Jewish History Books for Young Adults:

Immigration and the "American Experience"


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For biographies of Jewish-Americans (Louis Brandeis, Levi Strauss, Irving Berlin, Haym Salomon, etc.), go to the Biographies

For historical fiction books about Jewish life United States, go to the Jewish-American Historical Fiction Books Page


Other Pages of Interest:

Jewish History Books for Middle School and Young Adult Readers
General Jewish History & Nonfiction | Biblical Era | European History (Excluding the Holocaust) | Immigration & The American Experience | The Holocaust | Israel

Jewish Historical Fiction for Middle School and Young Adult Readers
Biblical Era | Middle Ages & Renaissance | Immigration & The American Experience | European History | The Holocaust | Israel

Jewish Books for Children | Bar Mitzvah Books | Jewish Parenting Books | Jewish Music for Children | Jewish Videos | Jewish Jewelry

Kids Explore America's Jewish Heritage
An information-packed, exuberant guide to Jewish life, compiled by young students during a summer workshop in Colorado. The results are successful. There is attention to Jewish involvement in the American Revolution, the Civil War, trade unionism, and the civil rights movement. Chapters on the Jewish life cycle and holidays are informative, and the changing roles of men and women are described. Although tradition is taken as the norm, the perspectives of Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism are acknowledged. Chapters on folktales, cooking, and crafts express cultural flavor. A section on music, theater, and dance deals with both religious and secular aspects of the arts. Biographical sections are scattered throughout the text. The catalog format makes the volume accessible; illustrations include black-and-white photos and drawings.

Description from School Library Journal

The Jewish Americans
(The Immigrant Experience)

By Howard Muggamin
Discusses the history, culture, and religion of the Jews, factors encouraging their emigration, and their acceptance as an ethnic group in North America.

Description from Publisher

The Jewish-American Answer Book

By Ellen Schnidman
Presents questions covering the history, culture and social life, religion, political activities, economic life, and accomplishments of Jewish Americans, with a separate section of answers.

Description from Publisher

Forged in Freedom:

Shaping the Jewish-American Experience

By Norman H. Finkelstein
An engrossing history, in words and photographs, of the growth of the Jewish community in the United States and its contribution to American culture, politics, and economics in the twentieth century. The author focuses on 10 key turning points in history that greatly impacted The United States and its American Jewish citizens, and includes chapters on labor and justice, Jewish political coming-of-age, the fight against bigotry, and more.

Description from Publisher

A New Promised Land: A History of Jews in America

By Hasia R. Diner
An engaging chronicle of Jewish life in the United States, A New Promised Land reconstructs the multifaceted background and very American adaptations of this religious group, from the arrival of twenty-three Jews in the New World in 1654, through the development of the Orthodox, conservative, and Reform movements, to the ordination of Sally Priesand as the first woman rabbi in the United States. Hasia Diner supplies fascinating details about Jewish religious traditions, holidays, and sacred texts--bar and bat mitzvah celebrations and seder dinners, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, the Talmud and the Torah. In addition, she relates the history of the Jewish religious, political, and intellectual institutions in the United States, from The Daily Forward newspaper and the synagogues in New York's Lower East Side to the Jewish Defense League and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Concise and clearly written, A New Promised Land tackles some of the biggest issues facing Jewish Americans today, including their increasingly complex relationship with Israel.

Description from Publisher

Begins in 1654 with the arrival of 23 Jews in New Amsterdam and follows the changes in Jewish-American life up to the present day.... Clear and lively. A host of archival photos and reproductions enhance the presentation. The author does a good job of explaining the basic tenets of Judaism... The glossary, index, chronology, and suggestions for further reading are useful for reports, but the tone of the narrative is conducive to pleasure reading as well.

Description from School Library Journal

An excellent Afikoman gift for the teen or young adult at the seder... Photographs and an attractive design invite both perusal and more in-depth reading... Diner...writes in a clear style that pulls together that diverse entity known as the American Jewish community.

Description from The Chicago Jewish Star

To Bigotry No Sanction:
The Story of the Oldest Synagogue in America
Here is a look at part of American history that few Americans even think of. When were Jews allowed to settle in America? Did anyone object? Were Jews prohibited from settling anywhere in the new country? Jews actually came to America at the very beginning-it is thought that at least two of Columbus' crew were Jewish. And in Rhode Island, in 1759, the Jewish community began to build a synagogue. That synagogue, designed by America's first architect, is still being used today. But the Jews took nothing for granted, and in 1790 they wrote a letter to George Washington, congratulating him on his victories and expressing hope that they would be allowed to be citizens of the new country. Washington, in his response, used the phrase repeated in the title of this fascinating book. This needs to be read by everyone. Highly recommended.

Description from Children's Literature

The Touro Synagogue of Newport, Rhode Island, is the oldest Jewish house of worship in the US; Fisher traces its history and details the design and construction of the beautiful two-story Georgian-style building, describing "the quietness of the building's exterior, its gentleness" which "belied the tormented history of its congregants, resolute in their beliefs." Constructed from 1759-1763, the synagogue was the focus of President George Washington's comments in 1790 that "the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." This well-documented history will remind readers that the US was settled by people of many faiths who were united in their ``search for freedom and peace of mind."

Description from Kirkus Reviews

The Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, was already nearly thirty years old when George Washington visited it in 1790. Handsome black-and-white photographs and prints along with a detailed text highlight individuals and events surrounding the centuries of worldwide discrimination against Jews and describe the long building process, the decline, and the eventual renewal of this historic synagogue.

Description from Horn Book

Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America:
150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism
There are 150 action stories and illustrations in this book depicting the contributions and sacrifices of Jews to defend and build a better America, from colonial times to the present, in peace and in war.

Description from Publisher

Jewish Heroes of the Wild West
Adapted for young readers from "Jews Among the Indians" by M.L. Marks, it contains the true stories of four immigrant men who played exciting and unusual roles in various aspects of Western development during the nineteenth century. This book is intended to present little-known information for Jewish children of middle school age who will surely be thrilled to learn that some of our Jewish forebears contributed in unusual and adventurous ways to American history.

Description from Publisher

Journey to Ellis Island:
How My Father Came to America
Illustrated with beautifully evocative paintings and family photographs, this story of a Russian Jewish family's courageous journey to a new land is a real-life account of the authentic immigration experience.

Description from Publisher

In 1922, 11-year-old Yehuda Weinstein, his mother, and his sister made their way across Europe and aboard the Rotterdam, bound for New York. Days later, immigration inspectors noticed that the boy's arm was in a sling and refused him entry into the U.S. The book, based on the experiences of the author's father, details with drama and affection the youngster's detention on Ellis Island until he was seen by medical personnel and his eventual arrival in New York. Bierman accurately describes the facility's processing procedures, regulations, routines, and dormitories. Of additional historical interest is the family's flight from Porusetz, Russia, behind a retreating Russian Army. While a bit of the momentum may be lost for some readers due to narrative shifts in time, the combination of archival materials and human interest makes this a natural accompaniment to immigration units. In telling the story, the author relies heavily on fictionalized dialogue. Well-chosen sepia photographs, including some of the family; reproductions of postcards of Ellis Island during the 1920s; and full-page watercolor-and-casein artwork illustrate the presentation giving it the look of a photo album. A final photograph of the 86-year-old Weinstein in the Ellis Island Registry Room he passed through 75 years earlier brings his moving story full circle.

Description from School Library Journal

The Jews
(We Came to North America)
Most Jews who immigrated to North America over the past few centuries have all had a common motivation--to flee a life of great hardship and cruelty. This intriguing account uses full-color artwork and eyewitness accounts to tell how Jews from around the world fled persecution in their homelands and came to North America. Detailed maps show where they settled and how their traditions are still celebrated today.

Description from Publisher

Jews in America

by Hasia Diner
On September 19, 1934, Hank Greenberg--a powerful hitter who led the American League in home runs four times--refused to play for his team, the Detroit Tigers. Instead he chose to observe the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. On that day he put his identity as a Jew over the most American sport, and the Tigers' fans rallied behind his decision. This story is an excellent example of the way America has embraced Judaism, along with a number of other religions, as an important element in our diverse religious make-up.

A chronicle of Jewish life in the United States--from the arrival of 23 Jews in the New World in 1654, through the centuries of religious intolerance and social injustice, and on to the separation of American Jewry into Orthodox and Reform movements--Jews in America reconstructs the multifaceted background and very American adaptations of this religious group. Hasia Diner supplies intriguing details about Jewish religious traditions, holidays and sacred texts: bar mitzvahs and seder dinners, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, the Talmud and the Torah. In addition, she relates the history of Jewish religious, political, and intellectual institutions in the United States, from The Daily Forward newspaper and the synagogues in New York's Lower East Side to the Jewish Defense League and the Holocaust Museum in Washington. The book tackles the biggest issues facing Jewish Americans today, including their increasingly complex relationship with Israel.

Description from Publisher

Let Freedom Ring :
A History of the Jews in the United States
The first group of Jewish immigrants, 23 in number, arrived in America over 300 years ago. Today there are almost six million Jews in America. This is the dramatic story of how the Jewish people came from nearly every part of the globe in search of freedom and opportunity. They became actors and writers, scientists and doctors, manufacturers and entrepreneurs, and in the process helped shape the history of our country.

Here is the Jewish dimension of the American history our young people are learning in their secular curriculum: Jews contributed to the Age of Discovery and to life in colonial America; they fought in the American Revolution and in the Civil War; Jews were active on the Western frontier and in the development of the labor movement; they responded to the Holocaust and helped create the State of Israel. Now students can share the pride of our past while they prepare themselves to meet the challenges that will face American Jews in the future.

This fascinating saga spans over 300 years--from 1654 to the present--in a concise 96 pages with 133 photographs.

Description from Publisher

Forged in Freedom :
Shaping the Jewish-American Experience

By Norman H. Finkelstein
An engrossing history, in words and photographs, of the growth of the Jewish community in the United States and its contribution to American culture, politics, and economics in the twentieth century. The author focuses on 10 key turning points in history that greatly impacted The United States and its American Jewish citizens, and includes chapters on labor and justice, Jewish political coming-of-age, the fight against bigotry, and more.

Description from Publisher

The Jewish-American Answer Book

By Ellen Schnidman
Presents questions covering the history, culture and social life, religion, political activities, economic life, and accomplishments of Jewish Americans, with a separate section of answers.

Description from Publisher
Heeding the Call
Heeding the Call :
Jewish Voices in America's Civil Rights Struggle
Heeding the Call: Jewish Voices in America's Civil Rights Struggle chronicles the multifaceted role of Jewish Americans in the difficult struggle for civil rights. Their story will inspire the next generation of young Jews and African Americans to renew the legacy of cooperation which once united both groups

This outstanding book looks at the long and difficult fight for civil rights through the words and actions of selected Jewsih activists. To tell the story of the contributions Jews have made to this struggle, the author focuses on the work of four individuals whose work spans four centuries; Asser Levy, Rabbi David Einhorn, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Lillian Wald. Their work as well as the efforts of many others in the Jewish community, made significant difference in securing rights for all.

description from publisher

The Tenement Writer:
An Immigrant's Story

By Ben Sonder
Follows a young Jewish immigrant from Poland as she struggles to build a new life in America and fulfill her dreams of becoming a writer.

Description from Publisher

The courage, commitment, and vision of individuals both famous and ordinary are celebrated through stories that reveal the rich, multicultural tapestry of the American experience. The texts, most of which incorporate material from primary sources, such as letters and journals, are based on historical fact. A Matter of Conscience and A Place Called Heartbreak are the most compelling of the solid book.

Description from Horn Book

This Land of Liberty :
A History of America's Jews
Did you know that Philadelphia's first synagogue was built with the aid of many distinguished contributors including Benjamin Franklin?; that when George Washington came to Rhode Island, the head of the Newport synagogue greeted him as "brother" and welcomed him with a secret password?; that it was a Jewish firm that hired Daniel Boone to survey the Kentucky frontier?; that Jewish pioneers and pathfinders who traveled west to trade with the Indians negotiated treaties with their chiefs, mastered every Indian language from Choctaw to Ute, and improvised ways to keep kosher in the wilderness?; that Jewish abolitionists rode with John Brown?; that a Jew from Louisiana was known as "the brains of the Confederacy"?; how Robert E. Lee honored the Jewish New Year?; that a Jew was Abraham Lincoln's life-long friend and another Jew served as one of Lincoln's generals? From the earliest settlers (who arrived only 34 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock), to Esther Brown (the Kansas housewife whose lawsuit led to the landmark Supreme Court decision ending segregation in the public schools), Jews have been among the builders and movers of America. They came from nearly every and of the globe and they settled in nearly every corner of this continent. Their story, based on the authentic family records of generation after generation of American Jews, is told in This Land Of Liberty: A History Of America's Jews, along with more than 500 contemporary drawings, prints, and vintage photographs. This Land Of Liberty is a compendium of more than 350 years of American history as seen through the eyes of the Jews who experienced it. This Land Of Liberty deserves a place on the shelf of every school and community library throughout the country!

Description from Midwest Book Review

A Student's Guide to Jewish American Genealogy
In addition to being a comprehensive treatment of genealogy as a subject, this impressive work offers an in-depth survey of Jewish history as a framework for exploration. The author stresses the time-consuming and costly realities of a genealogy project. There are sections on the challenges presented for adoptees and for the children of single-parent families. Valuable information on tracing Holocaust victims is included. All of the chapters are followed by well-chosen lists of annotated resources, containing books, organizations, and on-line services. Black-and-white photographs and a full-color section entitled "A Jewish American Photo Album" lend poignancy to the text. The chapter "In the Beginning..." suggests that Moses may have been an Egyptian, a decidedly nonmainstream view. This title is a worthy complement to "must have" books on Jewish genealogy written for adults, such as Arthur Kurzweil's From Generation to Generation.

Description from School Library Journal

Extraordinary Jewish Americans
Brief biographical sketches of 60 prominent Jewish Americans from the fields of science, business, sports, politics and law, and arts and entertainment. The arrangement is chronological by birth date from Haym Solomon (1740) to Jerry Seinfeld (1954) with insertions of three topical sections: "The Jews Who Created Hollywood," "Jewish Gangsters," and "Jewish Americans and the Civil Rights Movement." Excellent-quality black-and-white photographs appear throughout. An annotated appendix cites "124 Other Extraordinary Jewish Americans." There is an extensive name and word index and a very good listing for further information arranged by age level that includes online sites, organizations, and films and videos.

Description from School Library Journal

Frontier Merchants :
Lionel & Barron Jacobs and the Jewish Pioneers How Settled the West

By Jerry Stanley
Alongside the cowboys, miners, railroad builders, and soldiers whose role in the settlement of the American West is well known there was another, equally important figure: the pioneer merchant who supplied the rapidly growing towns of the West with manufactured goods. In Taming the West, Jerry Stanley tells the story of Lionel and Barron Jacobs, who in 1867 set out from California for Tucson with a wagonload of canned goods. After a two month trek across the desert, they arrived in Tucson--then a lawless one-street Wild West town--and set up shop. Within a week they were sold out; within two years, they had established a prosperous mercantile business. As Tucson grew, so did Lionel and Barron's business, expanding first to money exchange and loans and finally into the Arizona Territory's first formal bank.

From their gritty beginnings in an open wagon to their eventual role among Tucson's wealthiest and most influential citizens, Jerry Stanley tells Lionel and Barron's story with vigor and an eye for colorful period detail. Weaving threads of Jewish history and immigrant history, and the settlement of the frontier, Taming the West is a rich and fascinating look behind the scenes of the American West.

Description from Publisher

In this impressive biography, Stanley illustrates two aspects seldom highlighted in histories of the U.S.: business development in pioneer communities and the role of Jewish immigrants in building the economic foundation of the American West. Sons of a Polish merchant who went to California with the gold rush, the Jacobs brothers grew up in San Diego and soon joined the family firm. While still in their 20s, they departed for Tucson, Arizona Territory, in 1867, driving a 12-mule freight wagon loaded with goods to stock a new venture in the unfamiliar desert frontier. Their struggles, adventures, and eventual successes are interspersed with information about the Jewish-American experience, 19th-century business practices, and the relationship of the Jacobs' lives to larger events occurring throughout the "Wild West." As related in Stanley's well-wrought chapters, it all makes fascinating reading.

Description from School Library Journal

The Jewish American Family Album

By Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler
(Introduction by Mandy Patinkin)
As long ago as September 1654, 23 Jews disembarked from a ship named the Sainte Catherine into New Amsterdam--today's New York City. They came to find a safe haven from oppression and religious persecution and to seek economic opportunity. But even they were not the first Jewish Americans, and they were certainly not the last. Three million Jewish immigrants followed in the next three centuries. Today, about 4 out of every 10 Jews in the world are U. S. citizens.

The Jewish American Family Album tells personal stories of Jewish immigrants from their arrival in this country (as early as 1579) to the present day. Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler have found letters, diaries, and newspaper articles that describe what life was like in the old countries and tell of the difficulties encountered in leaving home for a new life in America. They have combed through family archives and scrapbooks to find personal accounts that make history as immediate and exciting as stories told generation after generation in any family.

In their own words, we learn what life was like for these millions of Jewish immigrants. We read of the earliest of the Jewish Americans, some of whom fought and died in the Revolution. We hear from Holocaust survivors and their children. We discover that from the beginning, Jewish Americans provided a base of support--lodging and fellowship--for those who followed. The part Jewish Americans played in the settlement of the American West, their strategic importance to the U.S. labor movement, and their many contributions to theater and music are documented with rare first-person accounts and extraordinary photographs. We hear of the challenges the immigrants faced, including anti-Semitism, even in the "Land of the Free." But Jewish Americans linked old traditions with new ones to build communities that have become a permanent and important part of American life.

The memories and experiences of well-known Jewish Americans such as comedians George Burns and Jack Benny, Oscar Solomon Straus (the first Jewish Presidential cabinet member), and novelist Edna Ferber are included, as are profiles of Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Leonard Bernstein, union leader Samuel Gompers, and poet Emma Lazarus, among others. But other Jewish Americans who did not achieve celebrity status are also represented. Moses Albert Levy, a doctor who joined Sam Houston's army, 13-year-old Mary Antin, who arrived in Boston in 1894, Sarah Thal, who was a homesteader in the Dakotas, and many more fascinating but unknown immigrants tell powerful, emotional, and sometimes funny stories of life in their new homeland.

These memories and profiles are illustrated with moving photographs from news sources and family collections. They show in vivid fashion a people who have brought us humor, spirit, and perseverance. The Jewish American Family Album is an important tribute to the magificent variety of people and cultures that make up our United States.

Description from Publisher


Fire!
The Library Is Burning

By Barry D. Cytron
Describes the disastrous 1966 fire at the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and the massive rescue operation in which both the neighborhood and the city took part.

Description from Publisher

America : The Jewish Experience
Aimed at intermediate grades (5-6), this spirited text chronicles the story of Jewish migration to America from the earliest colonial settlement in 1654 to the present time. Master teacher Sondra Leiman weaves fascinating stories into the Jewish American experience, making history come alive.

Chapters include "People to Know" (prominent Jewish personalities) and "In Their Own Words" (original letters, newspaper clippings, and diaries), dramatizing the following key themes: Jewish Community (K'lal Yisrael) * Religious Liberty * Contributions of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Communities * Immigration * Civil Rights * The Changing Face of American Judaism.

Description from Publisher

Haym Salomon:
Liberty's Son
Here is the little-known story of the selfless and patriotic Jewish merchant who raised money to finance the American Revolution and the new nation. The author vividly recreates Salomon's exploits with the underground Sons of Liberty and portrays his patriotism as the natural outgrowth of his Jewish heritage. Entertaining, Haym Salomon provides young readers with a model to admire.

Description from Publisher

A National Jewish Book Award Winner

We Shall Not Be Moved: The Women's Factory Strike of 1909

By Joan Dash
Young people feeling like they can't change the world should read Joan Dash's We Shall Not Be Moved. In 1909, teenage girls led some 30,000 shirt cutters, pressers, and finishers in the "largest strike of women workers ever known in the United States." These young women, who lived near poverty and spoke different languages, nevertheless brought the shirt-making industry to a halt for more than 13 weeks. Not only did it unite factory workers, it gained crucial support from college-educated suffragists and from women in high society, often called "the mink brigade." The strike, which began in New York and spread to Philadelphia, ultimately led to a settlement between more than 300 manufacturers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Description from Amazon.com

Women's labor history has been getting a lot of attention lately, from Kraft's Mother Jones (1995) to Colman's Rosie the Riveter (1995). Now Dash gives a lively account of the first strike of women workers, in 1909, and the struggle to form a permanent women's trade union. She describes the appalling wages and conditions in the shirtwaist factories, where most of the women were impoverished Jewish immigrants. She also tells of the hunger, overcrowding, and disease in their tenements on New York's Lower East Side. Focusing on some of the dynamic leaders, Dash shows that the workers on the picket line fought the traditional passive view of women in their families and in the male-dominated union, even as they resisted bigotry in the general population and corruption in authority. Several chapters describe the society women, "the mink brigade," who reached across class to picket with the strikers and help fund and publicize the struggle. This is strong feminist history. It's frustrating that, though there is a bibliography, no sources are cited, even for direct quotes.

Description from Booklist

Dash describes in gripping detail the inhumane conditions for women workers, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, in early twentieth-century Manhattan shirtwaist factories. The text provides stirring portraits of the women from all classes who united behind the cause. An insert of black-and-white archival photographs is included.

Description from Horn Book

The Jewish American Family Album
Introduction by Mandy Patinkin. Filled with personal stories of Jewish immigrants, from their arrival in America (as early as 1579) to the present day, this important tribute also includes reproductions of letters and newspaper articles which describe what life was like in the old countries as well as in the new. Includes profiles of Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Leonard Bernstein, and others.

Description from Publisher

Jewish Immigrants, 1880-1924

By Susan E. Haberle
Explore the history of U.S. immigration in the Coming to America series. Readers will learn the reasons that people left their homeland to start a new life in America and follow their journey through time lines and maps. Recipes and activity sidebars also allow students to celebrate the rich heritage and cultural contributions each group has made to American society.

Features:
  • Full-color and historical photographs and illustrations
  • Table of contents, glossary, bibliography, places to write and visit, index
  • Map & Timeline
  • Craft, activity, game, or recipe sidebars
  • Quotations from diaries and other primary sources
  • List of famous immigrants and descendants of immigrants
  • Instructions for how to make a family tree
  • Contextual definitions of unfamiliar terms
  • Internet sites


Description from Publisher

Louis Brandeis:
The People's Justice
Louis Brandeis put the needs of the individual before the interest of government and big business. The first Jew to be nominated to the Supreme Court, he supported free speech, social reform and the right to privacy. He was known, informally, as "adviser to presidents." In addition, it was his support of the Zionism Movement that influenced American Jews to support it.

Description from Publisher

Jewish Americans Struggle for Equality

By Geoffrey Bar-Lev
Discusses the struggle of Jews to secure equal rights in the United States.

Description from Publisher

The Jews in America

By Frances Butwin
Traces the history of the Jews in the United States and their role in the political, cultural, and industrial development of the country. Also discusses the causes and origins of anti-Semitism.

Description from Publisher

Jewish Migrations

By Jill Rutter

General Jewish History & Nonfiction | Biblical Era | European History (Excluding the Holocaust) | Immigration & The American Experience | Holocaust | Israel





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