Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Historian Lee Shai Weissbach to Speak in Chicago About Small Town Jewish Communities

Historian Lee Shai Weissbach will Speak in Chicago About Small Town Jewish Communities

Professor Lee Shai Weissbach of the University of Louisville (Kentucky) will speak on September 21, 2008 about small town Jewish communities in a lecture at the Spertus Institute in Chicago. Dr. Weissbach is author of Jewish Life in Small Town America (Yale University Press, 2005). He also wrote the excellent (but poorly titled) The Synagogues of Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky, 1995). I say "poorly titled"since the book is about so much more - it presents the history of American synagogue architecture in the context of community building - illustrated with a detailed cataloging of the synagogues in one relatively small state. It's one of my favorite "unknown" books to pass on to others.

His more recent book addresses some of the same issues, but from a national perspective. It is a required antidote for those whose ideas about American Jewish history have been shaped by reading only Irving Howe's The World of Our Fathers. Weissbach writes that by the 1920s, at there were around 500 small U.S. cities and towns with Jewish populations of 100 to 1,000, and that the history of these communities is an important component of the American Jewish experience. These communities were not miniature versions of big city Jewish life. They offered an alternative version and vision of Jewish America in part drawn from small town Jewish life in Central Europe, and in part based on American traditions of individuality, entrepreneurship and social responsibility.

Tickets are $20 | $15 for Spertus members | $10 for students Call 312.322.1773.

The lecture is at 2 pm. There will be a book signing following Dr. Weissbach's lecture.

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