According to many historical accounts, American Jews have enjoyed an unparalleled degree of freedom, acceptance, and prosperity throughout their history in the United States. This has enabled Jews to blend their ethnic identities with the demands of American citizenship far more easily than other diasporic Jews. At the same time, the notion of American Jewish exceptionalism holds that Jews have differed from other ethnic groups in the United States by virtue of their educational and economic attainment and, often, by virtue of Jewish “values,” including a devotion to educational and social/political liberalism.
Yet to what extent are these notions about American uniqueness, on the one hand, and Jewish uniqueness, on the other, accurate? Does the concept of exceptionalism continue to provide a useful framework for understanding American Jewish history? Should it be qualified for greater nuance or discarded altogether?
Papers will be given by a range of prominent academics and doctoral candidates from around the U.S., Canada, and Israel. The keynote will be offered by Professor David Sorkin and an evening roundtable will feature the esteemed U.S. historians Jon Butler and Ira Katznelson in dialogue with Beth Wenger and Rebecca Kobrin, outstanding scholars in the field of American Jewish history. A pre-conference tour of Harlem will be led by Professor Jeffrey Gurock. A tour of the Tenement Museum led by Annie Polland is optional at the conclusion of the conference.
Full conference details are available online at
Illustration: “East Side Soap Box” Shahn, Ben (1898-1969) © VAGA, NY. East Side Soap Box, 1936. Gouache on paper, 18 1/2 x 12 1/4 in. (47 x 31.1 cm). Purchase: Deana Bezark Fund in memory of Leslie Bezark- Mrs. Jack N. Berkman, Susan and Arthur Fleischer, Dr. Jack Allen and Shirley Kapland, Hanni and Peter Kaufmann, Hyman L. and Joan C. Sall Funds, and Margaret Goldstein Bequest, 1995-61. Photo by John Parnell. The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, U.S.A. © The Jewish Museum, NY / Art Resource, NY