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Finalist, 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature from the Jewish Book Council From kosher wine to their ties to the liquor trade in Europe, Jews have a longstanding historical relationship with alcohol. But once prohibition hit America, American Jews were forced to choose between abandoning their historical connection to alcohol and remaining outside the American mainstream. In Jews and Booze, Marni Davis examines American Jews’ long and complicated relationship to alcohol during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the years of the national prohibition movement’s rise and fall. Bringing to bear an extensive range of archival materials, Davis offers a novel perspective on a previously unstudied area of American Jewish economic activity—the making and selling of liquor, wine, and beer—and reveals that alcohol commerce played a crucial role in Jewish immigrant acculturation and the growth of Jewish communities in the United States. But prohibition’s triumph cast a pall on American Jews’ history in the alcohol trade, forcing them to revise, clarify, and defend their communal and civic identities, both to their fellow Americans and to themselves.
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Marni Davis is Assistant Professor of History at Georgia State University.Review:
"[This reviewer] has always been amazed at the ability of academics to take inherently interesting subjects, like TV and sex, and make them incredibly boring. Davis manages to avoid this, producing an account which is at once both highly readable and yet still approaches the subject in a sophisticated manner."-Heeb Magazine
"Jews and Booze touches on a most important topic–what can happen when the challenge of maintaining tradition, on the one hand, fostering entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is greatly heightened . . . this [is a] fascinating work."-David Geffen,International Jerusalem Post
"Engrossing and well-written."-Jewish Book Council
"This book is an important addition to the literature of cultural conflict in American history."-K. Austin Kerr,American Jewish Archives Journal
“In this groundbreaking study, Davis deftly blends social and cultural history to uncover the important role American Jews played in the liquor trade, and the hostilities they elicited. In recovering this nearly forgotten past, Jews and Booze provides a prism through which to view the difficulties of Americanization.”-Tony Michels,author of A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York
"This fascinating, academically sophisticated, and superbly written exposition of the intricate, often precarious, role that Jews played in every aspect of the American alcohol industry—from production in industrial stills to retail sale in bars and speakeasies across the land, and finally to bootlegging, a crime that created the fortunes of some of North America’s most prominent Jewish philanthropic families—turns out to be a wonderful historical companion to HBO’s most explosive series since The Sopranos and to the recent PBS airing of Ken Burns’ documentary Prohibition.
More important, Jews and Booze is a major contribution to the economic history of the Jews in the United States. The book also offers an original and rich exposition of the social and political importance of alcohol—particularly the puritanical fear and loathing of it—in the development of anti-immigration and anti-Semitic sentiments in late 19th- and early 20th-century America." -Tablet Magazine
"Davis has significantly enhanced our understanding of Jewish acculturation in the United States."-Journal of American Ethnic History
"Beginning with the mid-nineteenth century, Davis provides a solidly documented study of Jewish participation in the American alcohol industry, and she carefully verifies her stories with specific examples from many sections of the country. Furthermore, she shows that the alcohol industry provided an avenue of acculturation first of German Jewish immigrants and later of Eastern European Jewish immigrants . . . . [I]t presents a solidly researched and well-documented history in a field that has been overlooked by Jewish studies." -Kay Goldman,Yearbook of German-American Studies
"Marni Davis had me with the title of her book, Jews and Booze. But the book itself, an academic monograph that is also highly readable, is an eye-opener."-Jewish Journal
" The book deserves a wide audience for its creative inquiry and suggestive approach to American immigration and ethnic history."-American Historical Review
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