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Jews and their Ethnic Neighbors in 20th Century New York:Images and Attitudes

Mon, December 16, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hilton Bayfront San Diego, Aqua 305

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


In the 20th century, immigrant, and subsequent generation, New York Jews had complex, and often contentious interactions with other ethnic groups who shared space with them in Gotham. These three papers present new research exploring these relationships. Gil Ribak’s examines the complex imagery of Irish-Americans that Yiddish humorist Tashrak (Yisroel Yoysef Zeven) presented in newspaper columns and feuilletons. Ribak notes that Tashrak’s readers could see depictions of the Irish as, on the one hand, American incarnations of the violent, wanton Slavic muzhik (peasant), clashing with Jews. But the writer also presented to his audience the Irish as down-to-earth, helpful to Jews and even amusing.
Ayelet Brinn explores the early English-language journalism career of renowned Jewish Daily Forward editor Abraham Cahan. Through a study of Cahan’s articles in American Anglophone newspapers and his later reminiscences, Brinn elucidates Cahan’s appreciations of immigrant life in New York outside the Jewish sphere. She shows how Cahan’s writings shaped the vision of various ethnic groups held first by countless English-reading readers and colleagues and ultimately informed his Yiddish subscribers’ understanding of the non-Jewish people among whom they lived in the Jewish quarter.
Jeffrey S. Gurock takes the story of Jewish-Irish attitudes and neighborhood interaction well beyond the geographical and chronological limits of the Lower East Side of the early 20th century. He identifies the set of social, economic and ecological factors that led to Hebrews and Hibernians living rather harmoniously. Gurock argues that what took place on the streets and in the buildings in a new New York community of Parkchester from the 1940s-1970s constituted the beginnings of a new era in inter-group relations

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