The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950

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9780809015863: The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950
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Winner of the National Jewish Book Award Photographs, index.

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About the Author:

Jenna Weissman Joselit is a visiting professor of American studies at Princeton University and the author of several acclaimed books, including A Perfect Fit. She lives in New York City.

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During the first half of this century, Judaism and Jewish culture in the U.S. underwent profound transformations. Although some may bemoan that orthodoxy gave way to assimilation, social historian Joselit shows how vivid the Jewish community actually was. Joselit draws on a true treasure-trove of Yiddish press clippings, guidebooks, invitations, and a host of other sources to describe rituals and home life in the U.S. during her target period. Tracing the evolution of bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, she describes how the ceremonies became such festive events in this country. Elsewhere, poignantly illustrating turn-of-the-century family values, she presents a clip from the Jewish Daily Forward that displays a photographic "Gallery of Missing Husbands." Using some very funny examples, she also describes how ethnic customs were adopted by American commercialism; in a chapter on how Jews and the food industry observed dietary laws, she quotes an advertisement for kosher vegetable shortening that reads: "The Hebrew Race has been waiting 4,000 years for Crisco." They just don't write ad copy like that anymore. Aaron Cohen

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