The Jewish Immigrant Experience in America


Conference Schedule

(All events will take place in the Great Hall, Somerville House)

Registration (2:00PM-5:00PM)


Harvey Frommer
and Myrna Katz Frommer - Growing Up Jewish in America: History Observed Through the Lens of Individual Memory
Oral histories summon to life the Jewish immigrant experience spanning the decades and crossing the continent. In compelling and immediate memoirs, dreams and dilemmas, struggles and strivings are recalled by those who left the often repressive, insecure environments of the Old World for the freedoms and possibilities of the New.

Registration and breakfast (8:00AM-9:00AM)

SESSIONS (9:00AM-5:00PM)


Hasia R. Diner - Wandering Jews: Peddlers, Immigrants, and the Jewish "Discovery" of America
This paper, part of a larger research project, explores the ways in which peddling served as the engine which shaped Jewish immigration to America, as it did to so many other places. How did the very nature of the livelihood, in its American form, impact upon patterns of Jewish
integration and community building?

Jeffrey Gurock - The Challenge of a New World of American Sports
A comprehensive understanding of the immigrant Jewish encounter with American culture must address the challenge of athleticism. This country's embrace of physicality and athletics required a major attitudinal adjustment on the part of newcomers, a change that many resisted. The interest in sports by the children of immigrants was a source of inter-generational conflict, an issue for both secular and religious communal leaders.

BREAK (10:15-10:30)


Ira Robinson - Anshe Sfard: the Creation of the First Hasidic Congregations in North America
In this paper, I will examine the Hasidic immigration to North America by taking a look at the formation of the first Hasidic congregations in North America in the period 1880-1940. In particular, the paper will investigate the innovative approach of "Nusach Sfard" congregations in appropriating Hasidic elements in their liturgies without immediate contact with Hasidic rebbes. It will also investigate the relationship between the "Nusach Sfard" congregations and the first Hasidic rabbis in North America.

Jack Glazier - Jewish Life Transformed: The Sephardic Experience in the American Midwest
The Sephardic experience in the United States over the course of the twentieth century is emblematic in part of the encounter of other European-derived minorities with American life. Yet Sephardim suffered a double burden of difference, placing them outside both the American cultural mainstream and the Ashkenazic Jewish majority. The adaptation of the Sephardic community of Indianapolis to their double burden is explored.

LUNCH (11:45-1:30)

A world premiere screening of the documentary And These Are Jews, by Ruth Goldman

Physics and Astronomy Building, Room 215.



Joseph Berger - Displaced Persons: How the Holocaust Survivors Rebuilt Their Lives in America

While volumes have been written about the Holocaust, comparatively little has been written about how the survivors rebuilt their lives in the United States, Canada, Israel, and elsewhere. And it is a triumphant story. In the United States, 140,000 survivors of the Holocaust came here between 1946 and 1953--most of them penniless, many still in the depths of grief over entire families they had lost. Yet they were able within a few decades to achieve a sturdy foothold, enter the middle class, and send their children to college and beyond and into lives as successful professionals and business people. Theirs were lives that included merriment as well as mourning. The day-to day story of what those years were like is a lesson in human resilience worth telling.

Henry Feingold - What Can We Learn From Our Immigration Codas? The German Jewish Refugees of the Thirties and the Soviet Drop-Outs of the Seventies and Eighties
In the world of music, a coda is the final section of a composition which usually repeats themes and motifs to signal the culmination of the piece. It can play a similar role in history. The pushes and pulls that brought these two refugee cohorts to the U.S. are different than those that brought their parent generation. The pushes were generated by totalitarian regimes shaped by a lethal politicized anti-Semitism. This paper probes those differences and similarities, and pays special attention to the role American Jewry played in "rescuing" their brethren. Although the crises were different, that role can serve as a measure of communal viability. The paper concludes on a hopeful note by revealing that American Jewry performed much better during the Soviet emigration than during the refugee crisis of the thirties.

BREAK (2:45-3:00)


Joyce Antler - Revisiting "My Yiddishe Mama": Exploring the Representations of Immigrant Mothers in Popular Culture and "Real" Life
This paper explores the contradictory representations of immigrant mothers in the popular and political culture of the 1920s and 1930s, including songs, fiction, films, memoirs, essays, and letters (including the famous "Bintel Brief"). These paradoxical images illuminate the full range of immigrant responses to the challenges of modernity.

Shuly Rubin Schwartz - "The Finest Type of American Womanhood": Cultivating Conservative Jewish Women
Conservative Judaism emerged in mid twentieth-century America as a popular vehicle for the children of eastern European immigrants to identify as Jews. Women played a vital role in the growth and blossoming of the Movement through their work in local Sisterhoods, their involvement in Women's League for Conservative Judaism, and their achievements as Jewish educators. This paper will explore the ways in which Conservative Jewish female leaders both utilized and challenged gender roles to further the goals of the Movement for both women and men.





Harvey Frommer
is a professor in the Master of Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College. He is the co-author of five oral histories: It Happened in the Catskills (Harcourt Brace, 1991; University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), It Happened in Brooklyn (Harcourt Brace, 1993; University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), Growing Up Jewish in America (Harcourt Brace, 1995; University of Nebraska Press, 1999), It Happened on Broadway (Harcourt Brace, 1998; University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), and It Happened in Manhattan (Berkley/Putnam, 2001). Frommer is also a sports historian and journalist whose thirty-five books include biographies of Nolan Ryan, Red Holzman, and Tony Dorsett, New York City Baseball (Macmillan, 1980; Harcourt Brace, 1992; University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball (Taylor, 1992, 1993), and Red Sox vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry (Sports Publishing, 2004).

Myrna Katz Frommer
is a professor in the Master of Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College. She is the co-author of five oral histories: It Happened in the Catskills (Harcourt Brace, 1991; University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), It Happened in Brooklyn (Harcourt Brace, 1993; University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), Growing Up Jewish in America (Harcourt Brace, 1995; University of Nebraska Press, 1999), It Happened on Broadway (Harcourt Brace, 1998; University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), and It Happened in Manhattan (Berkley/Putnam, 2001). Katz Frommer is also the author of Always Up Front: the Memoirs of Helen Fried Kirshblum Goldstein (Gefen Books, 2005), and numerous articles, many on Jewish history, life, and culture, in Haaretz, the New York Times, Midstream, the Forward, Jewish Women in America, and the Jewish Monthly.


Joyce Antler is the Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, where she teaches courses in the American Studies Department. Her many books include The Journey Home: Jewish Women and the American Century (The Free Press, 1997), America and I: Short Stories by American-Jewish Women Writers (Beacon Press, 1991), and Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture (Brandeis University Press, 1998).

Joseph Berger is a reporter and editor with the New York Times. Born in Russia to Holocaust survivors who immigrated to America in 1950, Berger is the author of the memoir Displaced Persons: Growing Up American After the Holocaust (Washington Square Press, 2001).

Hasia R. Diner is the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University. Her books include In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977; reissued 1995); A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820-1880 (The Jewish  America (Princeton University Press, 2000), and Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, & Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration (Harvard University Press, 2001), Her Works Praise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present (with Beryl Lieff Benderly)(Basic Books/Perseus Books, 2002), and A New Promised Land: A History of Jews in America (Oxford University Press, 2003)

Henry L. Feingold is Professor of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and the Director of the Jewish Resource Center of Baruch College. He is the author or editor of more than 10 books. His most recent books include A Time for Searching: Entering the Mainstream, 1920-1945 (The Jewish People in America series, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), Bearing Witness: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust (Syracuse University Press, 1995), and Lest Memory Cease: Finding Meaning in the American Jewish Past (Syracuse University Press, 1996).

Jack Glazier is Professor of Anthropology, and Department Chair at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Prior to exploring Jewish subjects, he wrote extensively on a rural community in Kenya, where he conducted anthropological fieldwork. Ethnohistorical research in Indianapolis led to his study of the Industrial Removal Office and the publication of Dispersing the Ghetto: The Relocation of Jewish Immigrants Across America (Cornell University Press, 1998). His current field research centres on African American life in western Kentucky.

Jeffrey Gurock is Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University, New York. He is the author or editor of 13 books. The most recent of these include A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community: Mordecai M. Kaplan, Orthodoxy, and American Judaism (with Jacob J. Schacter)(Columbia University Press, 1997), and the eight-volume series American Jewish History (Routledge, 1998). His latest work is Judaism's Encounter with American Sports (Indiana University Press, 2005).

Ira Robinson is Professor of Judaic Studies in the Department of Religion at Concordia University, Montreal. He is the author of over 40 articles. Fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Yiddish, he is also the translator of many works. His most recent edited or co-edited volumes include The Interaction of Scientific and Jewish Cultures in Modern Times (Edwin Mellen Press, 1994), Renewing Our Days: Montreal Jews in the Twentieth Century (Vehicule Press, 1995), Juifs et Canadiens Francais dans la societe Quebecoise (Septentrion, 2000), and Not Written in Stone: Jews, Constitutions and Constitutionalism in Canada (University of Ottawa Press, 2003).

Shuly Rubin Schwartz
is Irving Lehrman Research Assistant Professor of American Jewish History and the Dean of the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. She is the author of numerous articles on modern Jewish life in America. Her books include The Emergence of Jewish Scholarship in America: The Publication of the Jewish Encyclopedia (Hebrew Union College Press, 1991) and the forthcoming The Rabbi's Wife: The Rebbetzin in American Jewish Life (New York University Press).



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Travel and Accommodation Information

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