This project examines the causes, nature, and consequences of Italian Jews’ support for imperialism. I argue that between the 1890s and 1930s, Italian Jews took an active part in racializing and controlling indigenous Libyan and Ethiopian Jews. Moreover, by promoting the empire and upholding a racial hierarchy between Europeans and Africans, Italian Jews unwittingly contributed to their own downfall, since Italy’s antisemitic campaign (1938-1945) borrowed heavily from earlier anti-black legislation and propaganda. This book breaks new ground; using non-traditional sources, it is the first study to inquire what ordinary European Jewish women and men thought about empire and how they engaged with it in their daily life. The Italian case is uniquely fertile for examining the relationship between Jews and race; Italy’s forays into Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia, home to the Beta Israel, triggered the earliest significant encounter between white Jews and sub-Saharan black Jews. As such, Jews and Race also speaks to emerging interest in the history of Jews of color and broadens the study of intra-Jewish racism.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Shira Klein is Associate Professor of History at Chapman University. She has won awards from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Yad Hanadiv/Beracha Foundation, and the USC Shoah Foundation.