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Rabbi Admiral Aaron Landes Lecture Series: Fighting for Religious Pluralism: World War I and American Judaism

Jessica Cooperman
Department Chair, Muhlenberg College
Associate Professor of Religion Studies
Director, Jewish Studies 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022
7:00 PM ET Online 

World War I American military camps were far more than places where troops were trained, they were also sites where young men from across the country, and from different communities and traditions met, mingled, and negotiated how to live, work, and fight together. The war and the draft, in fact, turned domestic military camps into vast laboratories for testing both Progressive era Americanization policies and new ideas about religious pluralism in the United States. This talk will explore the “welfare services” offered to American soldiers and sailors under the auspices of the War Department’s Commission on Training Camp Activities, but which were actually provided by the Protestant YMCA, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Board. It will consider the goals that these different agencies brought into American military camps, and focus on the responses of soldiers, particularly Jewish soldiers, as they trained both to fight and to challenge ideas about the place of Judaism in American society.  

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