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Emerging Metropolis

Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, 1840-1920

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Emerging Metropolis
    Book Description:

    Finalist for the JDC-Herbert Katzi Award for a Book Based on Archival Research, National Jewish Book Council Emerging Metropolis tells the story of New York's emergence as the greatest Jewish city of all time. It explores the Central European and East European Jews' encounter with New York City, tracing immigrants' economic, social, religious, political, and cultural adaptation between 1840 and 1920. This meticulously researched volume shows how Jews wove their ambitions and aspirations - for freedom, security, andmaterial prosperity - into the very fabric and physical landscape of the city.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3832-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    “[O]f all the big cities,” Sergeant Milton Lehman of theStars and Stripesaffirmed in 1945, “New York is still the promised land.”¹ As a returning Jewish GI, Lehman compared New York with European cities. Other Jews also knew what New York offered that made it so desirable, even if they had not served overseas. First and foremost, security: Jews could live without fear in New York. Yes, they faced discrimination, but in this city of almost eight million residents, many members of its ethnic and religious groups encountered prejudice. Jews contended with anti-Semitism in the twentieth century more than...

    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
    (pp. xxvii-xxix)
  6. Introduction: The Emerging Jewish Metropolis
    (pp. 1-9)

    On April 10, 1906, 160 detained eastern European Jewish immigrants gathered in the Great Hall of the immigration center at Ellis Island for a Passover seder, the traditional ceremonial meal that commemorates the flight of the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Alexander Harkavy, a member of a delegation of immigrant communal leaders, welcomed the detainees by drawing parallels between the Israelites of the Exodus and the Jews of Ellis Island: whether fleeing the oppression of Pharaoh’s Egypt or Tsarist Russia, both groups sought freedom in a Promised Land. A few days later, Yiddish journalist Yakov Pfeffer described the moving...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Neighborhood Networks
    (pp. 11-43)

    In the middle of the nineteenth century, European and American visitors to New York knew to stop by Chatham Street, a commercial district just to the northeast of City Hall, at the base of the Bowery. So characteristic of New York with its commercial hustle and bustle, Chatham Street’s ramshackle storefronts and frenzied merchants almost begged for inclusion in travel accounts. In their colorful depictions, pants and shirts hanging off signs and rustling in the wind seemed designed to ensnare unwary passersby; once so detained, the hapless marks were susceptible to the “gentle” yet persistent enticements of “natty, blackbearded, fiercely...

  8. CHAPTER 2 “Radical Reform”: Union through Charity
    (pp. 45-71)

    In the late 1880s, Rebekah Bettelheim Kohut typically started her day at home on Beekman Place, a quaint two-block stretch of four-story brownstones between Forty-Ninth and Fifty-First Streets. Kohut described these houses as “a little world in themselves. High up above the East River, and seemingly cut off from the rest of the city, the residents were very neighborly. All of the houses were of the four-story brownstone type, with high stoops.” Jewelers, writers, doctors, judges, marble dealers, and musicians gathered on the stoops and in the bay-windowed parlors to enjoy the cool evening East River breezes that made bearable...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Moorish Manhattan
    (pp. 73-101)

    On December 14, 1870, close to five hundred New Yorkers—Christians and Jews alike—mounted a makeshift platform on Lexington Avenue and Fifty-Fifth Street. “Adorned with flags,” the platform covered a construction site for what was to become congregation Ahawath Chesed’s new synagogue. The December sun shone brightly as ticket holders filed in to take their seats for a cornerstone-laying ceremony.¹ Though there was very little for the eye to behold—yet. The day’s speeches evoked pride in the heights achieved by an erstwhile tiny immigrant Kleindeutschland congregation and roused the attendees to look forward to the future structure that...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Immigrant Citadels: Tenements, Shops, Stores, and Streets
    (pp. 103-135)

    Though no one could trace the rumor’s origins, by the afternoon of Wednesday, December 11, 1901, the devastating news had been repeated by thousands of lips. It gathered a force of its own, wending its way through the Hester Street pushcart market, across tenement airshafts, from one stoop to the next, and up into the garment loft s. Sender Jarmulowsky’s bank had run dry! Shoppers stopped haggling, storekeepers shuttered their shops, and tenement housewives threw down their market baskets and formed “an excited mob, in which there were mingled shouts and cries of anger, pleading, grief, and despair.” The crowd...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Capital of the Jewish World
    (pp. 137-171)

    In 1918, the Kehillah (Jewish Community) of New York City published the JewishCommunal Register, a massive 1,597-page compendium of Jewish organizational life in the five boroughs. To compile the organizational directories at the heart of theRegister, a cadre of male Jewish student census takers of “good appearance, personality and . . . knowledge of things Jewish” traversed one hundred specially demarcated districts. They combed every street of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as selected areas of Queens and Staten Island, for signs of Jewish organizational life—literally, for one of their methods was to hunt for...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Jews at the Polls: The Rise of the Jewish Style in New York Politics
    (pp. 173-205)

    Even before the polls closed on Election Day 1914, people began to stream from all corners of the Lower East Side toward the building of the Yiddish-languageJewish Daily Forwardtowering over East Broadway. By nightfall, crowds filled Rutgers Square and Seward Park and flowed into the surrounding side streets. Those in the throng jostled for a better view of the screen hanging on the façade of the ten-story Forward Building, on which election results were to be projected. They were hoping for a Socialist victory in the heavily Jewish Twelfth Congressional District, a seat long held by Democrat Henry...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Jews and New York Culture
    (pp. 207-243)

    On any day in 1905, any number of well-dressed, neatly groomed men—prosperous bankers, businessmen, and professionals—could be found in the sumptuous club rooms at 45 West Forty-Second Street. Depending on the day of the week and time of day, they might be reading in the library, smoking in one of the lounges, playing cards, bowling, or exercising in the well-equipped gymnasium. A few patronized the bar. Sometimes their wives and sisters might join them for dinner in the elegant dining room or for a dance in the palatial ballroom—though of late “stag” evenings, which brought men together...

  14. Conclusion: The Jewish Metropolis at the End of the Immigrant Era
    (pp. 245-254)

    By 1920, New York’s Jews numbered over 1.6 million, making the city the greatest Jewish metropolis of all time.¹ But New York Jewry’s growth had been fueled by a massive, nearly century-long wave of immigration that diminished suddenly to a trickle, at first temporarily when World War I obstructed paths of migration and then permanently as a result of two acts of Congress. The cessation of immigration led to the gradual transformation of New York’s Jewish community from one largely working class and immigrant in composition into one with an American-born, middle-class majority. As New York Jews entered the middle...

  15. VISUAL ESSAY: An Introduction to the Visual and Material Culture of New York City Jews, 1840–1920
    (pp. 255-288)

    What can a mass-produced postcard tell us about New York City Jewish life? In the late nineteenth century, concurrent with the great exodus of eastern European Jews to the United States, postcard designers and printers created a niche market targeting Jewish consumers, in particular women, offering a range of illustrated cards for Jewish holidays and life-cycle events. Many of the cards pictured Jewish women, except for scenes set in synagogues. These cards brought Jewish women into “the visual universe of Jewish experience,” writes historian Ellen Smith.¹ Women purchased the cards and exchanged them with friends and family, both in America...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 289-324)
    (pp. 325-340)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 341-364)
    (pp. 365-365)