Contents

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1. Mid-1300s–1654: Before the Beginning

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pp. 11-25

When you think of the early history of the Jews in America, what image comes to your mind? Do you picture New York City’s Lower East Side around 1900, its tenements, streets, and sweatshops crowded with Yiddish-speaking immigrants?...

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2. 1654–1812: The Earliest Settlers

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pp. 27-51

In this poem, Longfellow lyrically reminds us of something we tend to forget, if we ever knew it: the first Jewish settlers in America were Hispanic. More accurately, they were Sephardic (from a Hebrew word for Spain), because although they came from Brazil, their family roots were in Spain and Portugal. Unlike the “secret Jews” of New Spain who preceded them, whose memory exists ...

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3. 1813–1880: Settling In

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pp. 53-81

In the early 19th century, European Jews were still experiencing the effects of racially fueled hatred and nationally sponsored discrimination. But in America, by and large, Jews had found a safe haven. Article VI of the United States Constitution guaranteed that, at least on the national level, “no religious test [would] ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under ...

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4. 1881–1913: The Great Wave

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pp. 83-115

It began with a trickle. The first Ashkenazic Jews from Eastern Europe arrived in America well before the end of the 18th century. Polish-born Haym Salomon, who helped to finance the American Revolution, was one of the better-known Ashkenazim. Those few Ashkenazic Jews who arrived in the 18th and early 19th centuries quickly adopted the rituals and customs of the Sephardic ...

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5. 1914–1948: From Home to Homeland

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pp. 117-146

On the eve of world war, most American Jews lived in urban ghettos, surrounded by the sounds of mameloshen—their Yiddish mother tongue. Little more than 30 years earlier, before the onslaught of Eastern European immigrants began, American Jews were predominantly Reform and English speaking. The sheer volume of newcomers had created tensions not only ...

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6. 1948–present: Into the Mainstream

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pp. 147-186

In the aftermath of World War II, as the new State of Israel began its struggle to survive, Jews in America were discarding the remaining vestiges of shtetl imagery to recreate themselves religiously, culturally, and socio-economically. The rich Yiddish culture of the first generation was reduced to nostalgic memory as their children and grandchildren assimilated American cultural and social ...

Notes

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pp. 187-194

Bibliography

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pp. 195-200

Index

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pp. 201-221