Chosen Capital: The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism

Chosen Capital: The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism

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Rutgers University Press

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Chosen Capital: The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism

At which moments and in which ways did Jews play a central role in the development of American capitalism? Many popular writers address the intersection of Jews and capitalism, but few scholars, perhaps fearing this question’s anti-Semitic overtones, have pondered it openly. Chosen Capital represents the first historical collection devoted to this question in its analysis of the ways in which Jews in North America shaped and were shaped by America’s particular system of capitalism. Jews fundamentally molded aspects of the economy during the century when American capital was being redefined by industrialization, war, migration, and the emergence of the United States as a superpower.

Surveying such diverse topics as Jews’ participation in the real estate industry, the liquor industry, and the scrap metal industry, as well as Jewish political groups and unions bent on reforming American capital, such as the American Labor Party and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, contributors to this volume provide a new prism through which to view the Jewish encounter with America. The volume also lays bare how American capitalism reshaped Judaism itself by encouraging the mass manufacturing and distribution of foods like matzah and the transformation of synagogue cantors into recording stars. These essays force us to rethink not only the role Jews played in American economic development but also how capitalism has shaped Jewish life and Judaism over the course of the twentieth century.



Marni Davis, Georgia State University

Phyllis Dillon, independent documentary producer, textile conservator, museum curator

Andrew Dolkart, Columbia University

Andrew Godley, Henley Business School, University of Reading

Jonathan Karp, executive director, American Jewish Historical Society

Daniel Katz, Empire State College, State University of New York

Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

David S. Koffman, New York University

Eli Lederhendler, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Jonathan Z. S. Pollack, University of Wisconsin—Madison

Jonathan D. Sarma, Brandeis University

Jeffrey Shandler, Rutgers University

Daniel Soyer, Fordham University

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813553085
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 08/20/2012
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 17 - 18 Years

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Note on Orthography and Transliteration ix

Part I Reframing the Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism

Introduction. The Chosen People in the Chosen Land: The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism Rebecca Kobrin 1

1 Two Exceptionalisms: Points of Departure for Studies of Capitalism and Jews in the United States Ira Katznelson 12

Part II Jewish Niches in the American Economy

2 The Evolution of the Jewish Garment Industry, 1840-1940 Phyllis Dillon Andrew Godley 35

3 From the Rag Trade to Riches: Abraham E. Lefcourt and the Development of New York's Garment District Andrew S. Dolkart 62

4 Success from Scrap and Secondhand Goods: Jewish Businessmen in the Midwest, 1890-1930 Jonathan Z. S. Pollack 93

5 Despised Merchandise: American Jewish Liquor Entrepreneurs and Their Critics Marni Davis 113

6 Blacks, Jews, and the Business of Race Music, 1945-1955 Jonathan Karp 141

7 Jews, American Indian Curios, and the Westward Expansion of Capitalism David S. Koffman 168

Part III Jews and the Politics of American Capitalism

8 The Multicultural Front: A Yiddish Socialist Response to Sweatshop Capitalism Daniel Katz 189

9 Making Peace with Capitalism? Jewish Socialism Enters the Mainstream, 1933-1944 Daniel Soyer 215

10 A Jewish "Third Way" to American Capitalism: Isaac Rivkind and the Conservative-Communitarian Ideal Eli Leaderhendler 234

Part IV Selling Judaism: Capitalism and Reshaping of Jewish Religious Culture

11 Sanctification of the Brand Name: The Marketing of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt Jeffrey Shandler 255

12 How Matzah Became Square: Manischewitz and the Development of Machine-Made Matzah in the United States Jonathan D. Sarna 272

Contributors 289

Index 293

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