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  • Book Notes

American Jewish Life

Cosmopolitans: A Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area, by Fred Rosenbaum. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. 439 pp. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-520-25913-3.

Since the Gold Rush, Bay Area Jews have countered stereotypes, working as farmers and miners, boxers and mountaineers. They were Gold Rush pioneers, Gilded Age tycoons, and Progressive Era reformers. Told through a range of characters and events, Cosmopolitans illuminates many aspects of Jewish life in the area: the high profile of Jewish women, achievements in the business world, the cultural creativity of the second generation, the bitter debate about the proper response to the Holocaust and Zionism, and much more. Focusing on the first hundred years after the Gold Rush, the book also takes the story up to the present day, demonstrating how strong affinities for the arts and for the struggle for social justice have characterized this community even as it has changed over time.

Is Diss a System? A Milt Gross Comic Reader, by Milt Gross, edited by Ari Y. Kelman. New York: New York University Press, 2010. 293 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-8147-4823-7.

Milt Gross (1895-1953), a Bronx-born cartoonist and animator, first found fame in the late 1920s, writing comic strips and newspaper columns in the unmistakable accent of Jewish immigrants. Working during the decline of vaudeville and the rise of the newspaper cartoon strip, Gross captured American humor in transition, adapting the sounds of ethnic humor out of an intimate knowledge of immigrant life. His accounts of Jewish tenement residents echoed with the mistakes and malapropisms born of the immigrant experience. Introduced by an historical essay, Is Diss a System? presents examples of Jewish dialect humor drawn from the five [End Page 201] books Gross published between 1926 and 1928—Nize Baby, De Night in de Front from Chreesmas, Hiawatta, Dunt Esk, and Famous Fimmales.

Latin American Jewish Cultural Production, edited by David William Foster. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009. 238 pp. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-8265-1624-4.

Jews in Latin America, in addition to their prominent role in business, commerce, and finance, have a significant presence in cultural production and the arts. Like Hollywood, the Argentine and Mexican film industry is heavily Jewish, while the media—print journalism, radio, and television—have long been associated with Jewish interests. The open enrollment policies of many countries—Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are notable here—have meant that Jews also have a considerable presence in academic and intellectual circles.

Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, by Ayala Fader. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. 260 pp. $22.95. ISBN 978-0-691-13917-3.

Mitzvah Girls is about bringing up Hasidic Jewish girls in North America. Ayala Fader examines language, gender, and the body from infancy to adulthood, showing how Hasidic girls in Brooklyn become women responsible for rearing the next generation of nonliberal Jewish believers. Fader demonstrates that contemporary Hasidic femininity requires women and girls to engage with the secular world around them, protecting Hasidic men and boys who study the Torah. Even as Hasidic religious observance has become more stringent, Hasidic girls have unexpectedly become more fluent in secular modernity. Investigating how Hasidic women and girls conceptualize the religious, the secular, and the modern, Mitzvah Girls offers insights into cultural production and change in non-liberal religious communities.

Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Jewish Commuity, by Marc Schneier. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2009. 222 pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-58023-273-9.

Shared Dreams brings to life the long-neglected history of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s efforts in support of the Jewish community. This is a story that sheds new light on the commitment and the relationship between the Jewish and African-American communities as they have struggled together to fight for justice and civil rights. [End Page 202]

Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity, by Lila Corwin Berman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. 266 pp. $55.00. ISBN 978-0-520-25681-1.

Lila Corwin Berman asks why...


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