“American Jewish History;
From Ghettoes to Melting Pots: The Jewish Community of New York, 1654 to the Present”
Department of History: H1303
Professor Dr. Aviva Ben-Ur
Semester 1 2002 (Fall 2002)
Venue: AC:203, AC 233; fortnightly tutorial will be held in room 106 of the “prefabricated building.”
*Note: for the first week or two of classes the Friday lecture at 12-1 will meet in AC133, as AC233 is not yet fully renovated.
Class Times: Tuesdays and *Fridays, 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. plus fortnightly tutorials
Office: 415, History Department Tower 1, National University of Ireland, Galway
Office Telephone: 091-; ext. 2511
Contact Hours (known in the U.S. as Office Hours): Tuesdays and Fridays, 1:00 p.m.-200 p.m.
ECTS (European Credit Transfer System): 5
The United States of America is home to the largest, and arguably the most influential Jewish community of the world. This course will explore the development of the U.S. Jewish community, in particular that of New York, through the often overlapping lenses of religion, ethnicity, race and culture. While this course will progress chronologically, from the inception of the Jewish community in 1654, the emphasis, particularly during the latter half of the course, will be topical and twentieth-century. Through primary and secondary source readings, class lectures, slide shows and film clips, the diversity of American Jews and their communities will be explored, emphasizing their interactions with non-Jewish groups and involvement in mainstream culture in the city some jocularly refer to as “Jew York.”
Method of Assessment and Evaluation (i.e. Course Requirements and Grades):
- · One essay and one final exam.
- · Students will complete one essay of approximately 1500 words to be delivered directly to the professor no later than Friday, October 18 at 1:00 p.m. The paper will be marked down 3 points for each calendar day late.
- Final Exam
- · Students will take a final exam on the readings, lectures, class discussions, slide shows, and film clips.
Succeeding in this Class
This course is designed to be both enjoyable and stimulating. Reading is kept to a minimum with the hope that students will be self-motivated to undertake extra reading on a voluntary basis. To reap the full benefits of this course a student must complete the assigned readings on time and be engaged with the readings, class presentations, and class discussions.
Calculation of Grades
- · Midterm Paper 25%
- · Final Exam 75%
- · 40% or above: Pass
- · 50% or above: Third Class Honours
- · 55% or above: Second Class Honours, Grade 2
- · 62% or above: Second Class Honours, Grade 1
- · 70% or above: First Class Honours
This course is designed for third year students. There are no prerequisites for this course. This is a university course--you need not be of Jewish ancestry or religion--nor from the U.S. or New York--to take and/or succeed in this class.
For those seeking a basic understanding of the Jewish religion, recommended reading is Rabbi Milton Steinberg’s Basic Judaism (“the essential book for both Jews and non-Jews eager to know more about one of the world’s great religions), San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1975.
*Important note: this is not a course on the Jewish religion. This is a course on nearly 350 years of Jewish history.
Late Papers and Missed Exams
Students who falls ill or have a personal emergency requiring them to request an extension on the midterm essay or miss the exam must submit detailed written documentation (e.g. from a personal physician, landlord, court magistrate, student counselor, etc.) explaining their request. No oral communications regarding failure to fulfill any course requirement will be accepted.
Academic dishonesty (also known as “plagiarism” or “cheating”) is absolutely forbidden in any form. This includes glancing at someone else’s paper during the exam, bringing prepared answers and submitting them as one’s exam, communicating in any form during the exam, even after an exam has been submitted, and presenting someone else’s work as one’s own in the midterm essay. Any student who commits academic dishonesty will receive an automatic “F” for the course. There are absolutely no exceptions to this policy.
Receiving Extra Assistance
Disability Support Service
Students with disabilities, such as learning difficulties, visual impairment, hearing impairment, or mobility problems, should contact:
University Disability Officer
Tel: 353-91-524411 ext. 3541/ 2484
- · Aviva Ben-Ur, ed. Reading Pack for American Jewish History. Galway, MA: Secretariat, 2002. Available at the Secretariat, whose hours are: 9:15 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.-5:15 p.m.
- · In addition, one reading is only available via the web (see Tuesday, October 8), and occasional handouts will be placed on reserve in the main library as they become available.
Class Schedule With Assigned Readings
Note: readings listed under a date are due on that date!
Week One: Introduction to the Course
Week Two: New York Jews Through the Prism of Ethnicity
- Friday, September 13: The Jews: a Religious Group, a People, an Ethnicity, a Race/ Jews in the United States and New York City, 1654-the present
- · “Judaism”, Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 10, Jerusalem: Keter Publishing, 1971, pp.383-387 and pp.394-396.
- · “A Sociohistorical Overview of American Jewish Denominations,” in Jewish Choices: American Jewish Denominationalism, ed. Bernard Lazerwitz, et al., Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998, pp.15-25 and p. 28-30.
Week Three: New York Jews Through the Prism of Race
- Tuesday, September 17: Western Sephardic Jews; German Jews
- · In-class slide show: Rebecca Machado Philips-A Case Study of the Mother of 21 Children
- · Mordecai Manuel Noah. “Zipra Nunez’s Account of the Family’s Escape,” in Diane Matza, ed., Sephardic-American Voices: Two Hundred Years of a Literary Legacy, Hanover and London: Brandeis University Press, 1996, pp.23-24. [Note: the events described take place in 1733.]
- · Stanley Nadel. “Jewish Race and German Soul in Nineteenth-Century America”. American Jewish History 77:1 (September 1987): 6-26; pp.6-17.
- Friday, September 20: Eastern European Jews
- · Jacob A. Riis. “Jewtown” and “The Sweaters of Jewtown,” in How the Other Half Lives, New York: Penguin, 1997, pp.82-102. (First published 1890).
Week Four: Getting Along-Jewish Inter-Ethnic Relationse
- Tuesday, September 24: Ottoman Sephardic Jews--Hispanic and Arabic Dimensions
- · In-class slide show: Ottoman Sephardic Jews in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles and the Hispanic Question
- · Victor Perera. “The IQ and I: My Adventures Near the Bottom of the Bell Curve,” in Diane Matza, ed., Sephardic-American Voices: Two Hundred Years of a Literary Legacy, Hanover and London: Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England, 1997, pp.106-116.
- Friday, September 27: You Are What You’re Not: The Phenomenon of Passing
- · Slide show: race ideology and social reality in early twentieth-century New York
- · Dinah Dahbany-Miraglia. “American Yemenite Jews: Interethnic Strategies,” Persistence & Flexibility: Anthropological Perspectives on the American Jewish Experience, Walter P. Zenner, ed., New York: State University of New York Press, pp.63-78.
Week Five: ‘Bad Jews’: New York Jews, Crime, and Vice
- Tuesday, October 1: Germanic and East European Jews
- · Jacob Rader Marcus. “Two Different Communities: The “Germans” and the Newcomers East Europeans and Their Religion: The Ghetto and Orthodoxy,” in United States Jewry, 1776-1985, vol. IV, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993, pp.310-329 and (footnotes): pp.873-875.
- Friday, October 4: Eastern European Jews and Eastern Sephardic Jews
- · A Sephardi/Ashkenazi Romance: Is It Possible? (letter to the editor, “El Progreso,” 1916, 2 pages)
- · Embarassing Behavior on the Lower East Side (advice column, “El Progreso,” 1915, 4 pages)
- · Isaac Bashevis Singer. “Sabbath in Portugal,” in Passions and Other Stories, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975, pp.77-87.
Week Six: Remembering the Past: New York Jewish and Irish Memoirs
- Tuesday, October 8: But He Was Good to His Mother-The Jewish Gangster
- · Mark Gribben. “Bugsy Siegel.” Read from “The Sociopath” to “The End”. You will find this article at: http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters/bugsy/bugsymain.htm
- Friday, October 11: Drunk on Manischewitz?-Jews and Alcholism
- · Shoshana H. Shea, Tamara L. Wall, Lucinda G. Carr, and Ting-Kai Li. “ADH2 and Alcohol-Related Phenotypes in Ashkenazic Jewish American College Students.” Behavior Genetics, 31: 2 (2001): 231-239.
Week Seven: When it Wasn’t Cool to Be Jewish-Social Discrimination Against Jews
- Tuesday, October 15:
- · Simon, Kate. Bronx Primitive: Portraits in a Childhood. New York: Viking Press, 1982, first half. To be placed on library reserve.
- Friday, October 18:
- · Simon, Kate. Bronx Primitive: Portraits in a Childhood. New York: Viking Press, 1982, second half. To be placed library reserve.
Week Eight: Jews and Consumerism
- Tuesday, October 22: Genteel Anti-Semitism and not-so-Genteel Anti-Semitism
- · Gentleman’s Agreement. To be placed library reserve.
- · “Congressional Committee on Immigration: Temporary Suspension of Immigration (1920).” In Paul R. Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History, New York and Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1980, pp.405-407.
- Friday, October 25: Social Discrimination in the Academy
- · Alan M. Dershowitz. Chutzpah. Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Company, 1991, pp.63-74.
Week Nine: Jews on Screen-Jews Watching Jews, Gentiles Watching Jews
- Tuesday, October 29: Materialism as a Virtue and a Vice
- · Jenna Joselit Weissman. “The Jewish Home Beautiful (1930s-1940s)” and “For the Sake of the Children (1950s),” in Getting Comfortable in New York: The American Jewish Home, 1880-1950, New York: The Jewish Museum, 1990, pp.45-69; 73. [Note: includes many pictures]
- Friday, November 1: JAP (Jewish American Princess): The Making of an Ethnic Epithet
- · Rhonda Lieberman. “Jewish Barbie,” in Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities, ed. Norman L. Kleeblatt, New York: The Jewish Museum and New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, pp.108-113.
- · Riv-Ellen Press. “Why Jewish Princesses Don’t Sweat: Desire and Consumption in Postwar American Jewish Culture,” in Howard Eilberg-Schwartz’s People of the Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspective, New York: State University of New York Press, 1992, pp.329-359.
Week Ten: Feminism and New York Jews
- Tuesday, November 5:
- · The Goldbergs. To be viewed in class.
- Friday, November 8:
- · Mel Brooks. Scene: “The Spanish Inquisition.” In “History of the World Part I.” To be viewed in class.
- · Maurice Yacowar. “History of the World-Part I (1981),” in The Comic Art of Mel Brooks. London: W.H. Allen, 1982, pp.188-195.
- · Lester D. Friedman. Hollywood’s Image of the Jews. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1982, pp.301-302.
Week Eleven: Secular in the City: The Lure of Assimilation
- Tuesday, November 12: Challenging Authority: The Sexual Sixties
- · Erica (Mann) Jong. Fear of Flying. New York, 1973, pp.17-19; 23-27; 246-249.
- · Betty Friedan. “The Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud,” in The Feminine Mystique, New York: Penguin Books, pp.91-111.
- Friday, November 15: Questioning Indecency: the Pornography Industry
- · Gloria Steinem. “I Was a Playboy Bunny,” in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, second Edition, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995 (first published 1984), pp.32-45 and 70-75.
Week 12: Returning to the Flock-Newly Religious Jews; The Future of American Jews
- Tuesday, November 19: Chaim Potok’s The Chosen
- · “The Chosen” (1983). Film based on the book. Starring Maximilian Schell, Rod Steiger, and Robby Benson. “A story about friendship and of two young men divided by the same thing that unites them, their faith.” 109 minutes. To be viewed in class. No preparation necessary.
- Friday, November 22: Complicated Assimilation-Jewish Ethnic Identity Today’s New York
- · Conclusion of “The Chosen”
- · Maureen Davey, Linda Stone Fish, and Mihaela Robila. “Ethnic Identity in Jewish Families.” Contemporary Family Therapy 23: 3 (September 2001): pp.323-342; pp.323-324; pp.332-333.
- · Walter P. Zenner. “Jewishness in America: Ascription and Choice,” in Ethnic and Racial Studies 8:1 (January 1985): 117-133.
Final Exam: place and time to be announced
- Tuesday, November 26: Brainwashed or Independent Thinkers?
- · Lynn Davidman. “A Day in the Life of Two Jewish Women,” in Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press, 1991, pp.1-25.
- Friday, November 29: Is the American Jewish Community Doomed to Extinction or Simply Evolving?: Assimilationists vs. Transormationists
- · Nathan Glazer. “New Perspectives in American Jewish Sociology,” in American Jewish Year Book 87 (1987): 3-19.
Copyright Aviva Ben-Ur, 2002