"This work should emerge as the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil. It will eclipse earlier work even as it sensitizes us to the shape that our religious life will take in the opening decades of the third millennium."Michael Berenbaum, Director, Sigi Ziering Institute, The University of Judaism;"Jonathan Sarna's history of American Jewry is a wonderful read-and at the same time an informative and subtle analysis of the formation of something radically new in Jewish history: a diaspora community that is, for most of its members, not an exilic community."-Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey
Author Biography: Jonathan Sarna is Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, and chairs the Academic Board of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. Author or editor of more than twenty books on American Jewish history and life, he is also the chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History and of the 350th commemoration of Jewish life in America, 1654-2004.
Such scholars as Howard M. Sachar, Henry L. Feingold and Jacob R. Marcus, among others, have produced complete histories of American Jewry. Sarna, a Brandeis University professor who has published on various aspects of American Jewish history, now joins the ranks of his distinguished predecessors. Marking the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in New Amsterdam (now New York), this outstanding survey emphasizes the religious history of Jews in America. Since it is difficult to disentangle religious history from the entire story of how Jews fared generally in the United States, the book provides a sweeping overview of the trials, tribulations and triumphs of American Jews from 1654 to the present. Sarna writes in sprightly prose, usefully presenting anecdotes about some unfamiliar people and events: for example, he introduces Rachel "Ray" Frank, an obscure late-19th-century "charismatic woman Jewish revivalist." Full attention is also paid to the great rabbinical leaders, the movements they led and the problems they encountered. Sarna's fact-filled presentation demonstrates that American Jews have always worried about intermarriage, assimilation and continuity. At various times, they have found answers in regeneration, revitalization and renewal. Concluding with a consideration of contemporary dilemmas, Sarna draws from history the possibility that "American Jews will find creative ways to maintain and revitalize American Judaism." (Apr.) Forecast: Sarna, one of the great deans of American Judaism and the chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History, will promote this book at many lectures this spring in cities such as New York, Saint Paul, Providence, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.