Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present

Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present

Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present

Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present

Excerpt

This book aims to furnish the general reader and the beginning student with a clear, concise, and at the same time, scholarly historical synthesis of the American Jewish experience. An increase in the number of courses in the field in our colleges and universities indicates a noteworthy growth of interest in the field. Some of this newfound enthusiasm is undoubtedly attributable to the general interest in things ethnic. I do not find such motivation illegitimate and hope that in some way this book satisfies that interest. But I am also aware that the field of American Jewish history antedates the general interest in ethnic history. The American Jewish Historical Society was organized in 1892 and has since that time attracted many serious scholars.

The original insights and formulations which are contained in this work are derived from a fresh view of the published original and secondary sources rather than the unearthing of new material. Those familiar with the field will not fail to recognize ideas whose origin can be traced to historians like Jacob Marcus, Bertram Korn, Hyman Grinstein, Rudolf Glanz, and many others. It is these men who have produced the indispensable monographic building blocks on which any synthesis must stand. I think I have read virtually everything they have written and naturally in the process I have reshaped much of what they have said to fit into my own historical perspective. Recognition of their contribution, except where I quote them directly, is confined to the bibliography found at the end of the book. Severe space limitations compelled me to employ an abbreviated form of footnoting. Notes are confined to direct quotations and statistics and to the inclusion of additional data which do not fit into the flow of the narrative.

To state that American Jewish history begins in September, 1654, is neither technically nor conceptually true. To begin at the beginning, we must go back to the mid-fifteenth century to examine life in the Iberian and Polish havens, for it was events in these communities which impinge directly on our story. That means that the history of American Jewry is actually over four centuries old. The fact that it is a comparatively long story that must be told in a limited number of words has compelled me to remain on the surface where I might have wanted to penetrate . . .

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