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Book Reviews ... ,f, •• 143 on "maternalism"-in the shaping ofimmigrant women's experience is well placed. I did wish, however, that the book included more primarily historical documentation, more case material, and more "women's voices." The photographs, including several of the same Italian wife who remained in Italy while her husband migrated and she bore his children (conceived, one imagines, on his return journeys), are striking in what they seem to say about individual women's lives. I wanted more of these kinds ofmaterials in the texts-either from diaries, letters, or government reports. I would have liked more first-hand quotations from social workers' reports that would give us the flavor and content of the kinds of "maternalism" displayed towards Italian and Jewish women. Rather than repeating her overview in the conclusion, I would have preferred more pages throughout the book devoted to descriptions ofwomen's lives, contrasts between working daughters and stay-at-home mothers, and comparisons between the discourses used by German Jewish reformers and their Anglo-American counterparts. FriedmanKasaba 's perspective, however, can help us re-read some of the already published novels, personal narratives, and historical analyses that touch on the lives ofthese turnof -the century Italian and Jewish women. Louise Lamphere Department of Anthropology University of New Mexico From Immigrant to Ethnic Culture: American Yiddish in South Philadelphia, by Rakhmiel Peltz. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. 269 pp. $49.50 (c); $18.95 (P). This ethnographic study ofan elderly group, for many years residents in a neighborhood of immigrants, explores three issues centered on the vitality of Yiddish in the late twentieth century. The issue most thoroughly examined is the significance ofYiddish to at least 30 South Philadelphians: its value as an aspect of their identities, their traditions, and their social concerns. Since the youngest person regularly participating in Peltz's survey is 60, the study also addresses an issue of continuity, of whether Yiddish can sustain itself in American life. The third issue, whether the continuity of Yiddish differs from that of other languages brought in recent generations to the new lands, involves a comparative approach. Peltz discusses in depth the first ofthese issues. The relation of language to identity is for Peltz "malleable, changeable over time and according to situation" (p. 193). The basis for this judgment lies in his finding discrete patterns of involvement with Yiddish from what South Philadelphian participants recall and from corroborative material. These patterns resolve themselves in several configurations throughout the life histories ofthe participants, particularly those born and schooled in the United States. The earliest configuration concerns their 144 SHOFAR Fall 1999 Vol. 18, No. I childhood, the years of Yiddish as the language at home, of English as requisite at school and as current during play on neighborhood streets. This is not a straightforward contrast, since with parents, grandparents, and immigrant adults, younger children more often understood than spoke Yiddish, while English prevailed among almost all siblings. A second pattern implicit in the recollections ofPeltz's group concerns work, observance, and marriage: Yiddish sometimes spoken in neighborhood stores and synagogues, occasionally to spouses and children. The third pattern, weekly conversations at the Senior Center of the Jewish Community Centers, exemplifies Peltz's initiatives during the year of his research in South Philadelphia. He named this pattern "a gleyzele tey" as betokening an atmosphere of neighborly talk, the refreshments served making participation all the more congenial. What the first two patterns outlined here suggest in regard to language and identity is that the memories of participants largely support Peltz's qualifiers-for memory is malleable, changeable over time, and responsive to situation. Yet for all its necessary contribution to comprehending how language and identity affect each other, memory is in itself insufficient. The third pattern that governs Peltz's study emerges from his initiative in convening the South Philadelphia participants in "a gleyzele tey." Unable to locate in the 1980s institutions that normally take Yiddish as their mother tongue, having sought for centers ofYiddish conversation, hoping fruitlessly to find it in Izzy's Luncheonette (the third chapter discusses its charismatic proprietor and his customers), Peltz created one, his generosity also making his study possible. Yet...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 143-145
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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