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Birmingham's Rabbi

Morris Newfield and Alabama, 1895-1940

Written by Mark Cowett

Publication Year: 2009

     American Jewish history has been criticized for its parochial nature because it has consisted largely of chronicles of American Jewish life and has often failed to explore the relationship between Jews and other ethnic groups in America.

    Rabbi Morris Newfield led Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham from 1895-1940 and was counted among the most influential religious and social leaders of that city. Cowett chronicles Newfield’s career and uses it as a vehicle to explore the nature of ethnic leadership in America. In doing so he explores the conflicts with which Newfield struggled to help Jews maintain a sense of religious identity in a predominately Southern Christian environment. Newfield’s career also portrays the struggle of social welfare efforts in Alabama during the Progressive Era. He recognized the need for Jews to develop bonds with other American ethnic groups. Cowett portrays him as a mediator between not only Jew and Christian but also black and white, labor and capital, liberal and conservative—in short, within the full spectrum of political and social exchange in an industrial-based New south city.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. viii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

Since World War ll, various commentators on American Jewish history have asked historians to present American Jewish history not as separatists chronicling events and experiences of Jews as they stand apart from the main currents of American history but as interpreters of how these are "part and parcel of American history." Complaints...

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ONE. The Early Years: From Hungary through Hebrew Union College

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pp. 1-13

On an early afternoon in June 1895, twenty-six-year-old Morris Newfield heard the Reverend Washington Gladden deliver the baccalaureate address to his graduating class at the University of Cincinnati. Five years had passed since Newfield had come to Cincinnati from Hungary to study at the Hebrew Union College with Isaac Mayer Wise....

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TWO. A Leader of Birmingham Jews, 1895-1914

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pp. 14-45

...their southern counterparts that the future of the South lay in the exploitation for industrial production of mineral resources, for of Jefferson County by building adequate railroad lines. But com the little town. Cholera and the resulting panic caused the population to fall from 4,000 to 2,000 citizens. Because of the financial...

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THREE. Newfield the Man

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pp. 46-56

Thus far I have traced the developing career of Morris Newfield, the transplanted Hungarian who, by 1914, had made a successful journey, first to Cincinnati, Ohio, and Hebrew Union College, and then to Birmingham, Alabama, and a leadership position in the Jewish community....

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FOUR. A Leader in Birmingham, 1895-1920

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pp. 57-89

Even as Temple Emanu-El's Jews were building their new temple in 1912, events in Birmingham were making the position of Jews somewhat anomalous. With the takeover of TCI by U.S. Steel in 1907, Birmingham's economy began to expand less rapidly than it had before, adversely...

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FIVE. A Leading Social Worker in Alabama, 1909-1940

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pp. 90-119

As Morris Newfield grew older and more established in Birmingham, he became involved in social welfare activities, hoping to translate his Social Gospel theology into practical efforts. Taught by his teachers at Hebrew Union College that his religious activities should in part focus on the problems of society, and assisted by Christian...

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SIX. A Moderate in Times of Reactive and Radical Change, 1920-1940

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pp. 120-152

On a summer day in 1921, nearly three years after the armistice ending World War I had been signed, Morris Newfield met his friend Thomas D. Parke on a downtown street. The rabbi listened to Parke angrily denounce the increasingly violent atmosphere of Birmingham. Parke was...

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SEVEN. Altered Attitudes toward Zionism, 1895-1938

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pp. 153-171

In June 1931, Morris Newfield both achieved his greatest honor and confronted his most formidable challenge when he was elected president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform Jewish rabbinical governing body, for the customary two-year term. In this capacity, the rabbi became one of the leaders of Reform...

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pp. 172-176

On May 7, 1940, Morris Newfield died at his home in Birmingham, Alabama. Within a week, Henry M. Edmonds and Father Eugene L. Sands, two of his closest Gentile friends, conceived the idea of a Newfield Memorial Lectureship on interracial and interreligious tolerance and goodwill as a tribute to Newfield's work in Birmingham....


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pp. 177-204


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pp. 205-215


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pp. 217-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382711
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817302849

Publication Year: 2009