ABOUT THIS BOOK
Widely regarded as today’s foremost American Jewish historian, Jonathan D. Sarna had a huge impact on the academy. Sarna’s influence is perhaps nowhere more apparent than among his former doctoral students—a veritable “Sarna diaspora” of over three dozen active scholars around the world. Both a tribute to Sarna and an important collection in its own right, New Perspectives in American Jewish History was compiled by Sarna’s former students and presents previously unpublished, neglected, or rarely seen historical documents and images that illuminate the breadth, diversity, and dynamism of the American Jewish experience. Beginning with the earliest known Jewish divorce in circum-Atlantic history (1774) and concluding with a Black Lives Matter Haggadah supplement (2019), the collection travels across time and space to shed light on intriguing and generative moments that span the varieties of Jewish experience in the American setting from the colonial era to the present. The materials underscore the interrelationship of myriad themes including ritual observance, Jewish-Christian relations, civil rights, Zionism and Israel, and immigration. While not intended as a comprehensive treatment of American Jewish history, the collection offers a chronological road map of American Jewry’s evolving self-understanding and encounter with America over the course of four centuries. A brief prefatory note sets up the analytic context of each document and helps to unpack and explore its significance. The capacious and multifaceted quality of the American Jewish experience is further amplified here by a sampling of artistic texts such as photographs, advertisements, cartoons, and more.