The long, complex story of Jews in Gotham.
Moore (History and Judaic Studies/Univ. of Michigan; City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York, 2012, etc.), along with her co-authors, begins with Jewish residence in Peter Stuyvesant’s New Amsterdam and traces the tribe’s sojourn there through the centuries to the present. As the city grew and prospered, the Jewish population did, as well. By the turn of the 19th century, New York was the largest Jewish city in history. It remains the capital of Jewish America, contributing in significant ways to politics, entertainment, trade, arts, economics, and gastronomy. When strictly Christian venues were closed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish New Yorkers, speaking English, German, Yiddish, and many other languages, maintained their own dedicated theaters, journals, social clubs, charities, and hospitals. Through wars, prejudice, and casualties, immigrants living in New York’s Little Germany, or the Lower East Side, took to the boroughs, Grand Concourse, Bensonhurst, and elsewhere. They were the student scholars of Brooklyn College and City College, and their influence grew in education, law, street games, and the popularity of Chinese restaurants. Moore and her colleagues salute many individual contributors to the city’s way of life, including Betty Friedan, Lubavitcher Rebbe, Leonard Bernstein, Gertrude Berg, Woody Allen, and Elena Kagan. Of course, any attempt to describe and assess the Jewish flavor of the metropolis must be selective. Others characters, less salubrious to the common good—e.g., master gangster Arnold Rothstein or mega-gonif Bernie Madoff—escape mention. Different curators might have offered different events and personalities along with the heritage and herring. Doubtless due to the book’s many authors, there are a few duplicative points made. But no matter: this survey of Jewish New York is a valuable contribution to Jewish literature, and the appended visual essay is an added bonus.
An epic story of a people who have been, and remain, central to the life of New York City.