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American Jewish History

A JPS Guide

Authored by Norman H. Finkelstein

Publication Year: 2007

This JPS Guide chronicles the extraordinary history of American Jewry. Finkelstein tells the dramatic 350-year story of the people and events that shaped the lives of today's American Jews. Divided into six time periods, American Jewish History describes Jewish life from the time of the early settlers, to the period of massive immigration that flooded the cities, to the incredible growth of Jews in positions of influence in business, politics, and the arts. This is a story of a people who affected not only the lives of Jews in the U.S. today, but also the course of American history itself. There are over 70 black and white photographs, maps, and charts and more than 120 feature boxes and biographies throughout, as well as timelines, notes, a bibliography, and index. Finkelstein has made the saga of American Jewry much more than a compilation of historical facts. This is wonderfully stimulating journey--a worthwhile adventure for readers of all ages.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society


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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 ...


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pp. 187-194


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pp. 195-200


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pp. 201-221

E-ISBN-13: 9780827609754
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827608108

Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 794700952
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Jewish History

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