My warmest thanks go out to a number of people who made this book possible. They all made a real difference, and I am indebted to them for what they have taught me. Their help and encouragement at each stage of the process sustained me and helped me to tell a complicated story about a group of people who prided themselves on their contentiousness and diversity.
It goes without saying that one volume hardly does justice to the narrative of this group. Synthesis, by definition, leaves out, collapses, and generalizes. The individuals whose names I cite here pointed out to me the implications of my decisions about what I would, and, more important, what I would not, include. They indicated that I needed to broaden and complicate what I had written and showed me how and where to do that. Even when I could not fully follow their words of counsel, owing to the limitations of space, I learned much from their admonitions.
I would like to thank David Sorkin first. I was thrilled that he, as the editor of this series published by the University of California Press, chose me to write this book. I am proud that he asked me to join Paula Hyman, who wrote on the Jews of modern France, and Todd Endelman, whose book about England's Jews provided me with models. That David offered me this project would have been an honor in and of itself. But I am particularly grateful that he gave me the opportunity to try my hand at crafting a unique overview of American Jewish history. In my teaching at New York University I have played with some of the concepts and ideas that emerge in these pages. Putting them into written words proved