Make Way for Youth: The American Jewish Committee and the Social Problem Film

  • Author(s): Art Simon
  • When: 2013-10
  • Where: American Jewish History
  • Make Way for Youth became the most widely seen non-theatrical film devoted to promoting religious and racial tolerance, made by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in 1947. The well-financed, high profile films of Hollywood, while provocative and even daring at times, were not the only voices circulating among the film-going public in the struggle against prejudice. Indeed, the audiences for Gentlemen’s Agreement and Pinky were also being addressed by educational and human relations films produced by organizations whose primary mission was the promotion of interfaith understanding, — organizations that were just then turning to the cinema as an essential tool. The social problem film, in other words, emanated from various points along the film production spectrum and was articulated through formal strategies beyond the familiar language of commercial cinema. While major studios like Twentieth Century-Fox and RKO shaped postwar definitions of race and ethnicity, so, too, did the AJC and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL). But the latter organizations tended to fold its warnings about antisemitism into more general calls for religious tolerance and civic cooperation.

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