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In 1942, YIVO held a contest for the best autobiography by a Jewish immigrant on the theme “Why I Left the Old Country and What I Have Accomplished in America.” Chosen from over two hundred entries, and translated from Yiddish, the nine life stories in My Future Is in America provide a compelling portrait of American Jewish life in the immigrant generation at the turn of the twentieth century. The writers arrived in America in every decade from the 1890s to the 1920s. They include manual workers, shopkeepers, housewives, communal activists, and professionals who came from all parts of Eastern Europe and ushered in a new era in American Jewish history. In their own words, the immigrant writers convey the complexities of the transition between the Old and New Worlds. An Introduction places the writings in historical and literary context, and annotations explain historical and cultural allusions made by the writers. This unique volume introduces readers to the complex world of Yiddish-speaking immigrants while at the same time elucidating important themes and topics of interest to those in immigration studies, ethnic studies, labor history, and literary studies. Published in conjunction with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
The very question of “what do Jews think about the goyim” has fascinated Jews and Gentiles, anti-Semites and philo-Semites alike. Much has been written about immigrant Jews in nineteenth- and twentieth-century New York City, but Gil Ribak’s critical look at the origins of Jewish liberalism in America provides a more complicated and nuanced picture of the Americanization process. Gentile New York examines these newcomers’ evolving feelings toward non-Jews through four critical decades in the American Jewish experience. Ribak considers how they perceived Gentiles in general as well as such different groups as “Yankees” (a common term for WASPs in many Yiddish sources), Germans, Irish, Italians, Poles, and African Americans. As they discovered the complexity of America’s racial relations, the immigrants found themselves at odds with “white” American values or behavior and were drawn instead into cooperative relationships with other minorities. Sparked with many previously unknown anecdotes, quotations, and events, Ribak’s research relies on an impressive number of memoirs, autobiographies, novels, newspapers, and journals culled from both sides of the Atlantic.
Interpreting American Jewish History at Museums and Historic Sites begins with a broad overview of American Jewish history in the context of a religious culture than extends back more than 3,000 years and which manifests itself in a variety of distinctive American forms. Five chapters examine key themes in American Jewish history: movement, home life, community, prejudice, and culture. Each thematic chapter is followed by a series of case studies that describe and analyze a variety of projects by historical organizations to interpret American Jewish life and culture for general public audiences. The last two chapters of the book are a history of Jewish collections and Jewish museums in North America and a look at “next practice,” intended to promote continuous innovation, new thinking, and programming that is responsive to ever-changing circumstances.
Ruth Wisse is a leading scholar of Yiddish and Jewish literary studies and one of our most fearless public intellectuals on issues relating to Jewish society and culture. In this celebratory volume, Wisse's colleagues pay tribute to her with a collection of critical essays whose subjects break new ground in Yiddish, Hebrew, Israeli, American, European, and Holocaust literature.

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