Du Bois, the Warsaw Ghetto, and a Priestly Blessing 

Like many of their readers, American Jewish magazines changed their names: The periodical known as Jewish Currents, for example, first came into the world in the 1940s as Jewish Life. Styling itself a “progressive” magazine, often a byword in postwar America for an avowedly communist enterprise, it shared its innocuous-seeming title for a spell with the house publication of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, confounding subsequent generations of historians. 

Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, Jewish Life published detailed and impassioned articles about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, whose fighting spirit inspired its own, and the “Negro question” in the United States, often linking the two. In an ongoing effort to deepen its readers’ understanding of the dire conditions of African American life and to inspire them to make common cause with the African American community, the magazine’s editors repeatedly invited Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois to contribute to its pages. 

“We are anxious to include an article on the relationship between the struggle against anti-Semitism and all forms of anti-Negroism,” Samuel Barron, the magazine’s managing editor, wrote to the prominent African American leader and elder statesman in November 1947, hoping he would accept the assignment. Du Bois declined, citing too many demands on his time. 

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About the Author

Jenna Weissman Joselit is the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History at the George Washington University. Her latest book is Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments (Oxford University Press).


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