The Jews of Boston

Jonathan D. Sar­na, Ellen Smith, Scott-Mar­tin Kosof­sky, eds.

  • Review
November 10, 2011

We Bosto­ni­ans chau­vin­is­ti­cal­ly view our city as the Hub of the Uni­verse. Thus, when this book first appeared in hard­cov­er in 1995, it quick­ly became a local cof­fee table favorite. Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished to com­mem­o­rate the 100th anniver­sary of the Com­bined Jew­ish Phil­an­thropies of Greater Boston, it has now been revised and expand­ed into a more afford­able paper­back edition.

Too often, the sto­ry of Jew­ish Amer­i­ca begins and ends in New York, with lit­tle recog­ni­tion of the rich and dis­tinc­tive Jew­ish his­to­ry of oth­er cities. Over the years, a num­ber of local inter­est books have been writ­ten describ­ing the evo­lu­tion of Jew­ish life in cities across Amer­i­ca. This book presents the Jew­ish his­to­ry of Boston in a schol­ar­ly yet acces­si­ble man­ner. While filled with facts, dates and names, the well-writ­ten nar­ra­tives pro­vide read­ers with com­pre­hen­sive insight into the devel­op­ment and evo­lu­tion of Boston’s Jew­ish community. 

The book con­sists of a series of essays by not­ed experts and schol­ars encom­pass­ing var­i­ous aspects of com­mu­nal life and his­to­ry. Each essay focus­es on either a broad his­tor­i­cal peri­od (e.g. Israelites in Boston, 1840 – 1880”) or a par­tic­u­lar top­ic (e.g. syn­a­gogues and phil­an­thropy). Two new essays have been added to this new edi­tion. The first, writ­ten by Scott-Mar­tin Kosof­sky and Jonathan Sar­na, details recent demo­graph­ic changes and the result­ing focus on Jew­ish edu­ca­tion at all lev­els. The sec­ond, writ­ten by Boston Col­lege pro­fes­sor Thomas O’Connor, pro­vides a his­tor­i­cal and soci­o­log­i­cal view of ear­li­er con­tentious rela­tions between local Jews and Christians. 

The book is enriched with over 100 care­ful­ly cap­tioned con­tem­po­rary illus­tra­tions and photographs.

Discussion Questions