Jazz Age Jews

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Princeton University Press, Aug 1, 2003 - History - 264 pages
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By the 1920s, Jews were--by all economic, political, and cultural measures of the day--making it in America. But as these children of immigrants took their places in American society, many deliberately identified with groups that remained excluded. Despite their success, Jews embraced resistance more than acculturation, preferring marginal status to assimilation.

The stories of Al Jolson, Felix Frankfurter, and Arnold Rothstein are told together to explore this paradox in the psychology of American Jewry. All three Jews were born in the 1880s, grew up around American Jewish ghettos, married gentile women, entered the middle class, and rose to national fame. All three also became heroes to the American Jewish community for their association with events that galvanized the country and defined the Jazz Age. Rothstein allegedly fixed the 1919 World Series--an accusation this book disputes. Frankfurter defended the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. Jolson brought jazz music to Hollywood for the first talking film, The Jazz Singer, and regularly impersonated African Americans in blackface. Each of these men represented a version of the American outsider, and American Jews celebrated them for it.

Michael Alexander's gracefully written account profoundly complicates the history of immigrants in America. It challenges charges that anti-Semitism exclusively or even mostly explains Jews' feelings of marginality, while it calls for a general rethinking of positions that have assumed an immigrant quest for inclusion into the white American mainstream. Rather, Alexander argues that Jewish outsider status stemmed from the group identity Jews brought with them to this country in the form of the theology of exile. Jazz Age Jews shows that most Jews felt culturally obliged to mark themselves as different--and believed that doing so made them both better Jews and better Americans.

  

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Review: Jazz Age Jews

User Review  - Rebekah Miller - Goodreads

written by a college professor of mine....i am still about a third of the way through. its been so long I should probably start over Read full review

Contents

IV
15
V
19
VI
28
VII
40
VIII
48
IX
55
X
65
XI
69
XVIII
131
XIX
133
XX
139
XXI
144
XXII
150
XXIII
155
XXIV
167
XXV
180

XII
71
XIII
76
XIV
88
XV
96
XVI
119
XVII
127
XXVI
185
XXVII
215
XXVIII
227
XXIX
229
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About the author (2003)

Michael Alexander is Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

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