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JPS Guide: American Jewish History

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JPS Guide:  American Jewish History

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JPS Guide: American Jewish History
By Norman H. Finkelstein
Jewish Publication Society, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8276-0810-8

Reviewed by Herbert White - August 14, 2009

The JPS (Jewish Publication Society) guide to American Jewish History, written by Norman H. Finkelstein, provides readers with a concise introductory overview of Jewish American history from the mid-1300s through the early 2000s. Finkelstein not only looks at the history of Jews in America, but also the forces that propelled Jews from many different lands to seek out a new life in America. He also examines how, once established in America, American Jewry reacted to events in other countries, such as the revival of a blood libel accusation in Syria in 1840, and to pivotal events such as the Holocaust and the founding of the new nation state of Israel.

The text is enhanced by the inclusion of brief biographies of key players in Jewish - American history and in Jewish society. The book is filled with more than seventy illustrations and maps, along with boxed texts that feature important tidbits of information, which will increase your appreciation and understanding of the Jewish American experience.

The information presented in the JPS Guide: American Jewish History is organized chronologically. Timelines and other additional features such as endnotes and bibliographic information are also included. This book was written for the general readers, and the enhancements interwoven within the historic narrative serve to enliven an already vivid and engaging book, making the text as accessible to both young and old alike. This essential reference book can be read straight through for pleasure, it can be used as a textbook, and it can profitably be used by simply flipping through the pages until your eye alights on some new tidbit of information or upon a topic of interest. From beginning to end, the JPS Guide: American Jewish History will hold your interest, due in equal parts to Finkelstein flowing narrative and due to the vibrant nature of the material under study. I highly recommend this book for all public and school libraries, and in every Jewish home. It is also a 'must read' for anyone seeking a general introduction to the history of American Jewry and the Jewish-American experience.

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