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Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibitionby Marni Davis
Synopses & Reviews
At the turn of the century, American Jews and prohibitionists viewed one another with growing suspicion. Jews believed that all Americans had the right to sell and consume alcohol, while prohibitionists insisted that alcohol commerce and consumption posed a threat to the nations morality and security. The two groups possessed incompatible visions of what it meant to be a productive and patriotic American—and in 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution made alcohol commerce illegal, Jews discovered that anti-Semitic sentiments had mixed with anti-alcohol ideology, threatening their reputation and their standing in American society.
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 movements 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 prohibitions 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.
"In a provocative study of Jews' complicated relationship to alcohol and Prohibition in American history, Georgia State assistant history professor Davis records that as early as the 1870s, American religious, cultural, and business issues created debates within the Jewish community: many Jews saw the temperance and prohibition movements as a mission to impose white Protestant values on American politics and culture. But, says Davis, Jews also had a financial interest in the liquor trade, having long been distillers, wholesalers, and liquor store owners. The 18th Amendment did have some Jewish supporters, notably Prohibition agent Izzy Einstein, a 'flamboyantly ethnic' A Jewish immigrant and nationally renowned Prohibition agent who prosecuted fellow Jews with 'irrepressible gusto.' Social justice advocate Rabbi Stephen Wise and the progressive governors of Idaho and Utah believed liquor traffic corrupted politics and that saloons added to the demoralization and impoverishment of the working class. The Volstead Act's sacramental wine dispensation led to debates about assimilation versus seeking special rights for Jewish historical continuity And there were fears that Jewish bootlegging — which, though it represented only a fraction of the business, tainted American Jewry's reputation and exacerbated anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, stilted prose undermines Davis's provocative, well-researched, and potentially intriguing study. Photos." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In this provocative urban history, Lila Corwin Berman considers the role that Detroitand#8217;s Jews have played in the cityand#8217;s well-known narratives of migration and decline. Like other Detroiters in the 1960s and 1970s, Jews left the city for the suburbs in large numbers. But Berman makes the case that they nevertheless constituted themselves as urban people, and she shows how complex spatial and political relationships existed within the greater metropolitan region. By insisting on the existence and influence of a and#147;metropolitan consciousness,and#8221; Berman reveals the complexity and contingency of what did and didnand#8217;t change as regions expanded in the postwar era.
In this provocative and accessible urban history, Lila Corwin Berman considers the role that Detroitandrsquo;s Jews played in the cityandrsquo;s well-known narrative of migration and decline. Taking its cue from social critics and historians who have long looked toward Detroit to understand twentieth-century urban transformations, Metropolitan Jews tells the story of Jews leaving the city while retaining a deep connection to it. Berman argues convincingly that though most Jews moved to the suburbs, urban abandonment, disinvestment, and an embrace of conservatism did not invariably accompany their moves. Instead, the Jewish postwar migration was marked by an enduring commitment to a newly fashioned urbanism with a vision of self, community, and society that persisted well beyond city limits.
Complex and subtle, Metropolitan Jews pushes urban scholarship beyond the tenacious black/white, urban/suburban dichotomy. It demands a more nuanced understanding of the process and politics of suburbanization and will reframe how we think about the American urban experiment and modern Jewish history.
About the Author
Marni Davis is Assistant Professor of History at Georgia State University.
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