Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Jews in Gotham

Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City, 1920-2010

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 368
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Jews in Gotham
    Book Description:

    Jews in Gothamfollows the Jewish saga in ever-changing New York City from the end of the First World War into the first decade of the new millennium. This lively portrait details the complex dynamics that caused Jews to persist, abandon, or be left behind in their neighborhoods during critical moments of the past century. It shows convincingly that New York retained its preeminence as the capital of American Jews because of deep roots in local worlds.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3882-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  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. Prologue: Neighborhood Dreams and Urban Promises
    (pp. 1-7)

    Shoshana and Yoel Borgenicht believe deeply in the promises that New York City offers young Jews in the twenty-first century. They feel comfortable in their safe and secure neighborhood, where they are earning their livelihoods, raising their children, and living among Jews while sharing with others the best the metropolis has to offer. Their successful search for such a wholesome environment began in 2006 when they embarked on the quintessential Jewish New York journey, a common quest by families dating back generations, to find the right place to live in close proximity to the city’s major financial, commercial, and cultural...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Building and Sustaining Common Ground
    (pp. 9-37)

    New York had always been a walker’s city. Strollers loved passing friends on neighborhood avenues. Window shopping, a favored pastime, drew crowds during holiday seasons. Customers journeyed by foot in and out of stores across wide expanses of commercial districts in search of bargains. Residents and visitors enjoyed perambulating as they took in the sights and sounds of the metropolis’s entertainments even if a bus, trolley, or in more recent decades, a subway had brought them close to their destinations. But, in 1919, a disgruntled New Yorker told state officials that “her shoes had been worn out” beating the pavement...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Friends or Ideologues
    (pp. 39-71)

    Born in 1928, Adolph Schayes grew up on Davidson Avenue and 183rd Street, off Fordham Road and near Jerome Avenue in the West Bronx. For “Dolph,” the son of Romanian immigrant parents, his neighborhood turf was the local asphalt-covered playgrounds. There he honed basketball skills that brought him honors at Mosholu Parkway’s DeWitt Clinton High School and earned him a scholarship to New York University. He stayed at home because NYU’s uptown campus was merely a short bus ride away at University Heights. After graduation, he capitalized on his athletic prowess in the early postwar years, becoming one of Association....

  9. CHAPTER 3 During Catastrophe and Triumph
    (pp. 73-99)

    Jews of New York lived at the center where American Jewish responses emerged to the cataclysmic events that decimated their people in the decade of the Holocaust. Their location placed them in the midst of decisions leading to the rise of the State of Israel. More than any community in America, New York was the hub of national Jewish organizational life. Hundreds of Jewish political, social, and religious groups, across the broadest of spectrums, had offices in the metropolis. Although the seat of American government was 250 miles away, seemingly all major deputations to influence leaders in Washington, D.C., originated...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Élan of a Jewish City
    (pp. 101-125)

    Jewish GI Eddie Zwern grew up on the Grand Concourse, but World War II found him stationed briefly in California en route to the Pacific theater. Zwern discovered a new land of promise in a sun-bathed milieu far removed from the harsh New York winters of his youth. He vowed to return should he survive military service. Upon discharge, true to his word, he hustled back to the Golden State. His wife, Pauline, soon followed, and quickly they became boosters of life in Los Angeles, a city bursting with economic opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs. Although the couple initially settled in...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Crises and Contention
    (pp. 127-149)

    When Molly Berg wanted America to feel the vibrancy of New York Jewish neighborhood life, she projected 1038 East Tremont Avenue as the quintessential windows-open, door-unlocked, Bronx apartment-house community. Helen Lazarcheck, who really lived in that area, felt that warm embrace. “Everyone seemed to help one another. If there was trouble, everyone would do something for you if they could. They were always coming in and sharing what they had.” Not that the Jews of East Tremont agreed on political issues. “The Yiddishist and Hebraist each had his following, with a supporting system of cultural clubs, bookstores, debating societies,” as...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Amid Decline and Revival
    (pp. 151-183)

    With the eyes of millions of viewers coast-to-coast on the screen watching the second game of the World Series, commentator Howard Cosell looked beyond the diamond to the view outside Yankee Stadium: “Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced in his acerbic fashion, “The Bronx is burning!” A controversial Jewish sports commentator who saw himself as a transcendent social critic, Cosell prided himself on telling it “like it is.” So although he misidentified the source of the conflagration—he said it was an apartment building, but it was an abandoned school—Cosell, with a mien of extreme gravitas, pointed out to the...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Renewed Activism
    (pp. 185-209)

    When Congresswoman Bella Abzug ran for mayor in 1977, she understood the frustrations her generation of New York Jews felt toward their native city’s faltering promises. To a great extent, she shared their values and experiences. A child of the working class, she had earned her labor bona fides Saturdays at her father’s butcher shop, the Live and Let Live Meat Market on Ninth Avenue, in the Meatpacking District. A product of the South Bronx during its Jewish interwar heyday, she lived at home while attending Hunter College. Like so many who shared her roots, the “abandonment” and “debris around...

  14. Epilogue: In a New Millennium
    (pp. 211-222)

    At the turn of the millennium, New York Jews exuded confidence about their place in the city. Despite decades of economic distress and racial conflict, Gotham appeared poised to fulfill its promises once again. Young Jewish professionals participated actively in neighborhood gentrification, both in Manhattan and the outer boroughs, that revived during the Wall Street boom of the 1990s. Sounding like Jews of earlier eras, those who helped restore “the Brooklyn brownstone belt” of Fort Greene or Dumbo (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass) areas bragged that it took only fifteen minutes to reach their managerial or executive jobs in...

  15. VISUAL ESSAY: An Introduction to the Visual and Material Culture of New York City Jews, 1920–2010
    (pp. 223-254)

    In 2005, German-born Jewish photographer Julian Voloj went searching for architectural elements, historical objects, and urban ruins that hinted at traces of New York City’s rich Jewish heritage that had become obscured over time. He sought to create a visual catalog of what had been and what still exists today. Voloj assigns to us a task, if so inspired, to join his search for material remnants and to rediscover the vestiges of New York’s Jewish past that remain potent in our time.¹

    Literally, Voloj’s search sent him high and low, and he found himself up on the rooftop of Ahavas...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 255-290)
    (pp. 291-306)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 307-326)
    (pp. 327-327)