The Jews of Detroit: From the Beginning 1762-1914

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9780814318089: The Jews of Detroit: From the Beginning 1762-1914
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Robert Rockaway's study begins with the arrival of the first Jews in Detroit, when the city was a remote frontier outpost. He chronicles the immigration of the German Jews beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, followed by the influx of Jews from Eastern Europe. His narrative concludes on the eve of World War I, by which time the community had developed its basic social structure. It had survived the turbulent years of immigration and the process of Americanization, and had succeeded in establishing several congregations, charitable organizations, and social and cultural foundations.

Rockaway relates the story of Detroit's Jews to the larger context of American ethnicity and immigration. He compares the Jewish economic and social evolution with that of other Detroit ethnic groups and of other American Jewish communities. Thus, the arrival of the German Jews is presented as part of the broader wave of immigration from Germany, where Jews were suffering increasingly restrictive social and economic sanctions. Upon their arrival in Detroit, the German Jews quickly established themselves and moved into the mainstream of the city's life.

Transitions for the Eastern European Jews were not as easy. They were divided among themselves due to ethnic differences, disagreements about rituals, as well as personal idiosyncracies. In addition, class, cultural, and religious differences separated the German Jews from the Eastern Europeans. Many, victims of pogroms, arrived destitute and, consequently, put great strains on the established Jewish community as it tried to support the new immigrants. The large number of new Jewish immigrants also stirred anti-Semitic feelings in the city, making assimilation more difficult.

During the period under study, Detroit's Jews suffered almost total exclusion in the social sphere, despite significant gains in the economic and civic arenas. Detroit's social elite remained almost totally Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. Nevertheless, through work and unflagging determination, they rose to solid economic status. At the same time, they maintained their identity while participating in Detroit's civic, political, and cultural life.

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Book Description:

Robert Rockaway's study begins with the arrival of the first Jews in Detroit, when the city was a remote frontier outpost. He chronicles the immigration of the German Jews beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, followed by the influx of Jews from Easter

About the Author:

Robert A. Rockaway, a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Jewish History at Tel-Aviv University and a fellow of the university's Diaspora Research Institute. He has been a consultant to the Beth Hatefutsoth Museum of the Diaspora. Rockaway has received the Hebrew Union College-American Jewish Archives Harvey B. Franklin Award in American Jewish History, as well as grants from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. He has published over thirty articles on Jewish history.

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Rockaway, Robert
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