Hasia Diner gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Thursday, March 22, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “How America Met the Jews.”

This talk will focus on some of the key characteristics of American history which rendered it such an attractive place for Jews immigrating during the last centuries. Particularly during the century from 1820 through 1920 no less than 85 to 90 percent of Jews seeking homes outside of Europe chose America. While much of the historical and public discussion has pivoted around the word “freedom,” this talk will explore more mundane, but perhaps more profound reasons. These including the vast number of other immigrants arriving at the same time who essentially deflected negative attention from Jews, the nation’s obsession with color and the reality that Jews always enjoyed the legal benefits of being white, America’s embrace of religion as a force for morality, its unabashed materialism and celebration of consumerism, and finally, the fundamentally non-ideological politics built around the two-party system.

Hasia Diner’s work has been located at the intersection of American and Jewish history, though not exclusively. She has also ventured out to look at the histories of other European immigrant groups in the United States and is currently completing a biography of philanthropist Julius Rosenwald as part of Yale University’s series, “Jewish Lives.” She is the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011); Senior Post-doctoral Fellowship, Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Research, Princeton University (2002–2003); Fellow, American Academy of Jewish Research (elected); Member, Society of American Historians (elected); and is one of twenty living women historians included in American Women Historians. 1700-1900s (Greenwood Press, 1998, edited by Jennifer Scanlon and Sharon Cosner). She is the author of numerous prize-winning volumes, including The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000 (University of California Press, 2004), Hungering for America: Italian, Irish and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration (Harvard University Press, 2002), Her Works Praise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America from Colonial Times to the Present (Basic Books, 2002, with Beryl Lieff Benderly), and In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

This event is part of the Leon Levy Foundation Lectures in Jewish Material Culture. Additional support provided by The David Berg Foundation.