In Honor of Presidents’ Week – Archival Resources at the Center
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only President to serve more than two terms, appointed Felix Frankfurter to the Supreme Court in 1939. The American Jewish Historical Society has an archival collection that contains the above interesting note (from the Felix Frankfurter papers, 1916-1958, P-430, Box 1, Folder 1, American Jewish Historical Society).
John F. Kennedy appointed Arthur Goldberg to replace Frankfurter. He was the United States Secretary of Labor when Frankfurter stepped down. The Arthur J. Goldberg papers (P-409) held by the American Jewish Historical Society have speeches given by Goldberg, among other material.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in office between FDR and JFK, also proposed that a Jew, Lewis Strauss, be part of his cabinet. Although Strauss was not confirmed, his important work as the United States Atomic Energy Commission Commissioner (appointed to that position by Harry S. Truman) lives on today. The American Jewish Historical Society has an extensive 37.75 linear foot collection: The Lewis Lichtenstein Strauss papers. There is an electronic finding aid available online here.
You can learn more about the Presidents’ relationships with the Jews and material here at the Center by clicking here.

In Honor of Presidents’ Week – Archival Resources at the Center

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only President to serve more than two terms, appointed Felix Frankfurter to the Supreme Court in 1939. The American Jewish Historical Society has an archival collection that contains the above interesting note (from the Felix Frankfurter papers, 1916-1958, P-430, Box 1, Folder 1, American Jewish Historical Society).

John F. Kennedy appointed Arthur Goldberg to replace Frankfurter. He was the United States Secretary of Labor when Frankfurter stepped down. The Arthur J. Goldberg papers (P-409) held by the American Jewish Historical Society have speeches given by Goldberg, among other material.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in office between FDR and JFK, also proposed that a Jew, Lewis Strauss, be part of his cabinet. Although Strauss was not confirmed, his important work as the United States Atomic Energy Commission Commissioner (appointed to that position by Harry S. Truman) lives on today. The American Jewish Historical Society has an extensive 37.75 linear foot collection: The Lewis Lichtenstein Strauss papers. There is an electronic finding aid available online here.

You can learn more about the Presidents’ relationships with the Jews and material here at the Center by clicking here.

In Honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

The UN General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The children of today will be the last generation to meet Holocaust survivors.

The Center for Jewish History houses countless artifacts and archives concerning this horrific period in history. However, learning about what happened by examining yellow stars, ghetto money, transfer lists, books and other papers cannot truly replace the experience of hearing a survivor speak of the terror, seeing numbers on a human being’s arm and being shaken by someone retelling their experiences decades later.

I’ve met many survivors, and I learn more about the scale and scope of the atrocities from each experience. While technology will never replace in-person conversation and the real-life emotion it conveys, recorded oral histories can capture the testimony better than written words alone.

Oral history is defined as “the collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events.”

Our partners here at the Center have many oral histories about the Holocaust. Other institutions, such as the USC Shoah Foundation or the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, are solely dedicated to this important form of documentation.

With the help of Aurora Zinder and Reference Services Research Intern Aliza Schulman, I have compiled a list of institutions that have oral histories concerning the Holocaust.

Resources Available from the Center for Jewish History

Holocaust Resources: An Annotated Bibliography

Family History: Holocaust Research

Through the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute, you can access the book Oral history interview guidelines / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. ”The guidelines were originally created for the Department of Oral History’s own interviewers … However, they also provide general advice that can be applied to a wide variety of oral history projects …” It includes bibliographical references (p. 81-84).

Leo Baeck Institute

“The Austrian Heritage Collection, a program whose specific goal is to document the history of Austrian-Jewish émigrés who fled to the USA during the Nazi years, has been centered at the Leo Baeck Institute since 1996.”

Note: LBI’s collection of unpublished memoirs also offers insights into individual experiences of the Holocaust.

YIVO

Eyewitness Accounts of the Holocaust Period (RG 104): “The YIVO Institute was involved in several projects to collect written testimonies by survivors of the Holocaust. Series I includes the earliest testimonies and consists of 1,143 items. Series II includes 500 interviews with survivors collected in 1954. Series III includes most testimonies received from the 1960’s to the present. At present there are over 300 items in this series.”

Resources Available from Other Institutions

This select list is intended to highlight major repositories and projects that showcase materials for educational purposes.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) website contains an excellent list of institutions that hold oral history collections. The “International Database of Oral History Testimonies” is meant “to provide a tool for all those interested in the location of Holocaust oral history collections worldwide. There are over 125 entities represented in this catalog.”

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: “The US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s oral history collection is one of the largest and most diverse resources for Holocaust testimonies in the world.”

USC Shoah Foundation: The Institute for Visual History and Education: Started in 1993, recorded over 50,000 oral testimonies of survivors. The Foundation is now halfway through digitizing these interviews.

Yale University Library: Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies: The Fortunoff Video Archive has around 4000 oral Holocaust testimonies. In addition to “single-witness programs” which focus on one person’s story, they have “thematic programs,” which weave more than one person’s story together. Includes testimony of bystanders as well. 

Museum of Jewish Heritage:  A Living Memorial to the Holocaust: Includes many exhibits about the Holocaust and the persecution and annihilation of Jews from all over Europe. Additionally, they have about 4000 audio and video testimony from survivors, rescuers, liberators and Jews in the Allied Armies. 

Yad Vashem (Israel) has collected over 36,000 testimonies since 1945. 11,000 have been digitized and can be seen at their Visual Center.

Museum of Tolerance: The museum has a “Hall of Testimony A specially designed room of witness where visitors can see and hear unforgettable stories of the courage and sacrifice of Holocaust victims and Survivors.” 

Letters from the Front: Jewish War Heroes Focuses Russian Jewish War veterans and the persecution Russian Jews during WWII. It has Audio and Video resources available online.

Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive: “The Voice/Vision Archive promotes cultural, racial and religious understanding through unprecedented worldwide access to its collection of Holocaust survivor narratives.” 

Telling Their Stories: “High school students at the Urban School of San Francisco conduct and film interviews with Bay Area Holocaust survivors in their homes. Students then transcribe each 2-plus hour interview, create hundreds of movie files associated with each transcript, and then post the full-text, full-video interviews on this public website as a service to a world-wide audience interested in Holocaust studies.“ 

Voices of the Holocaust is a collection of interviews with Holocaust survivors and other displaced persons conducted by Dr. David P. Boder in Europe in 1946. 

The Virginia Holocaust Museum The Oral History Archive contains over 230 digitized testimonies from people who witnessed genocide firsthand. 

Wisconsin Historical Society - Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust collection: Archivists from the Wisconsin Historical Society interviewed 22 Wisconsin Holocaust survivors and two American witnesses between 1974 and 1981. The scope of the collection includes 156 hours of audio and 3,400 transcribed pages. These interviews are available digitally, in their entirety, for the first time.

——

For more Center-based resources about the Holocaust, see these previous blog posts.

In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

Jews have had a long history of supporting the civil rights movement. From heavily Jewish leadership during the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909, to Jews participating in the March on Washington in 1963, to efforts of Jews today, there has been strong support for the movement among the American Jewish community.

Instead of trying to highlight all of the archival holdings related to civil rights in the U.S., I’m going to focus on three documents I found in the American Jewish Congress archival collection (call number I-77) that is held by AJHS here at the Center. The collection itself is large at 750 linear feet. There is a finding aid for the collection here.

The first historical document is pictured above. It is a report published by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with the American Jewish Congress: Civil Rights in the United States 1952, A balance sheet for group relations. The publication is significant because it was issued in a collaborative effort – even the advertisements for other publications are the same size – and because both groups thought it was important to document and report the current situation formally. This work is in Box 594, Folder: “Civil Rights in the United States” 1952.

In 1989 a librarian for the Commission on Law and social action conducted an audit of civil rights enforcement agencies. There is an entire folder in Box 222 (“CLSA Administrative: Audit of Civil Rights enforcement agencies correspondence, 1989”devoted to the related correspondence. In her letters, Rhonda Rigrodsky asks various government officials if there has been a report on the effectiveness of states civil rights enforcement agencies, and if she can have a copy. The seemingly simple act resonated with me. The lack of reports and the responses – many scribbled on the original letter and returned  were even more poignant.

A memo from 2005 recounts 14 specific actions the American Jewish Congress performed to support the civil rights movement. The original document is preserved in Box 222 folder “CLSA Administrative: American Jewish Congress Civil Rights Record, 2005.” The actions ranged from legal and legislative to support for research on the effects of racial segregation. It is also mentioned that Will Maslow helped plan the March on Washington in 1963, where American Jewish Congress President Joachim Prinz spoke, and that Dr. King spoke at the national convention of the American Jewish Congress multiple times.

If you are interested in learning more, read these previous blog posts:

Reflecting on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—50 years ago today

Mining the Archives: Jews and the Civil Rights Movement

Above images: Civil Rights in the United States 1952 A balance sheet for group relations. From AmericanJewish Congress archival collection (Call number I-77, Box 594, Folder “Civil Rights in the United States” 1952). American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center.

Reflections on My “Jews and Social Justice” Project

by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Jews and Social Justice Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Over the course of eight weeks of research and writing, I used some of the many resources offered by the Center for Jewish History for my independent project as a Research Intern. In the beginning, I sought to write a series on major Jewish-American leftist organizations, eager to dive deep into the AJHS archives of the Jewish Labor Bund and the Workmen’s Circle. Very quickly I came against a large obstacle in my research: language. Almost all of the Bund and Workmen’s Circle archives are in Yiddish, and I unfortunately do not read Yiddish. Thus I decided to look at organizations from the second half of the 20th century, presuming that many of the archives of the organizations I wanted to explore would be in English.

Initially I framed the project as a survey of Jewish New Left organizations, but I soon came to realize that the scope of the term “New Left” was temporally and demographically narrower than I had originally thought. For the purpose of joining together the various groups in which I was interested, I expanded the banner of the project to “Jewish social justice organizations.” The result was profiles of four organizations who considered themselves committed to social justice causes—the International Jewish Labor Bund, the Jewish Labor Committee, Jews for Urban Justice, and American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism—featured as posts on this blog. These organizations’ archival material is all housed in the AJHS collections at the Center for Jewish History. You can access it through the Lillian Goldman Reading Room.

My choice of these organizations stemmed from my interest in histories of groups of people who come together to collectively work for social change, be it social welfare or transformation of social/political structures. Throughout my research and writing, I sought to understand and highlight the underlying relationship between each organization and the Jewish community, asking, for whom did the social justice organization workfor their Jewish community, for their general community, or for the world at large?

I found that the organizations that initially sought to overcome issues directly affecting the Jewish community—the International Jewish Labor Bund and the Jewish Labor Committee—eventually expanded their work to encompass other social minority groups that experienced similar violence, disenfranchisement, or exploitation. The organizations that addressed issues directly impacting non-Jewish communities—Jews for Urban Justice and American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism—did so by engaging Jewish communities/audiences to challenge their participation in what they considered to be oppression and engage them in efforts against it. As such, the evolution of their work highlighted the impossibility of separating Jewish concerns from those of broader society and broader social concerns from Jewish communities. These organizations’ efforts to challenge social injustice from a Jewish vantage point blurred and bent the boundaries between Jewish and non-Jewish communities and, through political action, contributed to connections between Jews and non-Jews.

As an intern, I got to taste the experience of doing sustained research at the Center for Jewish History. I became very familiar with the CJH Library Catalog system and the process by which you can access any of the thousands of materials held in the libraries and archives of the Center’s five partner institutions. As a hopeful historian, I learned a crucial lesson about archive-based historical research and writing. While archival documents can provide a lot of essential information about the content of organizations’ programming, newsletters and press coverage, they are not sufficient for understanding the lived experience of these documents. For this, one needs a better understanding of the human dynamics that surrounded the documents, the circumstances out of which they were created and the ways in which people put these documents to use.

As my research was limited by geography and time constraints, I relied upon historical literature (accessed through the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center) to provide me with broader contexts for the archival material I examined. This internship provided me the opportunity to flex the historical research and writing muscles I gained from college and add to them numerous new skills for conducting research in a major historical institution, which will invaluably benefit my future work.

My experience interning here was very unique. I found that the staff members of the Center are highly committed to ensuring that interns have meaningful learning experiences. Here, the intern’s learning experience is just as important as his/her contribution to the operations of the institution. I am grateful for having received the opportunity to research and write on subjects of my personal interest with the guidance and immense resources that the Center for Jewish History offers.

American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism: Part 2

 by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Jews and Social Justice Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Throughout its near 20-year history, the  American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism organization served as a channel for Berger’s writing, traveling, and testifying before Congress.

About twice a year, Berger (President) and his team of Mrs. Arthur Gutman (Vice President), Mrs. Isaac Witkin (Secretary) and Harry Lesser (Treasurer) produced a report to summarize important political events in the Middle East and the United States related to the “Israeli/Arab/Zionist conflict” and offer Berger’s and others’ commentary. Some of the recurring topics included U.S. media coverage of the conflict, American diplomatic and military aid to Israel, Palestinian organizational leadership, oil politics between the Middle East and Europe/the U.S., activities of American Zionist organizations, conflicts, peace negotiations, the debate around anti-Semitism, and arguments about Zionism’s role in the conflict.

Additionally, Elmer Berger, in the name of the organization, gave numerous talks around the U.S. and around the world. These talks were held in Australia, Ireland, Lebanon, England and various cities in the U.S. including Memphis, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and others [4].

According to my email correspondence with author Jack Ross, Elmer Berger identified himself with AJAZ in a letter published in The New York Times in 1990 about Thomas Kolsky’s book; however, the last serious output of the organization was around 1988. It is safe to assume that the organization’s gradual decline occurred between those times [5].

The impact of the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism is difficult to measure. In a 1986 review in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Andrea Barron writes of American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism that as the “the only Jewish anti-Zionist group which exists,” “its impact has been so miniscule that other Jewish groups do not even bother attacking it” [6]. As Ross explains, the AJAZ was never meant to be a membership-based organization [7]. However, most AJAZ reports list 13-15 people from all around the country under its Board of Directors (presumably comprised of its main financial supporters), which changed slightly over the years [8]. One of the organization’s long-time supporters was Moshe Menuhin, emigrant to pre-Israel Palestine and author of The Decadence of Judaism in our Time and Jewish Critics of Zionism.

AJAZ is listed in a 1990 list of U.S. organizations “involved in the struggle for Palestinian/Israeli peace” in a Middle East Report publication, but after the time it was most active and with a New York address [9]. Though the group did not engage in direct organizing or political work to create the conditions for Middle East peace, Berger’s speeches and writings received notable press coverage and the organization’s reports provided critical information and commentary for anti-Zionist understanding of the issues of the time.

Most of the organization’s reports, as well as accounts of Berger’s various speaking tours around the world and reprinted news coverage of Berger’s work, can be found in the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism’s archival collection, which is held in the American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center for Jewish History.

Notes:

 [1] Jack Ross, Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism. Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2011.As quoted on page 147.

[2] Report #1, 1969, Page 3. Folder: Report #1-11. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center. (Finding aid.)

[3] Report #2, undated. Folder: Report #1-11. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center.

[4] Various publications and newspaper article reprints, 1969-1981. Folder: Berger, Elmer: Articles, essays, lectures, n.d., 1969-1981. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center.

[5] Ilana Rossoff, email correspondence with Jack Ross, 24 May 2013

[6] Andrea Barron, “Winning American Jews to Zionism.” Review of The Political World of American Zionism by Samuel Halperin and All My Causes by I. L. Kenen. Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Autumn, 1986), Page 159. This article can be found in JSTOR and accessed here at the Center for Jewish History.

[7] Ross, Page 151

[8] Reports, Folders 4-14, American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society. 

[9] Steve Niva, “US Organizations and the Intifada” Middle East Report, No. 164/165, Intifada Year Three (May - Aug., 1990), page 72. This article can be found in JSTOR and accessed here at the Center for Jewish History.

Further Reading: 

American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society. (Finding aid.)

Elmer Berger, The Jewish Dilemma. New York : Devin-Adair, 1945.

Elmer Berger, Judaism or Jewish nationalism: the alternative to Zionism. New York : Bookman Associates, 1957.

Elmer Berger, 1908-1996. Who knows better must say so! New York: Bookmailer, 1956.

 Jack Ross, Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism. Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2011.

Emancipation and the Jews of Metz, Franceby David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History
“The means of making the Jews happy and useful? This is it: stop making them unhappy and useless. Give them, or rather return to them the right of citizens, which you’ve denied them against all divine and human laws.” This was Zalkind Hourwitz’s 1789 answer to an essay contest question posed by the Metz Royal Society of Arts and Sciences. The Society asked, “Are there means for making the Jews happier and more useful in France?” and Hourwitz answered with those words in his essay “Vindication of the Jews”—one of the three winning responses. (From A Jew in the French Revolution: The Life of Zalking Hourwitz by Frances Malino.)
Emancipation “has come to mean the liberation of individuals or groups from servitude, legal restriction, and political and social disabilities” (Encyclopaedia Judaica). Though United States was the first country to emancipate Jews, many scholars consider the emancipation of the Jews of France to be a turning point in Jewish history. The French Revolution led many to realize that depriving Jews of equality would undermine the principle of natural rights that helped revolutionaries to gain support during the conflict. Although it is worth noting that there was an upsurge in anti-Semitism after the emancipation of Jews in various places, it was an important change by all measures.
As S. Posner states in his 1939 article “The immediate economic and social effects of the emancipation of the Jews in France (on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the French Revolution)”:  “it must be said that on the eve of the revolution the legal and economic situation of the Jews of France was characterized by the restriction upon their free movement and settlement, upon them engaging in arts and crafts and by special assessments imposed on them” (Jewish Social Studies, Volume 1, 1939) . As I wrote in my previous blog post on the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, The Economic Status of the Jews in Alsace, Metz and Lorraine (1648-1789) points out several distinct aspects of the Jewish experience of Alsace, Metz and Lorraine.

 In the 17th century, Jews were required to wear a “yellow patch or another distinguishing mark reserved for Jews… Jewish children were converted to Catholicism by force…” (p.29).
“They had to struggle to obtain permission for storing their merchandise and to have stable for their horses outside the ghetto limit”—perhaps one of the reasons geese were raised (p.43).  Like in other places, usury was common among the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine. They often gave loans to peasants struggling to pay taxes. Jews themselves struggled to pay their taxes because they were levied disproportionately. For example, in Metz, Jews were 1/18th of the population but were forced to pay 1/6th of the capitation tax (p.71). Professional licenses were more expensive for Jews. They had to pay over double the cost of equivalent licenses purchased by gentiles. In 1715, Jews were charged 2,100 as compared to 1,000 pounds in one example given (p.71). Overall, “prior to 1789 the greatest part of Jews living in Lorraine were poor” (p. 68-9).

Some historians—such as Paula Hyman in “The Emancipation of the Jews of Alsace”—argue that change was slow: “…the pace of acculturation must be measured in generations, not years…Gradual social change cushioned the impact of emancipation on Alsatian Jews.” (p. 156). She argues that it was the Jews themselves in the generations after the revolution who had to define the significance of the change. “They had to define the relationship between the French and Jewish components of their identity and determine how much Jewish particularity was consonant with French universalism.”
However, the immediate impact of lifting restrictions cannot be understated when looking at the everyday lives of Jews. The striking change and groundwork for future growth of the Jewish people will be discussed during an upcoming event here at the Center for Jewish History.
"French and Jewish: Defining a Modern Jewish Identity in the 19th Century” on Monday, December 9.
“For the Jews of France, the attainment of citizenship in the early 19th century was far more than a political triumph. The transition from ghetto to emancipation heralded a major transformation in Jewish status, and nowhere was the metamorphosis more striking than in Metz. Looking at the Jews through the lens of French literature, politics, and religion, three scholars (Jay Berkovitz, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Lisa Leff, American University; Maurice Samuels, Yale University) will consider the far-reaching impact of Jewish emancipation on the meaning of being Jewish in the modern world.” 

For more information on the Metz exhibit and related programs (including ticket information) visit metz.cjh.org.

Emancipation and the Jews of Metz, France
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

“The means of making the Jews happy and useful? This is it: stop making them unhappy and useless. Give them, or rather return to them the right of citizens, which you’ve denied them against all divine and human laws.” This was Zalkind Hourwitz’s 1789 answer to an essay contest question posed by the Metz Royal Society of Arts and Sciences. The Society asked, “Are there means for making the Jews happier and more useful in France?” and Hourwitz answered with those words in his essay “Vindication of the Jews”—one of the three winning responses. (From A Jew in the French Revolution: The Life of Zalking Hourwitz by Frances Malino.)

Emancipation “has come to mean the liberation of individuals or groups from servitude, legal restriction, and political and social disabilities” (Encyclopaedia Judaica). Though United States was the first country to emancipate Jews, many scholars consider the emancipation of the Jews of France to be a turning point in Jewish history. The French Revolution led many to realize that depriving Jews of equality would undermine the principle of natural rights that helped revolutionaries to gain support during the conflict. Although it is worth noting that there was an upsurge in anti-Semitism after the emancipation of Jews in various places, it was an important change by all measures.

As S. Posner states in his 1939 article “The immediate economic and social effects of the emancipation of the Jews in France (on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the French Revolution)”:  “it must be said that on the eve of the revolution the legal and economic situation of the Jews of France was characterized by the restriction upon their free movement and settlement, upon them engaging in arts and crafts and by special assessments imposed on them” (Jewish Social Studies, Volume 1, 1939) . As I wrote in my previous blog post on the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, The Economic Status of the Jews in Alsace, Metz and Lorraine (1648-1789) points out several distinct aspects of the Jewish experience of Alsace, Metz and Lorraine.

 In the 17th century, Jews were required to wear a “yellow patch or another distinguishing mark reserved for Jews… Jewish children were converted to Catholicism by force…” (p.29).

“They had to struggle to obtain permission for storing their merchandise and to have stable for their horses outside the ghetto limit”—perhaps one of the reasons geese were raised (p.43). 

Like in other places, usury was common among the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine. They often gave loans to peasants struggling to pay taxes.

Jews themselves struggled to pay their taxes because they were levied disproportionately. For example, in Metz, Jews were 1/18th of the population but were forced to pay 1/6th of the capitation tax (p.71).

Professional licenses were more expensive for Jews. They had to pay over double the cost of equivalent licenses purchased by gentiles. In 1715, Jews were charged 2,100 as compared to 1,000 pounds in one example given (p.71).

Overall, “prior to 1789 the greatest part of Jews living in Lorraine were poor” (p. 68-9).

Some historians—such as Paula Hyman in “The Emancipation of the Jews of Alsace”—argue that change was slow: “…the pace of acculturation must be measured in generations, not years…Gradual social change cushioned the impact of emancipation on Alsatian Jews.” (p. 156). She argues that it was the Jews themselves in the generations after the revolution who had to define the significance of the change. “They had to define the relationship between the French and Jewish components of their identity and determine how much Jewish particularity was consonant with French universalism.”

However, the immediate impact of lifting restrictions cannot be understated when looking at the everyday lives of Jews. The striking change and groundwork for future growth of the Jewish people will be discussed during an upcoming event here at the Center for Jewish History.

"French and Jewish: Defining a Modern Jewish Identity in the 19th Century” on Monday, December 9.

“For the Jews of France, the attainment of citizenship in the early 19th century was far more than a political triumph. The transition from ghetto to emancipation heralded a major transformation in Jewish status, and nowhere was the metamorphosis more striking than in Metz. Looking at the Jews through the lens of French literature, politics, and religion, three scholars (Jay Berkovitz, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Lisa Leff, American University; Maurice Samuels, Yale University) will consider the far-reaching impact of Jewish emancipation on the meaning of being Jewish in the modern world.

For more information on the Metz exhibit and related programs (including ticket information) visit metz.cjh.org.

Celebrating Thanksgivukkah (includes “Sweet Potato Latkes with Marshmallow Topping” recipe!)

by Elli Smerling, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History 

Official Jewish law requires 10 to be in attendance for communal prayer. Unofficial Jewish law requires that if 10 people are in a room, there must be food.

Every Jewish gathering, celebration or holiday revolves around food. You may ask: What about fast days? Well, they’re about food as well. Fact: Not eating food is just as much about food as eating it.

Americans like to eat too… I’m not talking about our bad reputations for unhealthy excess and obesity. Americans use food to celebrate. Though most of our holidays revolve around a grill (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day), one holiday really does come close to a Jewish celebration: Thanksgiving.

But this isn’t such a surprise. Some believe that the Pilgrims based the holiday on Sukkot. Known as the Feast of Tabernacles, this holiday predominantly occurs in the fall, for the Jews of the Northern Hemisphere. Like Thanksgiving, Sukkot is a time for giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. The holiday commemorates the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering the dessert and the fall harvest. It heavily revolves around meals, which are eaten in sukkot (temporary structures) to commemorate the structures used for shelter in the desert. These meals traditionally incorporate fall harvest vegetables, creating dishes appropriate for a Thanksgiving feast. It would be convenient for these holidays to fall together.

Instead, this year America’s signature Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, falls upon the most epic of American feasts, Thanksgiving. Hanukkah’s historic connection to Sukkot makes the holiday compatible with Thanksgiving. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple as a result of the Maccabean revolt. It is observed for eight days to celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting in the temple. The first celebration of this miracle, found in the Second Book of the Maccabees, describes this festivity coinciding with the observance of Sukkot. In essence, then, it is fitting for Hanukkah to fall on Thanksgiving, a holiday that resembles Sukkot.

Thanksgivukkah, as it is has become known, is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. And what better way to celebrate “the American Feast” with Hanukkah than with food! As stated earlier, many dishes served on Sukkot resemble those of Thanksgiving, so they will fit quite well on the Thanksgiving table—including “Moroccan Pumpkin Soup with Chick-Peas” from Joan Nathan’s book Jewish Cooking in America (Nathan 128-129). Unlike Sukkot foods, Hanukkah treats place emphasis on oil. Fried delicacies such as potato latkes and jelly doughnuts are staples on this holiday.

Without doubt, families will be bringing traditional Hanukkah and Jewish dishes to the Thanksgiving table. They may even take it a step further by creating fusion recipes. Manischewtiz Company has created a whole website dedicated to the holiday with videos, e-cards, and recipes for the occasion. They are even holding a contest for best “Mashed Up Recipe.”

I decided to take on the challenge myself. I went through numerous resources in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room here at the Center for Jewish History to gain inspiration.

I found some interesting and helpful sources:

  • Jewish Cooking Boot Camp: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Cooking Like a Jewish Grandmother by Andrea Marks Carneiro and Roz Marks

  • Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan

  • The Chanikah Family Almanac: an anthology of tales, traditions and recipes for the Jewish home, produced by the General Israel Orphans Home for Girls

  • B. Manischewitz Company records 1947-1992

Page 86 of Jewish Cooking Boot Camp is dedicated to suggestions of toppings that could be put on potato latkes. Many of these toppings would be fitting for the Thanksgiving feast. In the picture below I have pointed out some of the suggestions that can be used to make your latkes more “harvesty.” Additionally, page 85 of the cookbook offered some quirky tips on latke making; they are also included below.

In Jewish Cooking In America, I discovered a recipe for “Curried Sweet Potato Latkes” on page 261. The recipe is a perfect use of traditional harvest vegetables eaten on Thanksgiving and fused with a Hanukkah favorite.

I was inspired by the topping options, and knew if I really wanted to go crazy, I would have to simplify my sweet potato latkes. I found some simpler recipes online and picked an awesome Thanksgiving topping, which lead me to this creation:

Sweet Potato Latkes with Marshmallow Topping 

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion, halved
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 large russet potato, peeled
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
3 large eggs
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bag of marshmallow – large or mini

These can be baked or fried. If baking grease the baking sheet with butter or parve substitute to make them extra crispy. If frying use peanut or vegetable oil.

Directions:

Grate onions and potatoes; drain and place into a large mixing bowl.
Add green onions, panko, eggs, salt and pepper into the mix.
Mix well and form into palm-sized round balls. Place on baking sheet and flatten.

Baking:

Place in oven on 425 for 20 minutes each side. During the last 5 minutes of baking – turn to broil and place marshmallows on top of the latkes.

Frying:

Heat a large pan and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Carefully drop sweet latkes into the pan to fry, turning when crisp. Put on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Place onto cookie sheet and add marshmallow on top. Broil for 5 minutes or until marshmallows have melted.

Enjoy hot, with cranberry sauce, apple sauce, or maple syrup.

Some Other Thanksgivukkah Ideas:

A Jelly Turkey:
Deep fried Turkey stuffed with cranberry jelly filling. Make sure to use enough oil to last 8 days.  

Pumpkin Sufganiyot:
Pumpkin flavored doughnuts stuffed with jelly filling. 

Cranberry Apple Sauce:
What better way to top your latkes on Thanksgiving Day?

Pumpkin Hanukkah Cookies:
Pumpkin cookies can be made into Hanukkah cookies by using Hanukkah cookie cutters.

Manischewitz Cocktails (found in the Manischewitz Company Records here at the Center for Jewish History):
Try the Manischewitz Hi-Boy: Two to three jiggers of Manischewitz Concord Grape in a tall cup of ice with ginger ale and a slice of lemon.

Or try the Manischewitz Stinger:
Three parts Manischewitz Blackberry one part brandy.

Just How Special Is Thanksgivukkah?

by Aliza Schulman, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This year, the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving, creating what has become known as Thanksgivukkah. The Internet it abuzz with shirts, hats and recipes celebrating this rare event. But just how rare is it? When was the last time it occurred, and when will it happen again? This post breaks down the complicated calendar issues that resulted in this exceptional holiday, Thanksgivukkah.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 28, the fourth Thursday of November and the first day of Hanukkah. Since the Jewish holiday starts at night, the first night of Hanukkah is after sunset on November 27th. This means that Jews all over America will be lighting their second Hanukkah candle at sunset on the 28th, Thanksgiving night; the very same night they will be having a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Due to the complicated history of Thanksgiving, there are different opinions about whether Thanksgivukkah has happened before in American history. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday, to be celebrated on the last day of November. (Before this, each state determined when Thanksgiving would be celebrated.) Using this barometer, the last time Thanksgiving fell on the first day of Hanukkah—meaning Jews lit two candles at their turkey dinner—was 1888. But in 1942, Roosevelt decided that Thanksgiving should be the fourth, not last, Thursday of every November. So, if we are going to calculate by the current standard of Thanksgiving, then the last time Thanksgiving occurred on any day of Hanukkah was….well, never.

Now, to address the question of if and when this wonderful holiday will ever occur again. Stephen P. Morse and Jonathan Mizrahi have both calculated this rare occurrence, resulting in a slight discrepancy. Stephen Morse calculates that according to the post-1942 change of Thanksgiving, 2013 is the one and only time Thanksgiving will ever fall on the first day of Hanukkah. And by one and only time, I mean that the next time this could possibly happen is in the year 79,043.

(Additionally, the next time Thanksgiving falls on any day of Hanukkah will be 2070 and 2165. Both of these Thanksgiving dates coinciding with the first night of Hanukkah, meaning the first Hanukkah candle will be lit at Thanksgiving dinner.)

 Jonathan Mizrahi has a slightly different calculation, citing that the “Hanukkah will again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811.” Whether Mizrahi means the first day (lighting one candle) or second day (lighting two candles) of Hanukkah falling on November 28 remains unanswered from his blog. Either way, both dates of 79,043 (Morse’s date) and 79,811 (Mizrahi’s date) fall far in the future.

Lastly, we turn to the question of why. Why are the overlap dates of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving so few and far between? For this answer, we look at the two different types of calendars that determine these holidays. Hanukkah is determined by the Hebrew calendar, which works off the lunar cycle. Thanksgiving is decided by the Gregorian calendar, which is based off the sun. These two calendars are slowly drifting apart, at a rate of 4 days every 1,000 years. So in about 80,000 years, the calendars will be in sync again, resulting in another Thanksgivakkuh. (One major caveat that exists to this theory is that the Hebrew calendar requires that Passover be in the Spring, which means that it will have to be adjusted.)

So, whichever calculation you choose to subscribe to, it is abundantly clear that Thanskgivukkah 2013 is a rare and special day. However you choose to celebrate—with latkes with cranberry sauce or with fall-themed Hanukkah candles—enjoy and take lots of pictures to capture this historical moment in our lifetimes!

 References: Click here to visit Stephen P. Morse’s website, and here to visit Jonathan Mizrahi’s.

Translating Charles Darwin
by Melanie J. Meyers, M.S., Senior Reference Services Librarian, Special Collections, Center for Jewish History

November 24 was the 154th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s most famous work, The Origin of the Species. The full title of the work was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, but this title was shortened for the sixth and subsequent editions. Charles Darwin—or sharlz Darṿin in Yiddish—wrote many other scientific books based on his extensive travels and observations, but Origin remains his most well-known work.

Here at the Center for Jewish History, we have a wealth of material by and about Darwin and his theories. We have copies of works such as The Structure and Distribution of Coral ReefsThe Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals, and dozens of others including critical essays, biographies and collected letters. We also have copies of another famous Darwin work, The Descent of Man, in many different editions. The YIVO Library holds copies of Descent in both Yiddish and Russian, in addition to works discussing Darwin’s theories, written by Frederick Engels and translated into Russian. Both Leo Baeck Institute and The American Jewish Historical also hold works by and about Darwin, in both German and Yiddish. YIVO Library also holds what appears to be a complete set of Darwin’s works in English, published in New York by D. Appleton and Co. publishers. Appleton, founded in 1831, specialized in science books at moderate prices that were affordable for the layperson.

See above for pictures of The Descent of Man in Russian (courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research) and Yiddish (courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society).

American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism

by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Jews and Social Justice Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Since Israel’s emergence as an independent Jewish state, there have been few organizations to come out of Jewish communities in the United States that openly challenge Zionism or modern-day Jewish nationalism. Some ultra-Orthodox Jews, such as those belonging to the organization Neturei Karta, have rejected Israel as a Jewish nation on the basis of their belief that since the Messiah has not yet come to Earth, the Jewish nation should not exist in the historical Holy Land. Otherwise, few groups have come together under a non-Orthodox banner to express strong opposition to the Jewish state.

One group that did was the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism, a small organization based out of Washington D.C. Between 1969 and 1988, it strongly criticized Israel’s actions with regard to Palestinians and explicitly rejected Zionism, in part on the basis of its presumption of global Jewry in the concept of the “Jewish nation.” American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism was founded by Elmer Berger, a rabbi once part of the Reform organization American Council for Judaism, which was the last remnant of anti-nationalism in American Reform Judaism.

The American Council for Judaism was formed by a group of Reform rabbis who split off from the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in 1942. Their contention was that the CCAR, and Reform Judaism more broadly, was founded on the separation between national and religious identities, and the CCAR’s growth in support for Jewish nationalism and the formation of para-state Jewish agencies was a violation of this definitive principle of Reform Judaism. The American Council for Judaism firmly believed that American Jews were Jewish by religion, and American by nationality, and the two should not be confused.

Elmer Berg was still a young rabbi when he was one of the founders of the ACJ. He played a critical role in the organization as its first Executive Director. During his time in the organization, Berger underwent a different political evolution than his colleagues did. Even as he remained committed to opposing Zionism’s encroachment upon the American identification of Jews in the U.S., he also became increasingly concerned with Israel’s military actions and the plight of the Palestinians Arabs, particularly after the 1967 war.

As Jack Ross recounts in Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism, after great contention within the organization over Berger’s outspoken criticism of Israel’s actions during the war, Berger was voted out of the American Council for Judaism in 1968. The Council affirmed its position as concerned primarily with the impact of Zionism on “Americans of Jewish faith,” and not with events in the Middle East [1].

At the behest of the ACJ rabbis who had stood in Berger’s defense, Berger and others founded the new Jewish Alternatives to Zionism to serve as a vehicle for further writing and activism. Soon renamed American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism, the group was “established for religious and educational purposes” which would in part “giv[e] wider circulation to some of the views of others”—such as such as dissident Jewish-Israeli writers as well as some Arab and American writers—“who agree with our basic premises that enduring peace can be created in the Middle East only by the application of justice and equity” [2]. The header of its second and all further reports summarizes its political beliefs at the founding of the organization:

[AJAZ’s] educational program applies Judaism’s values of justice and common humanity to the Arab/Zionist/Israeli conflict in the Middle East. In the United State we advocate a one-to-one human relationship between Jews and all Americans. In both areas of our concern we reject Zionism/Israel’s “Jewish people” nationality attachment of all Jews to the State of Israel. These political-nationality claims distort constructive humanitarian programs. They are inconsistent with American Constitutional concepts of individual citizenship and separation of church and state. They are also a principle obstacle to Middle East peace. Our program, we believe, helps advance peace in the Middle East. It also prevents Zionist/Israel from successfully achieving its legislated objective of reversing the integration of American Jews by “capturing the Jewish community” for its self-segregating “Jewish people” nationality attachment of Jews to the State of Israel  [3].

For more on the history of this organization, check back for part 2 next Monday.

Notes:

[1] Jack Ross, Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism. Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2011.As quoted on page 147.

[2] Report #1, 1969, Page 3. Folder: Report #1-11. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

[3] Report #2, undated. Folder: Report #1-11. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.