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Look Inside Jewish Immigrants and American Capitalism, 1880–1920

Jewish Immigrants and American Capitalism, 1880–1920
From Caste to Class


  • Date Published: May 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521730235

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About the Authors
  • Eli Lederhendler's Jewish Immigrants and American Capitalism, 1880–1920: From Caste to Class reexamines the immigration of Russian Jews to the United States around the turn of the 20th century – a group that accounted for 10 to 15 percent of immigrants to the United States between 1899 and 1920 – challenging and revising common assumptions concerning the ease of their initial adaptation and image as a 'model' immigrant minority. Lederhendler demonstrates that the characteristics for which Jewish immigrants are commonly known – their industriousness, 'middle-class' domestic habits, and political sympathy for the working class – were, in fact, developed in response to their new situation in the United States. This experience realigned Jewish social values and restored to these immigrants a sense of status, honor, and a novel kind of social belonging, and with it the 'social capital' needed to establish a community quite different from the ones they came from.

    • Cuts across multiple disciplines, as it relates to studies in: modern Jewish history, American labor history, ethnic and immigrant group behaviour, class and mobility in migrant groups, and east European history
    • Focuses on the importance of class in the formation of new identities, joining a growing trend in recent historiography
    • Overturns long-held assumptions that Jews enjoyed a job-specific advantage in prior skills, arguing instead that their class position was instrumental in making them into Americans
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The level of scholarship is superb … This is an outstanding, original study that will, quite possibly, fundamentally change the way we think about American Jewish history.' Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    'Eli Lederhendler's new book is ambitious and provocative. It ask us to rethink the mass migration of East European Jews to the United States, their encounter with American capitalism, and their subsequent integration into the middle class. Refreshingly, Lederhendler questions the utility of invoking formulas centered on identity politics and urges us to instead reconsider the impact of material circumstances on immigrant life. This is a bracing challenge to the cultural studies approach to ethnicity and immigration.' Todd M. Endelman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521730235
    • length: 248 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 153 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 1 map 7 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Down and out in eastern Europe
    2. Being an immigrant: ideal, ordeal, and opportunities
    3. Becoming an (ethnic) American: from class to ideology

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • History of the Jews in the Modern Period
    • Immigration and Ethnicity
    • Judaism as a Religious Civilization
  • Author

    Eli Lederhendler, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Eli Lederhendler teaches at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is the current head of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry and holds the Stephen S. Wise Chair in American Jewish History and Institutions. He is the author of several books, including The Road to Modern Jewish Politics (1989), winner of the National Jewish Book Award, and New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity 1950–1970 (2001), winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award. He is also co-editor of the annual journal Studies in Contemporary Jewry and has edited and contributed to scholarly publications in Israel and the United States.

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