Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson (1947)
From the original review of Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, March 1947: There will be much discussion — and for a long time — over Laura Z. Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement. The novel, which ably exposes social anti-Semitism in the United States will make many non-Jewish liberals blush.
The book does not deal with the professional Jew-baiters and their racket organizations. It concentrates primarily on those who claim that they have nothing against Jews, and yet a remark here and a remark there shows that they are subconsciously differentiating between themselves and Jews.
Posing as a Jew
The central figure is Philip Schulyer Green, a magazine writer, who is assigned to write a series of articles on anti-Semitism aimed at exposing it. Because of the fact that the name Green could as easily be Jewish as not, he decides to pose as a Jew and to discover how a Jew actually feels among non-Jews.
He shares his decision with his editor and with the girl he loves, but keeps it secret from his office associates whom he tells that he is Jewish. It does not take long for him to discover that even in his own office — the office of a liberal publication — a Jew is considered different that other.
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Not to speak of his doctor, who taking for granted that Green is a non-Jew, casts innuendoes on “Jewish doctors” and feels apologetic when Green tells him that he is a Jew. And thus it goes all along the line in hotels, in resorts, in the apartments where he resides, at parties, at dinner tables.
He finds a subtle kind of anti-Jewish sentiment in conventional American life and he begins to feel as sensitive as a Jew to all kinds of “innocent” remarks and comments about Jews.
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Of value to Jews and non-Jews alike
The value of the book to non-Jewish readers is that it enables them to see themselves in a proper light and to ponder whether each of them is not subconsciously committing the same sin of differentiating between Jews and non-Jews.
The value of the book to Jews is even greater, since it will achieve more results than any apologetic Jewish literature ever can. The book is well written and will make its readers think. It has been purchased for the first American moving picture seriously dealing with the question of anti-Jewish discrimination.
More about Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson
- Reader discussion on Goodreads
- Film version of Gentleman’s Agreement
- When Gentleman’s Agreement Made Jewish Oscars History
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