Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City, 1920-2010

Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City, 1920-2010

Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City, 1920-2010

Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City, 1920-2010

Synopsis

Jews in Gotham follows the Jewish saga in ever-changing New York City from the end of the First World War into the first decade of the new millennium. This lively portrait details the complex dynamics that caused Jews to persist, abandon, or be left behind in their neighborhoods during critical moments of the past century. It shows convincingly that New York retained its preeminence as the capital of American Jews because of deep roots in local worlds.

Excerpt

“[O]f all the big cities,” Sergeant Milton Lehman of the Stars and Stripes affirmed in 1945, “New York is still the promised land.” As a returning Jewish GI, Lehman compared New York with European cities. Other Jews also knew what New York offered that made it so desirable, even if they had not served overseas. First and foremost, security: Jews could live without fear in New York. Yes, they faced discrimination, but in this city of almost eight million residents, many members of its ethnic and religious groups encountered prejudice. Jews contended with anti-Semitism in the twentieth century more than German Protestants or Irish Catholics dealt with bias, perhaps; but the Irish had endured a lot in the nineteenth century, and Jews suffered less than African Americans, Latinos, and Asian New Yorkers. And New York provided more than security: Jews could live freely as Jews. The presence of a diverse population of close to two million New York Jews contributed to their sense that “everyone was Jewish.” New York Jews understood that there were many ways to be Jewish. The city welcomed Jews in all their variety. New York Jews saw the city as a place where they, too, could flourish and express themselves. As a result, they came to identify with the city, absorbing its ethos even as they helped to shape its urban characteristics. When World War II ended in Europe with victory over Nazi Germany, New York’s promises glowed more brightly still.

New York’s multiethnic diversity, shaped in vital dimensions by its large Jewish population, shimmered as a showplace of American democratic distinctiveness, especially vis-à-vis Europe. In contrast to a continent that had become a vast slaughterhouse, where millions of European Jews had been ruthlessly murdered with industrial efficiency, New York glistened as a city Jews could and did call their home in America. The famous skyline had defined urban cosmopolitanism in the years after World War I. Now the city’s thriving ethnic neighborhoods—Jewish and Catholic, African American and Puerto Rican, Italian and Irish—came to represent modern urban culture. New York’s economy responded robustly to demands of war production. By the end of hostilities, its per capita income exceeded the national average by 14 percent.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.