Urban Origins of American Judaism.

Author:Reimers, David M.
Position:Book review
 
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Urban Origins of American Judaism. By Deborah Dash Moore. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 20 r 4. xvii +185 pp.

Deborah Dash Moore is one of the leading scholars of American Judaism. Her work has focused to a considerable degree on the Jewish experience and encounter with American cities such as New York City and what she calls the "Golden Cities" of the east and west coasts after World War II. As a result, she was well qualified to give the George H. Shriver Lectures on the role of religion in American history; her book is a collection of her 2012 lectures. She brings a wealth of insight into her topic, and overall the book makes interesting reading. However, because of the nature of her lectures, one has difficulty finding a unifying theme. For example, one of the lectures is entitled "Snapshots" and uses selected photos or images that came to represent urban Judaism. Some of the snapshots are familiar, such as those of Jacob Riis and Rebecca Lepkoff. Her essay is interesting but does not represent part of a continuing theme. Just how does this piece relate to the others?

As a result of the lack an argument tying the lectures together, one is forced to look at the pieces themselves to find the "origins" of American Judaism. The essay on streets is perhaps the best, focusing on New York City. Dash Moore relates tales of Jews selling goods on the streets, tenements lining the Lower East Side, children playing on the street, and mothers watching their children play. That essay also deals with a more recent event, the riot occurring between blacks and Jews in the Crown Heights section of New York City. Streets, she suggests, played a central role as space to understand Jewish identity. The point is well taken and is similar to the experiences of other immigrant groups. Yet one...

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