cover of book

Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold
by Steven J Harper
Northwestern University Press, 2008
Paper: 978-0-8101-3915-2 | Cloth: 978-0-8101-2444-8 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-6197-9
Library of Congress Classification E184.37.L46H37 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 973.049240092


Author Steven J. Harper pays tribute to a well-respected teacher with this biography of a distinguished William Smith Mason Professor of History at Northwestern University, Richard W. Leopold. Harper had maintained contact with his former professor, as had hundreds of other alumni, meeting with him in the apartment to which his age and health confined him. When Leopold invited him to review his biographical materials to prepare a New York Times obituary, Harper began to catch glimpses of a deeper history in Leopold’s life: that of Jews in America after the turn of the century.

Across two years of Sundays, Leopold’s life came together and Harper began to notice parallels between the life of his professor and the life of his recently deceased father-in-law. Both grew up in less orthodox households but were still identified as Jewish by others; both attended Ivy League colleges, fighting (and beating) anti-Semitism there; and both served their country with distinction in World War II. The two men persevered through a twentieth century Jewish-American experience that they and many others shared, but rarely discussed. Steven Harper has caught them both on the page just in time to document their lives, their culture, and the nation that grew and changed alongside them.

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