Jazz Age Jews

Jazz Age Jews

by Michael Alexander
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691116539

ISBN-13: 9780691116532

Pub. Date: 08/11/2003

Publisher: Princeton University Press

By the 1920s, Jews were—by all economic, political, and cultural measures of the day—making it in America. But as these children of immigrants took their places in American society, many deliberately identified with groups that remained excluded. Despite their success, Jews embraced resistance more than acculturation, preferring marginal status to

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Overview

By the 1920s, Jews were—by all economic, political, and cultural measures of the day—making it in America. But as these children of immigrants took their places in American society, many deliberately identified with groups that remained excluded. Despite their success, Jews embraced resistance more than acculturation, preferring marginal status to assimilation.

The stories of Al Jolson, Felix Frankfurter, and Arnold Rothstein are told together to explore this paradox in the psychology of American Jewry. All three Jews were born in the 1880s, grew up around American Jewish ghettos, married gentile women, entered the middle class, and rose to national fame. All three also became heroes to the American Jewish community for their association with events that galvanized the country and defined the Jazz Age. Rothstein allegedly fixed the 1919 World Series—an accusation this book disputes. Frankfurter defended the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. Jolson brought jazz music to Hollywood for the first talking film, The Jazz Singer, and regularly impersonated African Americans in blackface. Each of these men represented a version of the American outsider, and American Jews celebrated them for it.

Michael Alexander's gracefully written account profoundly complicates the history of immigrants in America. It challenges charges that anti-Semitism exclusively or even mostly explains Jews' feelings of marginality, while it calls for a general rethinking of positions that have assumed an immigrant quest for inclusion into the white American mainstream. Rather, Alexander argues that Jewish outsider status stemmed from the group identity Jews brought with them to this country in the form of the theology of exile. Jazz Age Jews shows that most Jews felt culturally obliged to mark themselves as different—and believed that doing so made them both better Jews and better Americans.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691116532
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
08/11/2003
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.68(d)

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION 1

INTERLUDE: JAZZ AGE ECONOMICS 11

PART I. "Biznez Iz Biznez" The Arnol Rothstein Story 13

1. Arnold Rothstein 15

2. Gambling in the Time of Rothstein's Youth 19

3. The Rise of Rothstein 28

4. Financial Crime 40

5. The Black Sox and the Jews 48

6. The Jews React 55

INTERLUDE: JAZZ AGE POLITICS 65

PART II. Frankfurter among the Anarchists "The Case of Sacco an Vanzetti" 69

7. Felix Frankfurter 71

8. The Young Progressive 76

9. Zion and Cambridge 88

10. Sacco and Vanzetti 96

11. Aftermath 119

INTERLUDE: JAZZ AGE CULTURE 127

PART III. "Mammy, Don't You Know Me?" Al Jolson an the Jews 131

12. Al Jolson 133

13. Asa Yoelson Discovers the Theater 139

14. Jewish Minstrelsy Emerges 144

15. Blackface Arrives on Broadway 150

16. The Jews on Tin Pan Alley 155

17. The Jazz Singer 167

CONCLUSION JAZZ AGE JEWS 180

NOTES 185

BIBLIOGRAPHY 215

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 227

INDEX 229

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