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Book description

Understanding the history of Jews in America requires a synthesis of over 350 years of documents, social data, literature and journalism, architecture, oratory, and debate, and each time that history is observed, new questions are raised and new perspectives found. This book presents a readable account of that history, with an emphasis on migration patterns, social and religious life, and political and economic affairs. It explains the long-range development of American Jewry as the product of 'many new beginnings' more than a direct evolution leading from early colonial experiments to latter-day social patterns. This book also shows that not all of American Jewish history has occurred on American soil, arguing that Jews, more than most other Americans, persist in assigning crucial importance to international issues. This approach provides a fresh perspective that can open up the practice of minority-history writing, so that the very concepts of minority and majority should not be taken for granted.


'This is a significant contribution to the study of American Judaism, delivered intelligently and succinctly. Lederhendler (American Jewish history, Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) emphasizes the sparseness and transience of early Jewish settlement, the relatively accommodating nature of the colonies and the new American nation, civic integration, occupational diversity, intermarriage, and the lack of rabbis. … Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries.'

R. C. Cottrell Source: CHOICE

'He focuses on how American Jews preserved a sense of Jewish peoplehood rather than on how they adapted to domestic events. His implicit argument is that the historian needs to approach the American Jewish experience as part of the global Jewish tapestry.'

Elliot Jager Source: The Jerusalem Report

'… Eli Lederhendler’s panoramic new survey, conveys the mastery and depth of insight one would expect from this wide-ranging and prolific scholar. As would any worthwhile work of intellectual synthesis, Lederhendler’s book creates new cloth out of threads pulled from decades of historical observation.'

Marni Davis Source: The American Jewish Archives Journal

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