The History of the Jews of the United States of America
Professor Erik Greenberg
Hebrew Union College
The purpose of this course is to explore the 353 year history of American Jewry. We will first attempt to understand broad definitional categories such as Jews and Jewishness, certain variants of democracy, as well as other ideas and terms relating to Jewish and American history and identity. We will then explore the history and historiography of American Jewry, developing a broad chronological overview while paying close attention to specific historical moments and certain milestones in the writing of American Jewish history. Upon completion of this course students should:
- · Possess a broad knowledge of American History
- · Gain a deeper appreciation for an historical understanding of Jewish identity in America and the world.
- · Be able to identify within the American narrative specific events and movements of significance to the American-Jewish community.
- · Be able to identify prominent American Jews and articulate their significance to the history of America and American Jewry.
- · Comprehend the subjectivity of the study of history, and be able to identify the goals and projects of prominent American-Jewish historians.
Throughout your academic career you have encountered history teachers that expect you to memorize historic facts and then spit them out onto a sheet of paper. This is not one of those classes. History is a discussion between the present and the past, an attempt to understand why an historic event happened through the lens of today’s societal zeitgeist. Those of you that have siblings, think of a time when you got into trouble because of something your brother or sister did. Now try to interpret the same event looking at it from your sibling’s point of view. Trying to make sense of those two wildly different perspectives is, in fact, the study of history.
I will generally require you to read a number of works each week offering a variety of perspectives on a given topic. Consequently, much of your reading will consist of downloaded articles or handouts. Still, the recent 350th anniversary of the Jewish presence in America has led to two significant texts which demand a closer reading. You are required to purchase both the Diner and Sarna books, the American history textbook is optional.
- · Sarna, Jonathan, American Judaism: A History Yale University Press (October 24, 2005)
- · Diner, Hasia, The Jews of the United States, 1654-2000, University of California Press; New Ed edition (May 30, 2006)
- · Ayers, Gould, et. al., American Passages: A History of the United States, Vols. I & II (any edition)
Readings and Assignments
Week 1: Introductions
Week 2: Jewish American and American Historiographies
- · Jacob Rader Marcus, “The Periodization of American Jewish History,” in Studies In Jewish American History: Studies and Addresses By Jacob R. Marcus
- · “America: The Spiritual Center of American Jewry” in American Jewish History: Jacob Marcus Rader’s Essays on American Jewry
- · Salo Baron, “American Jewish History: Problems and Methods”
- · Oscar Handlin, “Our Unknown American Ancestors”
- · Hasia Diner, Introduction, 1-9
- · Jonathan Sarna, Introduction, xiii-xx
- · Hector St. John De Crevecoeur, What is An American?
- · Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American Life
- · Joyce Appleby, Recovering America’s Historic Diversity: Beyond Exceptionalism
- · Oscar Handlin, “Introduction” The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migration That Made the American People, 1-6
Week 3: The American Colonial Project and the Jews of Colonial America
The First presentations (on Colonial America) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Diner, 15-20, 26-31
- · Sarna, 1-8, 12-20
- · Pencack, File Download, 117-125
- · Marcus Sourcebook, File Download, 27-39
Week 4: The Revolution and the Early Republic: The Early Democratization of American Jewry
The Second presentations (on the American Revolution, the Constitution, Federalism, and Jeffersonian Democracy) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Diner, 41-48
- · Sarna, 36-41, 52-61
- · Pencack, File Download, 1-13
- · Marcus Sourcebook, File Download, 94-95 Excerpts of Declaration of Independence, 96-101, 108-110 Correspondence between the Jews of Newport and Washington
Week 5: The Market Revolution and Jacksonian America: The Marketplace of Religious Ideas and Jewish Responses to Anti-Semitism, Circa 1820s-1860s
- · Sarna, 60-91
- · Sarna, File Download, The American Response to 19th Century Christian Missionaries
- · David A. Gerber, File Download, Cutting Out Shylock: Elite Anti-Semitism and the Quest for Moral Order in the Mid 19th Century American Market Place.
- · Marcus Sourcebook, File Download, Mordecai Noah and the Idea of Universal Jewish Unity 177-187
Week 6: The Conquest of the West and Westward Expansion: Jews and Western Diversity. Also The Relative Absence of an American-Jewish Historiography of the West.
The Third Presentations (Where is the West? Western Expansion, War in the West, Exploration of the West, Mining Booms, Land Booms) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Richard White, File Download, It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own: A New History of the American West, Chapters 3 & 8
- · Ava Kahn and Ellen Eisenberg, File Download, “Western Reality: Jewish Diversity During the German Period”
- · Steven M. Avella, File Download, “Phelan’s Cemetery: Religion in the Urbanizing West, 1850-1869, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento
- · Erik Greenberg, File Download, “A Historiography of the American Jewish West
- · Marcus Sourcebook, File Download, 189-195
Week 7: The Civil War: Internal Divisions in American Jewry
The Fourth Presentations (Slave Compromises—3/5s rule, Missouri Compromise,
Compromise of 1850, Kansas Nebraska Act—Bleeding Kansas, Sherman’s March, Civil War Amendments, Reconstruction) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Sarna. 112-124
- · Civil War Primary Sources, File Download
- · Marcus Sourcebook, File Download, “Jew Hatred and General Grant, 196-202
Week 8: The Turn of the Century and Industrial America
The Fifth presentations on (The Spanish American War, The Industrial Revolution, Marxism, Socialism, WW I, Woodrow Wilson, The League of Nations, The Treaty of Versailles, etc) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Sean Dennis Cashman, File Download, “Industrial Spring”
- · John Milton Cooper, File Download, “Pivotal Decades: 1900-1920”
- · Alan Trachtenberg, File Download, “The Machine as Deity and Demon”
- · Paul Kennedy, File Download, “The United States as New Kid on the Block, 1890-1940”
- · Arthur S. Link, File Download, “Wilson an the War for Democracy”
- · Marcus Sourcebook, File Download, 235-237, 240-241, 258-260, 294, 332-339, 355-361
Week 9: A Century of Migration and A Century of Jewish Life in America: Readings and Discussion on Hasia Diner’s The Jews of the United States
- · Diner, 71-111, 112-154
- · Sarna, 124-134
Week 10: Two Worlds of American Judaism and An Anxious Subculture: Readings and Discussion on Jonathan Sarna’s American Judaism
- · Sarna, 135-207, 208-258
Week 11: The American Jewish Community During Tragedy and Triumph: The Interwar Years, WWII and the Holocaust, & Israel
The Sixth presentations on (The Immigration Act of 1924, The Ku Klux Klan, the Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, The New Deal, WW II, The Holocaust, etc.) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Diner, 205-258
- · Father Coughlin, Audio Download, “Persecution and Christianity”
- · Henry Ford, File Download, Excerpts from The International Jew
- · Charles Lindbergh, File Download, “September 11, 1941 Speech”
- · Marcus Sourcebook, File Download, 480-489
Week 12: The Golden Cities: The Consumer Society and the Jewish Spread to the South and West
The Seventh presentations (on the Consumer Society, the Sunbelt, Levittown and other suburbs, “The Organization Man, etc.) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Diner, 259-261, 283-291
- · Excerpts From Deborah Dash Moore’s To the Golden Cities, File Download, 21-92
Week 13: Faith and Activism: Jewish Responses to Modern Spirituality and Societal Inequity
The Eighth presentations (on the Civil Rights Movement, The March on Washington, Vietnam War and Protests, etc.) will be held followed by a lecture.
- · Diner, 261-282, 291-305
- · Sarna, 282-323
Week 14: Religion in the Golden Cities
- · Moore, File Download, 123-152
- · Jody Myers, File Download, “Popular Kabbalah and New Religious Movement Research”
- · Yaakov Ariel, File Download, “Hassidism in the Age of Aquarius: The House of Love and Prayer in San Francisco, 1967-1977.”
Week 15: Conclusions
- · Diner, 305-358
- · Sarna, 333-374