Conversations with Colleagues: On Becoming an American Jewish Historian

Conversations with Colleagues: On Becoming an American Jewish Historian

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Edited by Jeffrey S. Gurock

Series: North American Jewish Studies
ISBN: 9781618118561 (hardcover)
Pages: 272 pp.
Publication Date: April 2018

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Sixteen senior scholars of American Jewish history—among the men and women whose work and advocacy have moved their discipline into the mainstream of academia—converse on the intellectual and personal roads they have traveled in becoming leaders in their areas of expertise. Through their thoughtful and candid recollections of the challenges they faced in becoming accepted academics, they retell the story of how the study of the Jews and Judaism in the United States rose from being long dismissed as an amateurish enterprise not worthy of serious consideration in the world of ideas to its position today as a respected field in communication with all humanities scholars. They also imagine and chart the direction the writing on American Jews will take in the coming era.


Jeffrey S. Gurock is Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. A prize-winning author or editor of twenty books in the field of American Jewish history, he was twice chair of the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society and for twenty years an editor of its journal, American Jewish History.


Advance Praise

While all of the scholars assembled in this volume are well known for their intellectual perspicacity, their essays here shine light on the humanness of the scholar—the struggles and triumphs each experienced as children, young adults, students, and beyond. In many ways a coming-of-age story narrated by multiple voices, Conversations with Colleagues offers an unprecedented exploration of the evolution and structure of American Jewish history as a field. Jeffrey Gurock’s excellent introduction serves as a guide, enabling the reader to see how each of the scholars fits into a broader set of questions about the organization of intellectual knowledge and its connection to the human beings who create those schemes of organization. Those of us in the field undoubtedly will feel humility and gratitude as we read these pieces; and for those outside of the field, whether historians, scholars, or, simply, readers, the same stories will resonate for their warmth, intelligence, humor, and remarkable self-understanding.
— Lila Corwin Berman, Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History, Director of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, Temple University

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Community of Scholars Who Grew a Field
Jeffrey S. Gurock

Chapter 1—Finding My Way: Uniting American Jewish Women's History and U.S. Women's History
Joyce Antler

Chapter 2—Reconstructing American Jewish Historical Studies
Dianne Ashton

Chapter 3—A Meandering and Surprising Career
Mark K. Bauman

Chapter 4—How I Became an American Jewish Historian and What That Meant For My Professional Life
Hasia Diner

Chapter 5—A Scholar-Athlete’s Discovery of American Jewish History
Jeffrey S. Gurock

Chapter 6—Object Lessons
Jenna Weissman Joselit

Chapter 7—How I Learned to Call America “the States” and Became an American Jewish Historian
Eli Lederhendler

Chapter 8—Sidewalk Histories or Uncovering the Venacular Jewishness of New York City
Deborah Dash Moore

Chapter 9—Becoming an “All-of-a-Kind” Jewish Historian
Pamela S. Nadell

Chapter 10—Joining Historians as an Anthropologist at the Table of American Jewish Culture
Riv–Ellen Prell

Chapter 11—My Life in American Jewish History
Jonathan D. Sarna

Chapter 12—From Kremenets to New York: My Personal Journeys as a Historian
Shuly Rubin Schwartz

Chapter 13—Finding My Place in “the Great Tradition”
Gerald Sorin

Chapter 14—Peripatetic Journeys
Beth S. Wenger

Chapter 15—The Past from the Periphery
Stephen J. Whitfield

Chapter 16—On Rabbis, Doctors and the American Jewish Experience
Gary Phillip Zola