American Jewish Historical Society

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JUNE 15-17, 2010

New York City

Sponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society

Hosted by the Center for Jewish History

Hotel Accommodations
Conference Program
East Side Soap Box
Shahn, Ben (1898-1969) © VAGA, NY. East Side Soap Box, 1936. Gouache on paper, 18 1/2 x 12 1/4 in. (47 x 31.1 cm). Purchase: Deana Bezark Fund in memory of Leslie Bezark; Mrs. Jack N. Berkman, Susan and Arthur Fleischer, Dr. Jack Allen and Shirley Kapland, Hanni and Peter Kaufmann, Hyman L. and Joan C. Sall Funds, and Margaret Goldstein Bequest, 1995-61. Photo by John Parnell. The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, U.S.A. © The Jewish Museum, NY / Art Resource, NY

The 2010 Biennial Scholars' Conference on American Jewish History will examine the notion of American Jewish "exceptionalism," or uniqueness that has shaped conceptions of American Jewish history from its beginning.

According to many historical accounts, American Jews have enjoyed an unparalleled degree of freedom, acceptance, and prosperity throughout their history in the United States. This has enabled Jews to blend their ethnic identities with the demands of American citizenship far more easily than other diasporic Jews. At the same time, the notion of American Jewish exceptionalism holds that Jews have differed from other ethnic groups in the United States by virtue of their educational and economic attainment and, often, by virtue of Jewish "values," including a devotion to educational and social/political liberalism.

Yet to what extent are these notions about American uniqueness, on the one hand, and Jewish uniqueness, on the other, accurate? Does the concept of exceptionalism continue to provide a useful framework for understanding American Jewish history? Should it be qualified for greater nuance or discarded altogether?

Papers will be given by a range of prominent academics and doctoral candidates from around the U.S., Canada, and Israel. The keynote will be offered by Professor David Sorkin and an evening roundtable will feature the esteemed U.S. historians Jon Butler and Ira Katznelson in dialogue with Beth Wenger and Rebecca Kobrin, outstanding scholars in the field of American Jewish history. A pre-conference tour of Harlem will be led by Professor Jeffrey Gurock. A tour of the Tenement Museum led by Annie Polland is optional at the conclusion of the conference.

Tony Michels, Chair
Lila Corwin Berman
Eric Goldstein
Jeffrey Gurock
Annie Polland
Beth Wenger
Larry Zuckerman


Please print the registration form and return via PDF to or by fax: 212-294-6161; or by mail: AJHS / 15 West 16th Street / NY, NY 10011.

LOCATION: Center for Jewish History; 15 West 16th Street (btw. 5th and 6th Ave.), New York City

Tuesday, June 15th - Thursday, June 17th 2010
$205; $125 for students

Conference Day Rates:
June 15 $85
June 16 $100
June 17 $20

Student Rate
June 15 $50
June 16 $65
June 17 $10

Includes all sessions (except optional Harlem tour) and the following:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

9:00-1:00: Optional tour of Harlem with Dr. Jeffrey Gurock (meet at CJH at 8:30 am)

2:00-3:30: Session 1

Anti-racism, Anti-psychiatry, and the Birth of American Feminism

Chair: Kirsten Fermaglich (Michigan State University)

The Persistence of Memory: Jewish Women Tackle Race
Debra L. Schultz (Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Jewish Feminism Confronts "the Jewish Science": Madness and the Women's Movement in the 1960s-1970s
Michael E. Staub (Baruch College, City University of New York)

"Ready to turn the World Upside Down": Radical Feminism and Jewish Identity
Joyce Antler (Brandeis University)

Comment: Kirsten Fermaglich

Re-thinking the Relationship of American Jews to Zionism in the 20th Century

Chair: Noam Pianko (University of Washington)

Between Exceptionalism and Chosenness: America and Zion in the Worldviews of Hayim Greenberg and Stephen S. Wise
Mark A. Raider (University of Cincinnati)

American Diaspora Zionism and Its Struggle for Ideological Survival after Israel's Foundation
Ofer Schiff (Ben-Gurion University)

National Identity, Cultural Revival, and National Struggle: The World Jewish Congress, American Jewry and the Challenge of Jewish Diaspora in the Shadow of the Holocaust
Zohar Segev (University of Haifa)

3:30-4:00: Break

4:00-5:30: Session 2

Presenting American Jewish History on Independence Mall: A Roundtable Discussion

Moderator: Annie Polland (Tenement Museum)

Pamela S. Nadell (American University)
Joshua Perelman (National Museum of American Jewish History)
Beth Wenger (University of Pennsylvania)

Center and Periphery: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Jews and Commerce

Chair: Lee Shai Weissbach (University of Louisville)

Port Jews and Plantation Jews: Carolina/Caribbean Connections
Dale Rosengarten (College of Charleston Library)

The Rag Race: Jews and the International Trade in Castoff Clothing
Adam Mendelsohn (College of Charleston)

East European Jews, Financial Failure and the Reshaping of American Capitalism, 1914-1930
Rebecca Kobrin (Columbia University)

6:00: Reception Sponsored by Adam Matthew Digital. Adam Matthew Digital

7:30: Harry Elson Memorial Lecture
Beyond Exceptionalism: American Jewry as a Port Jewry
Professor David Sorkin (University of Wisconsin)

Chair: Tony Michels (University of Wisconsin)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

9:00-10:30: Session 1

Religious Liberalism, Ethnic Patriotism, and Progressive Education

Chair: Hasia R. Diner (New York University)

The "Good Opinion of Gentiles": Reform Judaism in Nineteenth-Century Boston
Susan L. Porter (Brandeis University)

Ethnic Patriotism: Comparing Jewish and Irish Strategies of Identity Formation in Boston, 1900-1919
Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan (Boston College)

"An Environment of Our Own Making": the Jewish Educational Summer Camp, 1919-1940
Jonathan Krasner (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion)

Comment: Hasia R. Diner

The Sound of the Jewish Avant-Garde: "Radical Jewish Culture" on New York City's Experimental Music Scene

Chair: Evan Rapport (The New School)

Radical Jewish Culture: An Interrogation of Musical Language
Tamar Barzel (Wellesley College)

New York Jewish Memories: Klezmer and Lower East Side Traces in Radical Jewish Culture
Mathias Dreyfuss (Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme and the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, Paris)

Unorthodoxy and Mysticism in Radical Jewish Culture: Reactivating Underground Currents
RaphaŽl Sigal (New York University)

Comment: Evan Rapport

10:30-11:00: Break

11:00-12:30: Session 2

People of the Picture Window: History, Authenticity, and the Power of Place in Postwar Jewish Suburbanization

Chair: Riv-Ellen Prell (University of Minnesota)

The Useful Jewish Past and the Path Away from the Postwar City
Lila Corwin Berman (Temple University)

"Refusing the Flood of Uniformity": Jewish Anxieties over Conformity in Postwar Suburbia
Rachel Kranson (New York University)

"Introduction to Judaism" Texts: Learning to Possess Religion in Postwar American Suburbia
Rachel Gordan (Harvard University)

Comment: Riv-Ellen Prell

Jews, Wars, and Foreign Affairs

Chair: Larry Zuckerman (Columbia University)

On a Mission to Defeat Russia: Jacob H. Schiff's Involvement in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-05
Mina Muraoka (Brandeis University)

American Jews and the Politics of Pogroms and Relief: The JDC, the ARA, and American Foreign Policy in Eastern Europe, 1919-21
Sonja P. Wentling (Concordia College)

The Zionist in City Hall: Mayor Robert F. Wagner against Washington
Jeffrey Taffet (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy)

Comment: Larry Zuckerman

12:30-2:00: Box Lunch provided

1:00-1:45: National Endowment for the Humanities Workshop

David Weinstein, Senior Program Officer in the Division of Public Programs of the NEH will provide an overview of NEH grant programs, offer news and initiatives from the agency, and present tips for crafting a successful application. He will also discuss opportunities to serve as peer reviewers of NEH applications. There will be time for questions and discussion.

2:00-3:30: Session 3

The Yiddish Press as a Kaleidoscope of American Jewish Life

Chair: Daniel Soyer (Fordham University)

"Shlogn kapores with Slit Skirts!" Using Jewish Religious Allusions in Non-Religious Contexts by the Yiddish Press
Shelby Shapiro (Independent Scholar)

Picturing Jews: Images, Cartoons, and the Jewish Immigrant Experience
Eddy Portnoy (Rutgers University)

The Reaction of the Yiddish Press in the United States to Immigration Restriction, 1921-1924
Rachel Rojanski (University of Haifa)

Comment: Daniel Soyer

Utopias and Ambivalence: The Jewish American Worlds of Mordecai Noah, Gertrude Berg and Clifford Odets, 1825-1940

Chair: Donald Weber (Mount Holyoke College)

"The Way Life Should Be": Gertrude Berg's Jewish-American Utopia
Rosalin Krieger (University of Toronto)

"In a Free and Powerful Country": Mordecai Noah's Utopia and Jewish-American Identity, 1818-1845
Justin Nordstrom (Penn State-Hazleton)

Performing Utopia: Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing!
Ted Merwin (Dickinson College)

Comment: Donald Weber

3:30-4:00: Break

4:00-5:30: Session 4

Gender, Race, and Anti-Communism

Chair: Melissa Klapper (Rowan University)

'A Herd of Independent Minds?' Jewish Intellectuals and the Formation of Masculine Cold War Liberalism
Ronnie Grinberg (Northwestern University)

Jewish Anti-Communists and American Racial Politics
Jennifer Glaser (University of Cincinnati)

Comment: Melissa Klapper

New Research on American Jewish Responses to Nazism and the Holocaust

Chair: David Greenberg (Rutgers University)

Doctors and Refugees: Dr. David Edsall's Campaign to Help Jewish Refugee Physicians 1933-1942
Laurel Leff (Northeastern University)

Behind the Scenes at Meetings between Jewish Leaders and President Roosevelt, 1942-1944
Rafael Medoff (The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies)

The Rescue Activities of the Va'ad ha-Hatzala in 1944-45
Karen Sutton (Touro College)

Comment: David Greenberg

5:30-7:30: Dinner Break on your own

7:30-9:00: Roundtable: Is American Jewish History "Exceptional"?

Moderator: Aristide Zolberg (The New School)

Jon Butler (Yale University)
Ira Katznelson (Columbia University)
Rebecca Kobrin (Columbia University)
Beth Wenger (University of Pennsylvania)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

9:00-10:30: Session 1

American Jewish Exceptionalism: Considerations and Critiques

Chair: Daniel Greene (The Newberry Library)

American Exceptionalism: Historiographic Dimensions of a Jewish Dogma
Alan Levenson (University of Oklahoma)

The Americanization of Zionism or the "Zionization" of America?
Noam Pianko (University of Washington)

Is America "Different?"
Tony Michels (University of Wisconsin)

Comment: Daniel Greene

Reinventing Community on America's Pacific Edge

Chair: Adam Mendelsohn (College of Charleston)

Location, Location, Location: Landscapes and Jewish Identity on America's Pacific Edge
Ava F. Kahn (California Studies Center)

The Peopling of Pacific Coast Jewry during the Period of "Mass Migration"
Ellen Eisenberg (Willamette University)

Mark K. Bauman (Editor, Southern Jewish History)
Hasia R. Diner (New York University)

10:30-11:00: Break

11:00-12:30: Session 2

New Research on Immigration and Americanization

Chair: Alan Kraut (American University)

Re-evaluating the Causes of the Mass Jewish Migration to the Unites States, 1875-1914
Gur Alroey (University of Haifa)

American Responses to the Romanian Jewish Refugee Crisis, 1900-1902
Lara Rabinovitch (New York University)

"What English Can Do For You": Jewish Immigrants and English Language Education in the 1920s and 1930s
Jon Keljik (George Washington University)

Comment: Alan Kraut

Jews, Entertainment, and Politics

Chair: Edna Nahshon (Jewish Theological Seminary)

Theatrical Liberalism: Jews and Popular Entertainment in America
Andrea Most (University of Toronto)

"A Temple of Art on Second Avenue: Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre"
Edna Nahshon (Jewish Theological Seminary)

Paul Muni and Jewish Cultural Assimilation On Film, 1929-1932
John Thomas McGuire (Tompkins Cortland Community College)

Comment: Edna Nahshon

2:00: Optional tour of Tenement Museum w/Dr. Annie Polland

For more information please call Rachel Lobovsky, Director of Development at 212.294.6164 or



    Center for Jewish History

    15 West 16th St.
    New York, NY 10011
    Tel: 212-294-6160
    Fax: 212-294-6161

    99-101 Newbury Street
    Boston, MA 02116-3062
    Tel: 617-226-1245
    Fax: 617-226-1248
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