A CENTURY OF JEWISH LIFE IN AMERICA
The huge migrations taking place between 1820 and 1924 profoundly shaped Jewish life in America. Yet great differences marked the beginning of this century and the end, which bore witness to the emergence of modern America and modern Judaism. At the beginning of this hundred-year period, most American Jews lived in a string of older East Coast cities, with a few small outposts of Jewish life starting to crop up beyond the Appalachian Mountains. By the 1920s, although one city—New York—served as the home to the largest Jewish community, housing about 4 5 percent of all American Jews, Jews lived in almost every one of the forty-eight states of the union. They created large enclaves in every city, particularly, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. They also lived in smaller Jewish communities in hundreds of towns in New England, the Midwest, the Deep South, and the West.
In the beginning of the period no rabbi lived in America. For decades young men interested in the rabbinate had to travel to Europe to be educated and ordained. By the 1920s several rabbinical seminaries in Cincinnati and New York were ordaining Jewish men as rabbis and cantors, and they certified teachers, both female and male. These seminaries represented yet another dramatic novelty, the creation of denominations within American Judaism. One could find Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues throughout American cities. These synagogues established not only schools to train rabbis but also congrega