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Becoming American Jews
Temple Israel of Boston
Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan, Susan L. Porter, Lisa Fagin Davis

Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life

2009 • 280 pp. 205 illus. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
Jewish Studies / Social Science

$29.95 Paperback, 978-1-58465-790-3

“While successfully stressing the story of one congregation, the authors, historians all, have managed to extrapolate from this single emphasis a useful depiction of developments affecting the entire American Jewish... [continued in Reviews below]”—Jewish Journal of South Florida

A compelling history of Boston’s Temple Israel and its role in American Reform Judaism

From its beginning in 1854 as a traditional German shul to its current status as the largest Reform synagogue in New England, Temple Israel has been an important force in Boston and American Jewish life. The congregation’s ongoing efforts to adapt to changes in American society while preserving balance—between tradition and innovation, between acculturation and distinctiveness—exemplify the transformations in religious worship practices, education, and social justice that mark modern American Reform Judaism. This volume, based on hundreds of archival documents, demographic data, and oral histories, and illustrated with more than 200 images, brings to life the stories of the men, women, and children who have built and maintained this vital Jewish community for more than 150 years.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“While successfully stressing the story of one congregation, the authors, historians all, have managed to extrapolate from this single emphasis a useful depiction of developments affecting the entire American Jewish community. The book deserves a wide readership, far beyond the Temple Israel membership.”—Jewish Journal of South Florida

“By updating the institution’s history to the present day, this excellent book emphasizes the go-with-the-flow resilience of a synagogue that became the flagship of the region’s Reform movement.”New England Quarterly

“As the title indicates, Becoming American Jews covers not only the specifics of what is now New England's largest Reform congregation, but also the larger history of Boston's Jewish community and the American Reform movement. This book is highly appropriate for current and former Temple Israel congregants, and for university and synagogue collections of Reform movement histories.”Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

Becoming American Jews shines because its authors exude an affection and enthusiasm for their subject but seldom allow these feelings to overwhelm their narrative. They admirably balance the desire to celebrate a storied congregation with the goal of finding larger meaning in its history. This book sets the standard for future synagogue histories and should be required reading for all who embark on such an endeavor.”The American Jewish Archives Journal

“This trio of historians has done more than produce a solid institutional biography, although they tell the story of a single place with aplomb. They offer here instead a microcosm of American Jewish history, narrating the broad sweep of the American Jewish past through the lens of one synagogue in one city. But what emerges instead is a fine fit between the local and national.”—Hasia R. Diner, Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History, New York University

“The authors help round out the picture of Reform Judaism in America. This history of Temple Israel in Boston highlights the significance of strong rabbis in moving congregations in important new directions. Temple Israel has attracted some of the best American rabbis—and some of the strongest lay leaders.”
—Michael Feldberg, Former Director of Research,American Jewish Historical Society and President, The History Consultancy, LLC

MEAGHAN DWYER-RYAN is a Ph.D. candidate in American ethnic and immigration history at Boston College. SUSAN L. PORTER is a historian and scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center, and a research consultant and lecturer in museum studies at the Harvard University Extension School. LISA FAGIN DAVIS is an independent scholar and manuscript consultant in the Boston area.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:15 -0500