Feldman, Egal 1925-
FELDMAN, Egal 1925-
PERSONAL: Born April 9, 1925, in New York, NY; son of Moshe and Chaya (Fishman) Feldman; married Mary Kalman (an insurance agent), June 30, 1959 (divorced, 1991); married Joan Bischoff (a professor of English), June 14, 1992; children: (first marriage) Tyla Feldman Portnoy, Auora Feldman Goldfine, Naomi Feldman Gauthier. Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: Brooklyn College (now of the City University of New York), B.A., 1950; New York University, M.A., 1954; University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D., 1959. Religion: Jewish.
CAREER: University of Texas—Arlington, assistant professor of history, 1960-66; University of Wisconsin—Superior, associate professor, 1966-67, professor of history, 1968-94, director of Area Research Center, 1970-74, department chair, 1973-77, 1982-94, dean of College of Letters and Science, 1977-81, professor emeritus, 1994—.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Jewish Historical Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Essay award, YIVO-Institute for Jewish Research, 1954, for "The Impact of the American Revolution on the Jewish Community in America"; University of Wisconsin—Superior, teacher of the year award, 1968, several travel and research grants, between 1971 and 1990, Chancellor's Award for scholarly interpretations, 1982, Max H. Lavine Award for scholarly contribution to contemporary concerns, 1975, 1982, 1985, 1992; grants from Wisconsin Humanities Committee, 1977, 1980; travel grant, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1984; Faculty Achievement Award for Research, Burlington Northern Foundation, 1992; Kingery Award, best scholarly book published in Wisconsin, Council of Wisconsin Writers, 2002.
Fit for Men: A History of New York's Clothing Trade, Public Affairs Press (Washington, DC), 1960.
The Dreyfus Affair and the American Conscience, 1895-1906, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1981.
Dual Destinies: The Jewish Encounter with Protestant America, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1990.
Catholics and Jews in Twentieth-Century America, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2001.
Contributor to books, including American Vistas, Volume II, edited by Leonard Dinnerstein and Kenneth T. Jackson, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1971; Documentary History of the Jews in the United States, edited by Lloyd Gartner, University of Tel Aviv Press (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1975; Anti-Semitism in American History, edited by David A. Gerber, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1986; and Studies in Contemporary Judaism, Volume 21, edited by Eli Lederhendler; author of introduction, The Dreyfus Affair: The Ben Shahn Prints, Crossroads Books (Cincinnati, OH), 1984. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including American Jewish Archives, Journal of Church and State, Cimarron Review, Societas: Review of Social History, Judaism: Quarterly Journal, Middle East Review, Jewish Social Studies, and Revue de la Bibliotheque Nationale de France.
SIDELIGHTS: Egal Feldman once told CA: "The Dreyfus Affair, the subject of my 1981 book, was too important an event to be left to the French. The false conviction of the Jewish French Army officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, was the first conspicuous sign that Jews could not rely upon Western liberal institutions at the end of the nineteenth century for their safety. Its impact was broad and deep, affecting Catholics, Protestants, and Jews in the United States and abroad, and it touched and shaped the lives of a generation. As a classic moment in human affairs, it should be remembered and reflected upon for years to come.
"Being aware of the cosmic importance of the Dreyfus event, I was surprised to learn that despite the countless books written about it, not a single publication existed that examined America's reaction to it. By the mid-1970s I was well on my way to correcting this situation.
"Actually, my interest in the Dreyfus Affair was an outgrowth of a wider pursuit—a desire to understand the evolution of Jewish-Christian relations in the United States. This interest began many years ago, during the 'ecumenical revolution' of the mid-sixties. Here, too, I was surprised to discover how little attention American historians have devoted to this important subject. I decided to devote my spare time to the history of the history of Jewish-Christian relations in the United States."
More recently Feldman added: "When I left graduate school in 1959, it was clear that the area of writing that I was to pursue, the history of Christian-Jewish relations, was not a fruitful one. It held little academic interest among scholars of American history; few opportunities in teaching and writing in this area existed in public universities. In subsequent years, despite growth of the interfaith movement, its historiography remained small, and historians paid only scant attention to it. Even so, it remained the area which for the past thirty years has continued to dominate my historical interest.
"My decision to follow this area of study was reinforced by a major event, the meeting of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), in which the Roman Catholic church resolved to alter its thinking about Jews. This event produced one of the most remarkable transformations during the past 2,000 years of Christian attitudes toward Jews. It convinced me that a vast field of the history of Christian-Jewish relations was ready for cultivation.
"My early writing dealt with American Protestant-Jewish relations. I examined the life and work of a number of Protestant theologians of a variety of denominations and religious ideologies. Most of these individuals paid only scant attention to Jews and Judaism, but the work of those who were concerned with Judaism, such as Reinhold Niebuhr, A. Roy Eckardt, and Franklin H. Littell, I found particularly helpful. Generally, Jews, like Protestants, did not produce any comprehensive study of Jewish-Protestant relations. After writing a number of articles and a book, The Dreyfus Affair and the American Conscience, 1895-1906, which also dealt in large part with American Christian-Jewish relations, I wrote the first comprehensive account of Protestant-Jewish relations, Dual Destinies: The Jewish Encounter with Protestant America.
"At this time I concluded that with respect to the interfaith movement, for the reader to better understand Christian attitudes toward Jews, all Christians ought not to be put into one package. It is especially important that American Roman Catholics should be separated from the numerous denominations and ideologies of Protestantism. Besides, it was the Vatican II endorsement of the 'Statement on the Jews' of Nostra Aetate of 1965 which promulgated a new relationship with Jews and which has had a profound effect on all of Christendom.
"What is more, the relationship of Catholics and Jews has been a much longer one than that of Jews and Protestants. Its hostilities were inherited from biblical and patristic times. The Middle Ages added to the legacy of bitterness between the two groups. The Church's questionable behavior during the Holocaust has also lingered. Unpalatable memories had been first transported to the New World by both groups. For many centuries, the gulf between the two ancient faiths seemed unbridgeable. How Roman Catholics and Jews in the United States managed to transform their relationship to one of accommodation and friendship is the subject of my book, Catholics and Jews in Twentieth-Century America.
"Most important in this last work is the suggestion that anti-Semitism is not an outgrowth of social and economic forces but of deeply rooted theological and religious ones. It is the religious foundations of Christianity that have enabled anti-Semitism to metamorphose into its modern grotesqueness; only by uprooting its foundation can a new edifice, free of Jew-hatred, be built. In Catholics and Jews in Twentieth-Century America I suggest that a small but significant step toward this goal was taken in the latter half of the last century."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1982.
Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), August 21, 1982.
History: Review of New Books, May, 1982.
Journal of American History, fall, 1982.
Reform Judaism, September, 1981.*