Katz Center Fellow Britt Tevis on “Mythical Jewish Arsonists” and Anti-Jewish Discrimination in U.S. History

Steven P. Weitzman (SPW): You are one of the few Katz Center fellows in my time as director who combines training in history and the law (although we will have several next year in a year focused on Jews and the law). Can you tell us a bit about what led you to the study of legal history, intellectually and/or personally?

Atlantic Jewish Worlds, 1500–1900

Thinking about the Atlantic world as its own arena, instead of approaching its various shores as disparate locales, has facilitated various kinds of recentering. Among other things, it has taught us to see early America as one part of a deeply interconnected world with enduring ties not only with the old country but also with the Americas (plural) and Africa. Focusing on networks spanning the Atlantic Ocean allows us to think differently about states, empires, and colonies—moving away from landed territorial notions to highlighting dynamic interaction and shared spaces.

The Alt-Right and Social Media

The Trump presidency saw the emergence of the alt-Right on the national stage. Figures such as Richard Spencer and groups like the Proud Boys became household names while the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 gained national attention. 2019 was the deadliest year for domestic terrorism in the nation since 1995, the year of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded at least nine hundred and forty hate active groups across the United States.

Katz Center Fellows Reframe the American Jewish Experience

The idea that “America is different”—that American Jewish experience has been marked by success and progress in a way that was unprecedented, unexpected, and wildly impactful—is well entrenched. This year at the Katz Center, a diverse cohort of visiting research fellows is looking again at the American Jewish story, not necessarily to overturn a narrative but to reframe the question; in fact, to frame a new set of “America’s Jewish questions.”