From Left to Right: Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz, the New York Intel­lec­tu­als, and the Pol­i­tics of Jew­ish History

  • From the Publisher
October 26, 2019

From Left to Right: Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz, the New York Intel­lec­tu­als, and the Pol­i­tics of Jew­ish His­to­ry is the first com­pre­hen­sive biog­ra­phy of Daw­id­ow­icz (1915 – 1990), a pio­neer his­to­ri­an in the field that is now called Holo­caust stud­ies. Daw­id­ow­icz was a house­hold name in the post­war years, not only because of her schol­ar­ship but also due to her polit­i­cal views. Daw­id­ow­icz, like many oth­er New York intel­lec­tu­als, was a youth­ful com­mu­nist, became an FDR demo­c­rat mid­cen­tu­ry, and lat­er cham­pi­oned neo­con­ser­vatism. Nan­cy Sinkoff argues that Dawidowicz’s right­ward shift emerged out of liv­ing in pre­war Poland, watch­ing the Holo­caust unfold from New York City, and work­ing with dis­placed per­sons in post­war Ger­many. Based on over forty-five archival col­lec­tions, From Left to Right chron­i­cles Dawidowicz’s life as a win­dow into the major events and issues of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry Jew­ish life.

From Left to Right is struc­tured in four parts. Part 1 tells the sto­ry of Dawidowicz’s child­hood, ado­les­cence, and col­lege years when she was an immi­grant daugh­ter liv­ing in New York City. Part 2 nar­rates Dawidowicz’s for­ma­tive Euro­pean years in Poland, New York City (when she was enclosed in the Euro­pean-like world of the New York YIVO), and Ger­many. Part 3 tells how Daw­id­ow­icz became an Amer­i­can while Pol­ish Jew­ish civ­i­liza­tion was still inscribed in her heart and also explores when and how Daw­id­ow­icz became the voice of East Euro­pean Jew­ry for the Amer­i­can Jew­ish pub­lic. Part 4 expos­es the fis­sure between Dawidowicz’s Euro­pean-inflect­ed dias­po­ra nation­al­ist mod­ern Jew­ish iden­ti­ty and the shift­ing def­i­n­i­tion of Amer­i­can lib­er­al­ism from the late 1960s for­ward, which also saw the emer­gence of neo­con­ser­vatism. The book includes an inter­pre­ta­tion of her mem­oir From that Place and Time, as well as an appen­dix of thir­ty-one pre­vi­ous­ly unpub­lished let­ters that illus­trate the broad reach of her work and person.

Dawidowicz’s right-wing pol­i­tics, sex, and unabashed com­mit­ment to Jew­ish par­tic­u­lar­ism in an East Euro­pean Jew­ish key have result­ed in schol­ar­ly neglect. There­fore, this book is strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed for schol­ars and gen­er­al read­ers inter­est­ed in Jew­ish and women’s studies.

Discussion Questions