“Rather More than One-Third Had No Jewish Blood”
Article appearing in Religions
- Daniel Bessner
- Publisher: Religions
- Date: March 16, 2012
The New School for Social Research’s University in Exile accepted more German and European exiled intellectuals than any other American institution of higher education. This paper argues that transnational, cosmopolitan ideological and interest-based affinities shared by left-leaning American progressives and German-Jewish intellectuals enabled the predominantly Jewish University in Exile to become a vibrant intellectual space accepted by the community of largely anti-Semitic American academics. These affinities also illuminate why, despite the fact that the émigrés’ exile was in large part the result of National Socialist hatred of Jews, Alvin Johnson (the founder of the University in Exile) and the faculty members that comprised it seldom discussed the University’s Jewish demographics. The Jewish faculty members ignored the relationship between their ethnicity and exile because to focus on it would have been to admit that the cosmopolitan project they had embraced in Central Europe had failed. Johnson ignored the faculty’s Jewish heritage for two reasons. First, he endorsed a cosmopolitan American nationalism. Second, he understood that the generally anti-Semitic community of American academics would have rejected the University in Exile if he stressed the faculty’s Jewishness. In ignoring the University in Exile’s Jewish demographics, Johnson and the University’s faculty successfully adhered to a strategy designed to foster the exiles’ entrance into the American intellectual community. Thus, while cosmopolitanism failed in Germany and Central Europe, the exiles’ later influence on the American academy indicates that it partially succeeded in the United States.