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White Ethnic New YorkJews, Catholics, and the Shaping of Postwar Politics$
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Joshua M. Zeitz

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780807830956

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807872802_zeitz

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(p.114) 5 Communism
White Ethnic New York

Joshua M. Zeitz

University of North Carolina Press

In 1949, the small town of Peekskill in New York drew national attention when a predominantly Catholic mob twice ambushed a benefit concert intended to raise money for members of the Communist Party who were awaiting trial on charges of violating the Smith Act. The concert featured Paul Robeson, a renowned left-wing political activist and virtuoso. Due to the chaos, the event was canceled but finally went off without a hitch a week later. This chapter examines the fallout from the Peekskill riot, which pitted New York City's Jews against Catholics. Although both groups opposed communism, they differed in levels of intensity. Many local Jews, including committed anticommunists, viewed the riots as a threat to free thought and expression, but leading Catholics strongly disagreed. The chapter discusses four general phenomena feeding Catholic anticommunism in the 1940s and 1950s: Catholic social theology, international conflicts, antiestablishment resentment, and the repression of Christianity in Eastern Europe.

Keywords:   communism, Peekskill, Paul Robeson, New York City, Jews, Catholics, riots, anticommunism, Christianity, Eastern Europe

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