This companion volume to the exhilarating exhibition From Haven to Home at the Library of Congress, which celebrates 350 years of Jewish life in America, bestows permanence on the exhibition. The editor, Michael Grunberger, head of the Hebraic section of the Library, not only curated the exhibition, he conceived the book, as an enduring contribution to the documentation of Jewish life in North America. Entitled From Haven to Home, the book comprises several essays, each by a subject specialist, addressing different facets of the American Jewish experience, thematically presenting evidence in the selected items on display to show that the Jewish experience of America was first as a refuge and later as a fully realized homeland. The prologue deals with the period from 1654 to 1820, recounting the early history of the several communities that were settled by a few Jews looking for economic opportunity as well as religious freedom. A reproduction of a 1777 map of Newport, Rhode Island, referencing the houses of worship, includes that of the Jews, attesting to the early development of community institutions. How the Jews set up their communal life in the early years of settlement provides insight into later developments in Jewish community affairs.
Eli Evans contributes the essay on the Jews who served on opposing sides in the Civil War, “The War Between Brothers in America.” Hasia Diner’s essay “A Century of Migration” analyzes the immigrant experience through an examination of particular lives and mundane culture. Leonard Dinnerstein deals with American anti-Semitism with a graphic depiction of the infamous lynching of Leo Frank. The growing Jewish involvement in American politics is fascinatingly documented by Stephen Whitfield, including the Jewish role in advancing the Zionist cause. There is ample evidence of the vitality of the various Jewish communities as they adapted to their host environment— photographs of stock inventories, theater playbills, Yiddish musical scores, posters promoting rallies and other commemorative events and ritual objects that incorporate American themes, such as the Chanukah menorah whose arms are fashioned as statues of liberty.
Essays by scholars Deborah Dash Moore, Jack Wertheimer, Jonathan D. Sarna and Pamela S. Nadell deal with women’s roles, American Jews’ religious practices and specifically the post- World War II period of enormous acculturation.
Extensive notes to each chapter as well as a bibliography of suggested readings by Peggy Pearlstein, Library of Congress Hebraic Area specialist, make this volume particularly useful for students of American Jewish history. Not only is the text superb, the illustrations are expertly reproduced so as to make this a documentary history as well. From Haven to Home: 350 Years of Jewish Life in America is much more than an exhibition catalogue — it is a significant contribution to our understanding of the complex aspects of contemporary Jewish experience in America.