2018 Summer Fellows

The Feinstein Center for American Jewish History announces the selection of its Summer Fellows for 2018:

Gregg DrinkwaterGregg Drinkwater is a PhD Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. Gregg’s research explores how gay and lesbian Jews transformed the landscape of liberal Judaism in the United States in the post-World War II era. By creating gay synagogues in the 1970s and asserting public gay Jewish identities, gay and lesbian Jews contributed to shifting the boundaries of normative sexual and gender roles within liberal American Judaism. These gay Jewish innovators paved the way for the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, the widespread adoption of ritual and liturgical innovations rooted in gay and lesbian experiences, and rapid shifts in Jewish perceptions of homosexuality. The Feinstein Center summer fellowship will support a research trip to New York City where Drinkwater will visit the archive at New York’s LGBT Community Center and conduct interviews with founding members of New York’s gay synagogue, as well as gay and lesbian Jews active in other grassroots gay Jewish groups in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Peter Labuza

Peter Labuza is a PhD Candidate at the University of Southern California focusing on the rise of Hollywood’s entertainment law firms. His dissertation, “When A Handshake Meant Something: The Emergence of Entertainment Law and The Constitution of Hollywood Art, 1944-1967,” examines how a new class of entertainment lawyers aided individuals to establish themselves as artists within an industry that had previously espoused only entertainment. He looks at the history of Anti-Semitism in the history of Los Angeles’s legal profession and how Jewish solo practitioners came to redesign Hollywood through contracts, copyright, and tax law. In doing so, Labuza offers a new history of the postwar Hollywood that emphasizes how the Jewish American experience continued to define the industry through the critical junction between legal history and the business of American art in the 20th century.


Anastasiia StrakhovaAnastasiia Strakhova is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Emory University. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Imagining Emigration: Crossing the Borders of Russian Jewry during the Era of Mass Migration, 1881-1917,” analyzes the impact of mass Russian-Jewish immigration to America on the Jewish population remaining in the Russian Empire. In particular, Anastasiia investigates how Jewish everyday life had changed since great migration started, what kind of new financial possibilities became available in the wake of emigration, and how new transnational Russian-Jewish identities were formed. She argues that America, as a prime destination of immigration, extended both the physical and mental borders of Russian Jewry. By studying the multifaceted interrelation between Russian Jews at home and in immigration, her dissertation pushes for a global understanding of Russian Jewry as a unified collective that expanded across vast stretches of space.

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: the JCRC and Gun Control

History News

In the late 1960s, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (JCRC) saw it a priority to take a public stance regarding gun control legislation. While cases of local antisemitic incidents often included violence, they did not generally include firearms. However, in June 1968, gun control legislation was on the JCRC Board of Directors meeting agenda resulting in the board adopting a policy in support of stricter gun control legislation. The primary motivating factors appear to have been two-fold. First, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy had just occurred. And second, there was concern for Jewish merchants and surrounding neighborhoods due to an increase in violent crimes in historically Jewish neighborhoods.  This had produced increased fear and a call for action from the community. The JCRC argued the solution was to address wider, systemic problems and that an escalation of violence and vigilantism could only beget more violence. In a statement by Executive Director Albert Chernin:

Remarks on Jewish Self Defense presented by Albert D. Chernin, Executive Director,” Annual Dinner Meeting, October 27, 1969

Remarks on Jewish Self Defense presented by Albert D. Chernin, Executive Director,” Annual Dinner Meeting, October 27, 1969

“[W]hat we must do is to forge with others a national consensus to persuade the federal government to carry out that massive program that we have postponed for more than 25 years to deal with our massive social, political, and economic problems….That, my friends, is Jewish self-defense. Jewish self-defense is better schools…full and fair employment…full and fair housing….In short, Jewish self-defense is a dynamic, thriving democracy.”

Between 1968 and 1971, the JCRC did very little beyond releasing public statements. Their involvement in the gun control debate began again in earnest in 1972. Motivated by a desire to reduce violence in their community, the Old York Road Suburban Division of the JCRC reminded the board of their 1968 opinion and called on them to renew their public stance advocating gun control. While reassessing their position, the JCRC solicited advice from the Philadelphia Crime Commission, the criminal justice expert at the American Jewish Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Executive Director of the National Council of Responsible Firearms Policy on the question of the constitutionality of private hand gun ownership. JCRC counsel concluded that, “The United States Supreme Courts and lower courts have consistently interpreted the Second Amendment as a prohibition against federal interference with the state militia and not a guarantee of an individual’s rights to bear arms.”

Stanley Tauber to Wilmot Fleming, Board of Directors records, Officers Files, November 26, 1973

Stanley Tauber to Wilmot Fleming, Board of Directors records, Officers Files, November 26, 1973

The board then sanctioned the petitioning of elected officials and public advocacy groups, supported most notably by the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission. Though they received positive responses from the community, the responses from elected officials were tepid. For instance, in response to the JCRC’s suggestion that gun control legislation be advanced at a federal level, the Pennsylvania Senate’s minority caucus chairman Wilmot Fleming called the JCRC’s petitioning of Congress “somewhat meaningless.” The JCRC continued to lobby Fleming to push a total ban on handgun ownership, but he remained unmoved, citing the belief that, “The problem with any gun control measures, either state or federal, is the fact that a criminal who wishes to obtain a firearm of any kind to be used in the commission of a drime [sic] will get it regardless of any law on the statute books.”

In 1975, after failing to make any headway, the JCRC’s focus on gun control legislation began to wane. A change in the executive directorship brought a reassessment of priorities and a focus on Soviet Jewry and the defense of Israel.

Casey Babcock, Project Archivist, SCRC

This is the fourth post of an occasional series highlighting the work of Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The records of the JCRC, housed in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, are currently being processed and will be available for research in late summer 2018.

resized Feinstein 2

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives, housed at the Special Collections Resource Center at Temple University Libraries:
Stu Goldman Editorial Cartoon Collection, 1979-2009

Stu Goldman, an award winning syndicated editorial cartoonist, produced illustrations for the Philadelphia newspaper, The Jewish Exponent, from 1981 until his retirement in 2009. At the resized Feinsteinheight of syndication, Goldman’s editorial cartoons were featured in over 70 publications. His drawings, often political in nature and tied to current events, employed humor to illustrate a point or issue a criticism.

During the 1988 presidential campaign season, Goldman drew a number of cartoons depicting the struggle between Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis and then Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush to attract the Jewish vote, including the images seen here. To learn more about this collection, contact Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center at scrc@temple.edu or visit Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center Jewish Archives.


Forbidden Foods of the Spanish Inquisition

October 12, 2017 By Ronit Treatman 

Did you know that eating a lunch of eggplants, chickpeas, and a green salad could get you burned at the stake during the Middle Ages? This information was concealed in the archives of the Spanish Inquisition. In 1991, access to some of the records was granted to scholars for the first time. David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson were given the opportunity to examine some of these documents. They co-wrote A Drizzle of Honey based on the information they uncovered in the chronicles of the Inquisition trials. It is a scholarly masterpiece and a cookbook that reveals the customs and prejudices of medieval Spain.

The book describes the types of foods that aroused suspicion mentioned in the archives of the Spanish Inquisition. According to Dr. Gitlitz, the Inquisitors looked for Jewish ritual foods, such as matza unleavened bread and haroset a mixture of nuts and dry fruits , which would be prepared for Passover. They also examined the ways in which these foods were prepared, such as not cooking on Saturday the Sabbath . The authors extracted this information from accusations and confessions recorded by the Inquisitors.

In order to figure out what the recipes may have been, Gitlitz and Davidson referred to medieval cookbooks, translating from Catalan, Portuguese, Castilian, and Arabic. Only six cookbooks written before 1492 in the Iberian Peninsula survive to the present. The ingredients described depended on the region and the season. Since the Spanish Inquisition lasted seven hundred years, the time period during which each book was written was also relevant. Some telltale ingredients and cooking techniques flagged by the Inquisition included frying in olive oil, butchering one’s own meat and soaking it in salt water, and serving foods at room temperature.

Every recipe is accompanied by a narrative of what the accused had done to arouse suspicion, and to be reported to the Inquisitors. Bathing, wearing clean clothes, and enjoying food with friends were all actionable wrongs, used to accuse people of observing Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Some recent converts to Catholicism got in trouble for not knowing when to abstain from certain foods, according to the Catholic tradition. In one case, Aldonza Lainez served a cheese casserole to some workers during Lent. She was reported to the Inquisition, and had to explain this oversight.

You may try some of these forbidden recipes on November 5, 2017 at the Mikveh Israel Synagogue. Chef Chad Satanoffsky will prepare several dishes from A Drizzle of Honey. The social hour will begin at 6:00 PM, and dinner will be at 7:00 PM. Dr. Gitlitz will be on hand to talk about his research and the recipes as a part of the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies conference.
YOU can find more information about A Drizzle of Honey and about the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies conference at www.cryptojews.com/events.php.

First printed by The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.


Radiant Others: A Klezmer Music Podcast

Radiant Others: A Klezmer Music Podcast, is a new creation from internationally renowned klezmer trombonist Dan Blacksberg. In each episode, Blacksberg sits down for an in-depth conversation with a musician or other artist whose work has made them an integral part of the klezmer world. Listeners get to go behind the scenes of the lives and work of the individual artists, and the modern history of klezmer music. We ll talk about memorable moments in our artistic development, bring up wild performance stories, and ruminate what it s like to be connected to this international community that makes up the klezmer world.

Dan Blacksberg is one of the acknowledged masters of klezmer trombone. Blacksberg is in high demand as a performer and teacher at festivals like the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, Klezmer Festival Fürth, the now-defunct Klezkamp, and Klezkanda. He has performed and recorded with many of the music’s luminaries, from forward thinkers like Frank London to pillars of the tradition like Elaine Hoffman-Watts. His upcoming album as a leader Radiant Others, will be the first klezmer album to feature the trombone as the lead instrument. Dan also maintains a strong voice in experimental music, having worked with composers Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Joe Morris, and Nate Wooley and performing on recent recordings by experimental metal bands Liturgy and The Body.


Charlottesville on Our Mind

On Friday, September 15, Temple University students gathered for a teach-in about Charlottesville and white supremacy. Convened through Professor Ralph Young’s Dissent in America Series, over sixty students listened to brief presentations by Feinstein director Lila Corwin Berman, professor of History, and Laura Levitt, professor of Charlottlesville 3Religion, Jewish studies, and Gender. Students then shared their responses to the neo-Nazi march and its relationship to our political environment today. While the group did not come to any single interpretation of the march, it modeled the honesty and respect necessary to continue such a conversation.


From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: Investigating the Crucifixion of Uncle Sam

History Newsby: 

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (JCRC) was established by B’nai B’rith in January 1939, but was originally known as the Philadelphia Anti-Defamation Council (PADC). The organization changed its name in May 1944, to better reflect its dual mission to fight anti-Semitism and organized bigotry, as well as to promote intergroup understanding and cooperation. Although the JCRC developed into an organization that worked to advance both of these goals, the earliest records show their focusfrom 1939 through the end of the Second World War was on investigating and combatting anti-Semitism.

Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, conspiratorial ideas regarding Jews increasingly became intermixed with an isolationist and nativist sentiment that hoped to keep

Uncle Sam Crucifixion circular, April 1941

Uncle Sam Crucifixion circular, April 1941

America strictly neutral in the growing conflict in Europe and Asia. A graphic example of this came to the attention of the PADC on April 17, 1941.

Initially referred to as the “new pro-Nazi circular,” correspondence shows that Maurice Fagan, executive director of the PADC, was in contact with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other groups who were investigating its appearance in Philadelphia. An ADL contact revealed that a large number of these circulars were sent to “H. L. Smith” of 2218 Pine Street by “M. Slauter” of 715 Aldine Ave., Chicago. A few days later, Fagan learned that the “Uncle Sam crucifixion circular” was the “brain child” of Newton Jenkins of Chicago and that there were reports of the circular appearing in Oregon and New York. A memorandum from April 24, described 715 Aldine Ave. as a “clearinghouse for anti-Semitic material” and connected Newton Jenkins with Elizabeth Dilling, a right-wing activist and supporter of isolationism.

American Jewish Committee report, April 27, 1941

American Jewish Committee report, April 27, 1941

An April 27 American Jewish Committee report, orchestrated by George Mintzer, details an investigation of the 715 Aldine address and the individuals associated with the case. While the address turned out to be a boarding house and M. Slauter to be a fictitious name, the investigator discovered the circular was printed by John Winter, co-owner of a Chicago printing company that had previously been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for connections with the German American Bund, the National German-American Alliance, and other “front organizations associated with the Nazi movement.”

A second circular began appearing in May that shared the same artistic and thematic style as the first. A May 15 letter from Joseph Roos to Maurice Fagan and others, states that Gustav A. Brand was very likely the artist behind both circulars. Roos states that he knew Brand well and that Brand was a former Chicago City Treasurer who “has constantly been under fire because of his strong Nazi language.”

On May 29, Maurice Fagan sent a letter to the Philadelphia office of the F.B.I. with an update on the investigation into the circulars. This letter appears to be the last action taken on this case, but the records of the JCRC contain many other examples of PADC investigating and exposing cases of anti-Semitism in the Greater Philadelphia region.

The Answer to the Betrayal circular, May 1941

The Answer to the Betrayal circular, May 1941

–Kenneth Cleary, Project Archivist, Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection, SCRC

This is the third post of an occasional series highlighting the work of Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The records of the JCRC, housed in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, are currently being processed and will be available for research in 2018.

Summer Fellows for 2017

The Feinstein Center for American Jewish History announces the selection of its Summer Fellows for 2017:

Ronnie GrinbergRonnie Grinberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History & the Schusterman Center for Judaic & Israel Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her book project, tentatively titled ‘My Pen is My Weapon: The New York Intellectuals and Masculinity, 1930-1980’ examines how gender, ethnicity, and religion intersected to shape the New York intellectuals, a prominent group of mostly male and Jewish writers and critics at midcentury. Ronnie argues that these intellectuals embodied a new construction of Jewishness in the United States, what she terms an ideology of secular American Jewish masculinity, that in turn profoundly shaped how they understood and interpreted the world. This ideology of secular Jewish masculinity became a defining feature of American intellectual life in the second half of the                                                                       twentieth century.


Sara HalpernSara Halpern, a PhD Candidate at The Ohio State University was selected for her project, “The World of 1939 Stood Still For Us: European Jewish Emigration from Shanghai, 1946-1951,”  which examines the transnational conversations among American, Canadian, and Australian Jewish organizations concerning the emigration of 15,000 Central European Jewish refugees from Shanghai between 1945 and 1951. It grapples with post-Holocaust and Nazism, issues of Jewish ethnicity and “ex-enemy” citizenship within frameworks of United Nations’ aid policies and various immigration laws.  By exploring the process, her dissertation sheds light on long-term consequences of failed international efforts to rescue German and Austrian Jewry from state-sponsored racial persecution including the Evian Conference of 1938.  Simultaneously, and more                                                       relevant to the present, it showcases tensions among refugees, humanitarian organizations and the Western                                             powers over repatriation when it becomes the last available option.

Photo LevinGeoffrey Levin is a PhD Candidate at New York University. His dissertation, “Another Nation: Israel, American Jews, and Palestinian Rights, 1949-1977,” traces the emergence of Palestinian rights as an issue in American Jewish politics. Starting with the little-known tale of an American Jewish volunteer who aided Palestinian war refugees and ending with the public controversy over the pro-peace group Breira, the dissertation connects the changing ways in which American Jews reacted to Palestinian rights with broader shifts in American society, Israeli policy, and global politics. By interweaving the stories of activists and officials with macrohistorical trends, the project explains how and why Palestinian rights arose as a prominent and divisive question in Jewish political discourse.


Mathias Fuelling is a PhD Candidate at Temple University researching the ways in which the Holocaust has been memorialized in the former Soviet bloc and Soviet Union nations since the end of the Cold War, focusing on the usage of “stollpersteine” or “tripping stones” in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in the city of Prague. Stollpersteine are bronze plaques set into the street or sidewalk in front of houses and buildings where Holocaust victims lived before their arrest and deportation to the camps. Related to this, Mathias is also interested in the ways in which the Holocaust was memorialized in the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. His project examines the relationship between the nations in which the Holocaust occurred and the ways in which the Holocaust is memorialized in the United States.


Cracked Voices: Stories of Jewish Political Dissent and Fracture, March 26, 2017

As a perpetual minority through two millennia of dispersion, Jews know a little something about dissent. They have not only differed from the majority religion, but also sometimes been at odds with elements of the moral and political cultures in which they built their lives. Within the Jewish world, too, fragmentation and fracture have been as frequent as any unity borne of shared success or tribulation. The saying “two Jews, three opinions” may describe the characteristic that most unifies Jewish experience: the tendency to occupy, and sometimes seek, positions of difference and opposition.

“Cracked Voices” explored these dimensions of Jewish life, past and present, through six individual stories. The program highlighted those who have stood up to be heard, created alternative movements, or decided to go it alone rather than accept the unacceptable. Together, these stories did not cover Jewish history—nor did they sample from the most famous or influential moments of Jewish resistance. Rather, they narrated personal experiences in order to get at the full complexity of fracture: what dissent means to a single person or a community, what it costs, and what it can lead to.

Speakers included:

    • Sam Brody, Katz Center fellow and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Kansas
    • Lital Levy, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University
    • Daniel Mark, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Villanova University
    • Keren Soffer Sharon, Mizrahi educator and organizer and Member Leader at Jews for Economic and Racial Justice
    • Eli Valley, Writer and Artist published in the Village Voice, New Republic, The Nation, and more
    • Carole Zabar, of the famed Zabar s family, photographer, prosecutor, and founder of the Other Israel Film Festival


From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: Police Squad Thwarts Tolerance Raiders

On March 14, 1939, Detective Sergeant Jacob H. Gomborow assigned six detectives from the Philadelphia Bureau of Police’s radical squad to attend a meeting organized by the Committee for Complaint-report-232x300Racial and Religious Tolerance held at the West Philadelphia branch of the YMCA at 52nd and Sansom Streets. The committee was an interfaith group sponsored by well-known clergy and politicians including Daniel A. Poling, Rufus M. Jones, C. Davis Matt, and Francis J. Myers. Prior to the meeting, Gomborow had received information that a group of Nazis were planning to infiltrate the tolerance gathering and instructed detectives to sit in the audience to monitor the meeting for any disturbances. The detectives witnessed a number of persons heckling the speakers, making slanderous remarks against Jews, and nailing anti-Semitic literature and posters to the walls. One of those men, William J. Rigney, stood up repeatedly during the meeting, interrupting the speaker, proclaiming that “Hitler is right in what he is doing to the Jews” and “it is the Jews own fault.” The meeting was abruptly adjourned as a result of the disorder caused by these men. As they left, the detectives observed these same men distributing leaflets promoting racial and religious hatred and pasting anti-Jewish stickers on cars and store windows in the surrounding neighborhood.

Blisard-flier-219x300Detectives arrested eleven of the “Nazi strong armers” who were subsequently charged with inciting a riot. In the early morning hours of March 15, three others were arrested at City Hall, including Thomas A. Blisard, Jr. and Joseph A. Gallagher, while they were attempting to secure the release of those arrested outside the tolerance meeting. Joseph A. Gallagher, chairman of the Anti-Communist Society of Philadelphia, a group founded by the West Philadelphia High School teacher and Nazi sympathizer Bessie “Two Gun” Burchett, protested the arrests, claiming they were a “frame-up.” Gallagher also denied the literature found in his car, which included copies of the Father Charles E. Coughlin publication Social Justice, was anti-Semitic propaganda. Thomas A. Blisard, Jr. (aka Blissard or Blizzard) and his family were well known in the community and to police as rabid anti-Communists and self-described Coughlinites. At the time, Blisard was chairman of the Philadelphia Committee for the Defense of Constitutional Rights, a group originally formed to protest against the radio station WDAS. The station had dropped Father Coughlin’s broadcasts when he refused to provide advance scripts of his addresses. Blisard’s father made use of tolerance meeting arrests to further their cause, printing and circulating fliers publicizing the “persecution of gentiles” suffered at the hands of an “organized gang of Jews.”

Recently prepared for research use, the Jacob H. Gomborow Papers, housed in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, document Gomborow’s activities as an officer and detective in Philadelphia’s Bureau of Police, responsible for leading the bureau’s radical squad in their investigations of anti-Semitic, subversive, and radical groups in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. View the online finding aid or catalog record to learn more about the Jacob H. Gomborow Papers or to request access to the collection in the SCRC reading room on the ground floor of Paley Library.

Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC