religion plays in the project of American race-making. Glauz-Todrank deftly meshes historical examination with legal analysis, uncovering dimensions of the Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb case that highlight the complicated relationship between racial formation and religion, free exercise and hate violence, Judaism and whiteness. By reflecting back on this critical case, Glauz-Todrank equips readers with the intellectual tools to reckon with rising anti-Semitism today and gain intimate insight into the turbulent tension between religious minority status and belonging in America.
As the first Supreme Court case to address the question of whether Jews count as a racial group, Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb (1987) has attracted the attention of scholars of race and American law, as well as scholars of antisemitism and evolving conceptions of Jewish identity. Until now, however, little has been known about the victims of the attack on a synagogue which led to their filing a lawsuit claiming protection under civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race. Annalise E. Glauz-Todrank has filled this lacuna with a series of interviews with the former leaders and members of the Shaare Tefila Congregation, probing their motivations for bringing the lawsuit. Her book sheds important light on how American Jews have defined their Jewish identity in relationship to the established categories of both race and religion. It simultaneously enriches our understanding of “how Judaism became a religion” and complicates the story of how “Jews became white,” thereby contributing to two important bodies of scholarship.
In Judging Jewish Identity, Annalise Glauz-Todrank shows how race and religion were intertwined in the 1987 Supreme Court decision, Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, the landmark case where Jewish Americans first won the right to legal protection based on racial claims. The book details the many ways in which race became central to the synagogue’s lawyers strategies, the defendants in the case, the local community, as well as to members of the congregation, while it deftly highlights the contradiction between the racialization of European Jews as white people and a new strategy to use race and civil rights legislation to defend themselves from antisemitic vandalism.
By doing a deep dive on an oft-overlooked but critically important case, Annalise Glauz-Todrank adds a valuable perspective to the complicated debate over race and religion in America. Anyone searching for light in a debate often characterized by heat would do well to read this analysis that, while focused on a Jewish community, touches on issues of importance for all who struggle with the artificial and imposed categories of identity formation.