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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

"Well argues and thoughtfully presented, this study should prompt further debate about US immigration and the nature of cultural adaptation. Recommended." -Choice

Eli Lederhendler presents a historical analysis of the transformation in the economic lives of eastern European Jewry, primarily from the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire to the American scene." -Barry R. Chiswick, Journal of American Ethnic History

" important, thoughtful, and very readable challenge to conventional explanations of immigrant Eastern European Jews' adaptation to American society." -Karen Brodkin, Shofar

"...monographic essay of signal importance for a field not under consideration here: American Jewish history." -Kenneth B. Moss, The Journal of Modern History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521730235
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

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

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