Full Text JBuzz Transcripts April 30, 2014: President Barack Obama Announces May As Jewish American Heritage Month

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President Obama Announces May As Jewish American Heritage Month

Source: JP Updates, 4-30-14‎

President Barack Obama issued Wednesday a Presidential proclamation announcing the month of May as the Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM).

 

A national month of recognition of the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture, JAHM acknowledges the achievements of American Jews in fields ranging from sports and arts and entertainment to medicine, business, science, government, and military service.

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have sustained their identity and traditions, persevering in the face of persecution. Through generations of enslavement and years of wandering, through forced segregation and the horrors of the Holocaust, they have maintained their holy covenant and lived according to the Torah. Their pursuit of freedom brought multitudes to our shores, and today our country is the proud home to millions of Jewish Americans. This month, let us honor their tremendous contributions — as scientists and artists, as activists and entrepreneurs. And let all of us find inspiration in a story that speaks to the universal human experience, with all of its suffering and all of its salvation.

This history led many Jewish Americans to find common cause with the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans and Jewish Americans marched side-by-side in Selma and Montgomery. They boarded buses for Freedom Rides together, united in their support of liberty and human dignity. These causes remain just as urgent today. Jewish communities continue to confront anti-Semitism — both around the world and, as tragic events mere weeks ago in Kansas reminded us, here in the United States. Following in the footsteps of Jewish civil rights leaders, we must come together across all faiths, reject ignorance and intolerance, and root out hatred wherever it exists.

In celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month, we also renew our unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel. It is a bond that transcends politics, a partnership built on mutual interests and shared ideals. Our two countries are enriched by diversity and faith, fueled by innovation, and ruled not only by men and women, but also by laws. As we continue working in concert to build a safer, more prosperous, more tolerant world, may our friendship only deepen in the years to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2014 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit http://www.JewishHeritageMonth.gov to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month, the theme of which is healing the world, with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

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JBuzz Musings January 7, 2014: Historian Jonathan Sarna elected president of the Association for Jewish Studies

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Historian Jonathan Sarna elected president of the Association for Jewish Studies

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Brandeis University Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History Jonathan Sarna was elected President of the Association for Jewish Studies at their annual meeting this past December as was reported by Brandeis University on Monday, Jan…READ MORE

JBuzz News August 30, 2013: March on Washington a reminder of black-Jewish relations at their best

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March a reminder of black-Jewish relations at their best

Source: Washington Post, 8-30-13

For many Americans, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was a time of broad themes, of big-picture talks about race and economic justice. But for some, the events of the past week stirred specific memories — some good and others not — concerning relations between African Americans and Jews….READ MORE

JBuzz News August 28, 2013: On 50th Anniversary of March on Washington, Recalling Jews’ Singular Role

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On 50th Anniversary of March on Washington, Recalling Jews’ Singular Role

Half Century Later, Civil Rights Struggle Binds Two Peoples

 

Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington

Source: Forward, 8-28-13

As we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the majestic “I Have a Dream” speech, we should reflect on the singular role the Jewish community played throughout the civil rights struggle and, in particular, remember with pride Jewish participation in the March on Washington itself….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 9, 2012: Ibrahim Sundiata: Brandeis Professor and journalist reflect on complicated black-Jewish relations

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Professor and journalist reflect on complicated black-Jewish relations

Source: The Brandeis Hoot, 11-9-12

Professor Ibrahim Sundiata’s new Class, “The History of Black-Jewish Relations in America,” examines two groups that have helped to define the American experience….READ MORE

JBuzz News July 18, 2012: Taking to the battlefields with Jewish Civil War reenactors

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Taking to the battlefields with Jewish Civil War reenactors

Source: JTA, 7-18-12

The Jewish presence is felt as Civil War reenactors commemorate 150 years since some of the conflict’s major battles….READ MORE»

JBuzz Reviews April 20, 2012: Jonathan Sarna: Jewish vote in elections past and present

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Jewish vote in elections past and present

Source: Brandeis Hoot, 4-20-12

Professor of American Jewish History Jonathan Sarna (NEJS) recently published his new book “When General Grant Expelled the Jews,” discussing the election of 1868 in comparison to today’s political climate.

During the election of 1868, Jewish voters faced a daunting choice. Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant was the man who had issued Order 11 on Dec. 17, 1862, expelling the Jewish people from Grant’s war zone. While it was eventually exposed that Grant issued his order for partially personal reasons related to his father, it was still viewed as a harsh act. The order was revoked on Jan. 4, 1863, upon reaching the desk of President Abraham Lincoln. It held consequences for the Jewish people both psychologically and physically, as some of them were mistreated in the process of relocating.

As Sarna argues, the election of 1868 presented a dilemma for Jewish liberals. “Domestic policies of the republicans during that time period were very much to their liking, but how could they vote for a man who had expelled Jews from his far zone, in what was the single most anti-Semitic act in the United States,” Sarna said.

Sarna describes this choice for the Jewish liberals as an internal one, a question of whether a person should “vote for a party bad for the country in order to avoid voting for a man who is bad for the Jews.”

Sarna wants to get across that Jewish liberals at this time were in turmoil, trying to measure out the “percent of yourself as an American and sense of self as a Jew” and which percent would overcome the other.

He draws a direct parallel to the 2012 elections, arguing that today, there is a “sense on the part of many Jews that Obama is not as supportive of Israel as his predecessors.” If Jewish liberals do not wish to vote for Obama because they question the strength of his support for Israel, their other choice is to vote for the Romney, whose platform goes against what many liberals believe politically.

Sarna believes that “lots of Jews in both cases will find their situation very parallel to the election of 1868.”

Like the election of 1868, Jewish voters have to consider their obligations as Americans as well as their obligations to the Jewish community. Sarna discussed whether a person can forget they are Jewish in a voting booth, or whether that is an identity that cannot be left outside the voting polls. Making connections to further back in history, Sarna even related the election of 1868 to the Federalist papers—their “concern over factions” and “putting the needs of country first regardless of group interest.”

Sarna does admit that the impact of the Jewish vote in both the election of 1868 and today may be over-exaggerated. Grant won the election of 1868, yet it may have been more because of black voters who approved of his efforts to improve their lives and grant them rights. Indeed, Sarna believes that the “power of the Jewish vote was exaggerated by four to five times,” and that people believed there were more voters than actually existed.

At the time, the media was concerned with the ramifications of Order 11, so the Jewish vote came to the forefront despite the fact that the number of Jewish voters was not as large as imagined.

JBuzz News April 9, 2012: Kenneth Libo: Historian of Jewish immigration, dies at 74

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Kenneth Libo, historian of Jewish immigration, dies at 74

Source: NYT, 4-9-12

Kenneth Libo, a historian of Jewish immigration who, as a graduate student working for Irving Howe in the 1960s and ’70s, unearthed historical documentation that informed and shaped “World of Our Fathers,” Howe’s landmark 1976 history of the East European Jewish immigration to the United States, died on March 29 in New York. He was 74.

The cause was complications from an infection, said Michael Skakun, a friend and fellow historian.

Libo’s contribution was acknowledged by Howe and the publishers of “World of Our Fathers,” who listed his name beneath the author’s on the cover of the book: “With the Assistance of Kenneth Libo.”

Scholars familiar with his archival work credit Libo with adding a level of emotional detail, and a view of everyday life in the teeming tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York, that the book might have lacked without his six years of work. “I don’t think ‘World of Our Fathers’ could have been written without the spade work done by Ken Libo,” said Jeffrey S. Gurock, a professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. “He had a certain researching genius, a feel for visceral detail.”

Libo worked with Howe on two more books and shared billing on both as co-author — “How We Lived,” a 1979 anthology of pictures and documentary accounts of Jewish life in New York between 1880 and 1930; and “We Lived There, Too,” an illustrated collection of first-person accounts by Jewish immigrant pioneers who moved on from New York to settle in far-flung outpostsaround the country, like New Orleans; Abilene, Kan.; and Keokuk, Iowa, between 1630 and 1930.

He became the first English-language editor of The Jewish Daily Forward in 1980, lectured widely, taught literature and history at Hunter College, and later in life helped several wealthy Jewish New York families research and write their self-published family histories.

But throughout his life, Libo was known best for his involvement in “World of Our Fathers,” a best-seller that Howe, a socialist and public intellectual, once described in part as an effort to reclaim the fading memory of Jewish immigration from the clutches of sentimental myth, Alexander Portnoy and generations of Jewish mother jokes.

The book was a large canvas — depicting a lost world of tenements, sweatshops and political utopianism — written with elegiac lyricism.

By most accounts Howe gave the book its vision, its voice and its intellectual legs. Libo gave it people and their stories.

He mined archives of Yiddish newspapers like The Forward, Der Tog and Freheit; the case records of social service organizations like the Henry Street Settlement House; the letters of activists like Lillian Wald and Rose Schneiderman; memoirs by forgotten people whose books he found in the 5-cent bins of used bookstores. He interviewed old vaudevillians like Joe Smith of Smith and Dale (the models for Neil Simon’s “Sunshine Boys”) for the story of Yiddish theater.

In an essay about the book, published in 2000 in the journal of the American Jewish Historical Society, Libo wrote that in the summer months “Irving did the bulk of the writing while I remained in New York with an assistant to run down facts.”

Kenneth Harold Libo was born Dec. 4, 1937, in Norwich, Conn., one of two sons of Asher and Annette Libo. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, his mother American-born. His parents operated a chicken farm, friends said.

He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1959, served in the Navy and taught English at Hunter College of the City University until he began work on “World of Our Fathers” in 1968 with Howe, who died in 1993.

He received his Ph.D. in English literature from the City University of New York in 1974. He never married and no immediate family members remain.

JBuzz News April 2, 2012: Magnes Collection for Jewish Art and Life Merger with UC Berkeley Has Its Costs

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Magnes Merger Has Its Costs

Source: NY Jewish Week, 4-2-12

The Magnes Collection, founded 50 years ago, has the largest 
collection of archives of Jews in the American West.

The Magnes Collection, founded 50 years ago, has the largest collection of archives of Jews in the American West.

Partnership with UC-Berkeley seen mostly as a boon but questions linger about prized collection’s independence.

The new home of the Magnes Collection for Jewish Art and Life, a Bay Area institution renowned for its archives of material relating to Jews in the American West, displays all the museum’s ambition.

Prominently situated just off the main campus of UC-Berkeley, with which it merged in 2010, it has all the hallmarks of a cutting-edge building: sleek wooden displays made from local re-salvaged elm; floor-to-ceiling glass walls allowing glimpses into the museum’s vast collection of Judaica, the third largest in North America; and a spacious hall for lectures and functions, as well dance, theater and art.

“In the museum model, this accessibility was much harder to achieve,” said Alla Efimova, the Magnes’ director, referring to the collection’s past focus on being more of an art museum than a research and educational facility, as it now primarily sees itself. “The new design was about making the collection accessible and encouraging work with the collection,” she said.

Few doubt that the Magnes’ merger and new home will vastly increase its use, but museum watchers agree that the move comes with some significant costs. Already, Berkeley classes for Jewish studies courses are held weekly in its building. Scholars like Jeffrey Shandler, a professor at Rutgers, are planning not only to use the Magnes’ enormous archives for research, but also to create innovate exhibits based on them.

Not long ago, Shandler began talking with the Magnes’ chief curator, Francesco Spagnolo, about using the archives for a project — likely a book or article — on the Jewish fascination with list making. “He said, ‘This would make a great exhibit,’” Shandler recounted. Now, with the Magnes’ new home having a centrally located gallery, that exhibit is underway, set to open some time later this year.

The new building has been a boon for artists like Emmanuel Witzhum, an Israeli artist-in-residence at Berkeley. He had no plans for an exhibit at the Magnes when he applied to Berkeley, but the museum approached him about exhibiting work. “It was perfect,” he said, “They immediately got the idea.”

Founded 50 years ago by the Bronx-born Jewish educator, Seymour Fromer, the Magnes’ ambitions always exceeded the realities of being a small Jewish museum. Over the years, Fromer and his wife, Rebecca Camhi Fromer, amassed not only the largest archive of Jewish American Western history, but also a treasure trove of exotic Judaica.

Some of the highlights are on view at the Magnes’ inaugural exhibit, titled “The Magnes Effect: Five Decades of Collection.” There is a 19th-century purple velvet wedding dress from Rhodes; a sword given by the Ottoman rulers of Palestine to the Jewish developer, who, in 1892, financed the road connecting Jaffa to Jerusalem; even a century-old ketubah from the Jewish community in Kochi, India.

All these holdings were hard to display in its former home, a cramped residential house in Berkeley, where the museum had been since 1966. “Even Google maps had a hard time giving directions on how to get there,” said Spagnolo, the Magnes’ chief curator.

The Magnes’ new building, along with its merger with Berkeley, has been widely praised by scholars, fundraisers and museum directors alike. As an independent institution until its merger in 2010, the Magnes had limited staff and hours, and found it difficult to preserve and organize its archives. Now that the heart of its collection — the documents of the Jewish American West — sit in the Bancroft Library on campus, accessing them will be considerably easier for scholars.

Moreover, the renovated new building — at 25,000 square feet, roughly three times the size of the collection’s former home — enables it to house 80 percent of its exotic collection of Judaica in-house, not, as it had in the past, in an off-site storage facility. By taking over administrative costs, Berkeley has also cut the Magnes’ annual operating budget in half. Instead of roughly $2 million a year to operate, it will now cost just under $1 million.

But the changes come at a price. Merging the Magnes with a much larger, and secular, institution like Berkeley was never part of Fromer’s vision. He died in 2009, before the decision was made. And the merger only highlights the mishaps and difficult choices the Magnes has had to make simply in order to survive.

“In an ideal situation, it could have remained independent,” said Fred Rosenbaum, another leading scholar of the Jewish American and the West. While acknowledging the ultimate benefits of the merger, he couldn’t help but lament the decision.

“Just a minor caveat,” he said: “There was something wonderful about the old Magnes. There was a kind of feeling in the air of being a part of something special. Now it will be highly efficient, but it won’t have the warmth, the intangible, of being a highly creative independent Jewish institution.”

Perhaps the most important sacrifice Magnes made was the relinquishment of the central item that made it famous in the first place: its collection of Jewish archives of the West. The include the papers of the Haas family, an original owner of Levi Strauss and Company, and many founders of the Bay Area’s Jewish community. All of those documents have been moved to the Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, itself a renowned institution with one of the largest collections of materials relating to the American West.

Many scholars of Jewish history think this is good for Jewish scholarship.

“I think it’s great — it’s better than good,” said Marc Dollinger, chair of the Jewish studies department at San Francisco State University and a leading scholar of Jews in the American West. “It’s better to house [the Jewish West documents] at a research library; it’s more accessible to a wider audience.”

But few deny that the merger was one made out of dire need. A series of inopportune choices, including a hasty merger with the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in 2002 (that ended a year later), and the purchase of two new buildings — one just before the dot-com crash in 2000, another before the 2008 recession — left the Magnes badly damaged….READ MORE

JBuzz News March 15, 2012: Jonathan Sarna: Barach College Jewish Studies Center Presents ‘General Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews’

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Jewish Studies Center Presents ‘General Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews’ with Jonathan Sarna

Source:  EON: Enhanced Online News, 3-15-12

On March 21, 2012, The Jewish Studies Center at Baruch presents a talk entitled “General Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews” with featured speaker Dr. Jonathan Sarna. The event is scheduled at 1 p.m. in Engelman Recital Hall, located on the first floor of the Newman Vertical Campus, 55 Lexington Avenue.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

“the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”

Dr. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Chief Historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History. Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s 50 most influential American Jews, he was Chief Historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life. Dr. Sarna has written, edited, or co-edited more than twenty books, including the Jews and the Civil War: A Reader and A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew. He is best known for the acclaimed American Judaism: A History. Winner of the Jewish Book Council’s “Jewish Book of the Year Award” in 2004, it has been praised as being “the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”

The discussion is co-sponsored by Baruch’s Alumni Relations Office and the Office of College Advancement. For more information, contact Jessica Lang, Director of the Jewish Studies Center, at (646) 312-3975 or jessica.lang@baruch.cuny.edu.

Dianne Ashton: Rowan University professor is new editor of Jewish American history journal

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Dianne_edited.jpgRowan University professor Dianne Ashton is the first female editor of American Jewish History

As a professor of religion studies at Rowan University, a published author and — now — the first female editor in the 118-year history of the “American Jewish History” journal, Dianne Ashton says she doesn’t know where she finds the time. But she loves every minute of it.

“It’s great just to be the editor. The fact that I’m the first woman is just really a matter of historical events,” said Ashton of her new position at the helm of the premier journal on the study of Jewish history in America. “It’s an extreme honor and great responsibility to be the editor of a very important journal on the American Jewish experience. It has a great reputation, and it’s my responsibility to keep that up.”

Ashton said, in her new role, she has to learn quickly.

“A journal has to come out on time, and it’s a fairly complicated process,” said Ashton. “The articles are submitted, I review them and then each one goes to two scholars for review. They come back to me, I edit them and then they go back to the authors for revisions. All this must happen before they reach the publisher so there’s a lot of pressure to keep moving.”

Ashton said the editor role is also unpredictable. She doesn’t always know when articles will come across her desk, how long it will take for scholars to submit reviews or who might need to be reminded of a deadline.

“I have learned to nag politely,” said Ashton, with a laugh.

American Jewish History explores the role of Jewish Americans in events throughout the country’s history, including some involvements that were largely unknown….READ MORE

Rabbi Scott L. Shpeen: Giving thanks is essential

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Rabbi Scott L. Shpeen: Giving thanks is essential

Source: Times Union 11-18-11

I learned a very important lesson in understanding history while a student at the seminary in Cincinnati in a class on American Jewish history. Our professor, Jacob Rader Marcus, began by discussing when the first Jewish settlers came to North America.

It was assumed the year was 1654 when a ship arrived in New Netherlands from Recife, Brazil. The forebearers of the group aboard had fled the Inquisition in 1492 and now a century and a half later the settlers were seeking greater freedom in the Dutch colony. That is what was in the annals of history and accepted as fact. Yet Dr. Marcus noted that a document had been uncovered years before, handed down by the settlers describing their arrival: As they disembarked they was greeted ashore by an unknown co-religionist welcoming them with a hearty “shalom.”

It is with the same trepidation that I share the unofficial history of our Union Thanksgiving Service in Albany — because there are several versions of what was believed to have been the first joint Thanksgiving service. Some documents say it took place in the fall of 1927 while others say 1928 or 1929. I have yet to meet anyone who actually attended the first service, so we are still not sure which date is correct.

This much we know to be fact: The Thanksgiving ritual of coming together from different segments of Albany and the surrounding area, committed to mutual respect, understanding and friendship is a long-standing tradition that connects Congregation Beth Emeth, Trinity United Methodist Church, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany and Westminister Presbyterian Church….READ MORE

Scott Shpeen has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Emeth since 1985.

Shuly Rabin Schwartz: More City Bar Mitzvahs Hold the Religion

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Source: WSJ, 7-23-11

MITZVAH

 

A small but growing number of families are opting for secular bar mitzvahs, taking the occasion to celebrate personal growth and Jewish culture instead of Jewish faith. Although such celebrations are derided by some religious leaders as little more than birthday parties, participants say they are a thoughtful alternative for those who do not subscribe to religious beliefs.

While secular bar mitzvahs veer away from traditional religious elements, they also tend to forgo the over-the-top celebrations that have become a subject of criticism by Jewish leaders.

“I think a bar mitzvah party that has a six-course meal and a large band, and doesn’t have a spiritual piece except that the food is kosher, is not as holy as one that is trimmed down and includes community service,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University in New York.

The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Manhattan is leading a nationwide movement to create meaningful secular services for Jewish teenagers. Marge Greenberg, whose daughter Rachel Gerber recently completed City Congregation’s 18-month bat mitzvah program, says it’s no accident that parties for participants tend to be small.

“The part that comes beforehand is the important part. The celebration is just the culmination of the study,” Ms. Greenberg said. “The party is incidental. It’s like a social occasion. It’s just not the point.”

The idea is slowly gaining acceptance, though some rabbis have different views.

“The concept of a ‘secular bar mitzvah’ is of course a bit of an oxymoron since ‘bar mitzvah’ means ‘one who is commanded by God,'” said Daniel Nevins of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. “Without the religious part it is just a birthday party.”

Secular bar mitzvahs continue centuries-old traditions: The emotions and themes common at bar mitzvahs—family history, maturity and hard-won pride—are all present, proponents say.

“This is part of the contemporary world,” said Shuly Rabin Schwartz, a professor of American Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary. “In an odd sort of way the nontraditional ceremonies are affirming the value of the tradition. They’re saying something should happen at this stage. They’re trying to figure out something meaningful for individuals in that community.”

At City Congregation, bar mitzvah candidates spend up to two years preparing for their big day. Students in the program write essays on topics such as family history, community service and role models, and complete a project on a topic in Jewish culture. (One recent project’s title was “Holy Carp: Gefilte Fish, Judaism and Me.”)

“It’s not Judaism lite,” says Rabbi Peter Schweitzer of the City Congregation. He has conducted the bar mitzvah training for more than 50 students… READ MORE

Rebecca Kobrin: Too Big to Fail in 1930

Source: The NY Jewish Week, 12-3-10

History’s silence on the Jewish immigrant entrepreneurs behind the Bank of United States.

Front page and back cover of the Bialystoker Stimme,  Nov. 1921. Front page and back cover of the Bialystoker Stimme, Nov. 1921.

On the morning of Dec. 11, 1930, thousands of people lined Delancey Street to withdraw their savings from the Bank of United States. Rumors had circulated for days that the largest retail bank in New York, with over 440,000 depositors and $300 million in assets, was insolvent. Founded by Russian-Jewish immigrant entrepreneur and garment manufacturer Joseph S. Marcus in 1913, the bank, despite its grandiose name and the large portrait of the Capitol adorning its main branch, was actually just a provincial New York retail bank. The bank advertised mainly in the Yiddish press and catered primarily to immigrant Jews and their organizations scattered throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Its name convinced many immigrant depositors that, unlike other shady financial enterprises scattered throughout the city, it was, “as solid as the Bank of England.” It was this continued deep trust, The New York Times reported, that made policemen unnecessary to control the “throngs” who gathered around the bank that morning. All were calm, failing to recognize that the bank’s president, Bernard Marcus (Joseph’s son), and first vice president, Saul Singer, a garment manufacturer turned real estate entrepreneur and banker, had depleted the bank’s assets through heavy speculation in its own stock and through risky real estate investments.

Wall Street financiers, led by J.P. Morgan, Jr., refused to risk their funds to help save the bank, despite the pleas of Joseph Broderick, New York State’s superintendent of banking, and Hebert Lehman, the state’s lieutenant governor, who warned that they were “making the most colossal mistake in the banking history of New York.” The bank was closed; within days, thousands of depositors throughout the country, who mistakenly assumed the bank’s credit was on par with that of the federal government, ran to withdraw funds from their local banks. Indeed, if a bank named the Bank of United States could fail, then no bank was truly safe. In short, as one historian argued, “the damage done by the failure of the Bank of United States to both depositors and the banking community remains inestimable.”…READ MORE

While further research is needed to address these questions, as we mark the 80th anniversary of the dramatic rise and demise of the Bank of United States, we need to reconsider how we conceptualize and think about the nexus of economics and Jewish history, particularly in the United States. We need to think more broadly about Jewish entrepreneurship and openly discuss those who failed along with those who succeeded. Indeed we already know much about successful, American Jewish bankers such as Jacob Schiff and Paul Warburg. But in fact, the implementation of long-lasting government financial reforms, namely the FDIC, came in response to the schemes of Saul Singer, not the achievements of Schiff or Warburg. Perhaps if we shift our focus in the writing of Jewish economic history, we will be able to see more fully the multifaceted role Jews played in the evolution of America’s distinctive brand of capitalism and its regulation.

Lee Shai Weissbach: “Jewish Life in Small-Town America: A History” at the University of Scranton

Source: Wilkes Barre Times-Leader, PA, 5-12-09

May 14: 2009: Lee Shai Weissbach, Ph.D., professor of history at the University of Louisville, Ky., will discuss “Jewish Life in Small-Town America: A History” at the University of Scranton’s Weinberg Institute of Judaic Studies’ spring lecture Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Ann and Leo Moskovitz Theater of the Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center, Mulberry Street.