The Feinstein Center for American Jewish History announces the selection of its Summer Fellows for 2016:
Aaron Welt, a PhD Candidate at New York University, is the 2016 Kaiserman Summer Fellow. His dissertation, “The Shtarkers of Progressive Era New York; Crime, Labor, and Capitalism in an Age of Mass Migration, 1900 -1930,” explores the world of Jewish labor racketeers – referred to in Yiddish as “shtarkers” – in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era garment industry of New York City. This project surveys the operations of a cohort of Yiddish-speaking gangsters over the first two decades of the twentieth century and assesses the influence of shtarkers in the encounter between American Jewish immigrants and industrial capitalism. Additionally, this dissertation analyzes the era’s political responses to industrial violence and the role Jews played in the city’s major political and social debates concerning Progressive urban reform.
Two Feinstein Center Summer Fellows have also been chosen for the 2016 summer:
Stefanie Halpern, a PhD Candidate at the Jewish Theological Seminary, was selected for her project, “Crossing Over From the Yiddish Rialto to the American Stage.” Her work situates the study of Yiddish theater as essential to a more complete understanding of the American theatrical institution through looking at the ways Yiddish drama, performance, and artists transitioned from the American Yiddish theater to the mainstream English-language stage. Yiddish actors such as Bertha Kalich and Jacob Ben-Ami, proponents of the realistic school of acting, would go on to find fame in America by distinguishing themselves from the melodramatic actors that dominated the Broadway stage. Set designers like Boris Aronson, trained in various European artistic movements, would re-define the design aesthetic of the American theater. And Yiddish playwrights such as David Pinski and Jacob Gordin, through translation and adaptation, would find expression on the mainstream stage, positioning the Yiddish drama firmly within the realm of high theater art. All of these theater practitioners helped shape dramatic and theatrical aesthetics and tastes that remain important components of the American stage today.
Holly Genovese is a PhD Candidate at Temple University. Her project, “A Pennsylvania State Historical Marker for the Hebrew Literature Society,” involves a State Historical Nomination for the Hebrew Literature Society, a educational facility, settlement house, library and social center, that was a centerpiece of Philadelphia’s Jewish Quarter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While the building is still standing, it is completely unmarked, as are almost all buildings reflective of Philadelphia’s immigrant past. By applying for a historical marker, and writing a reflective article about the process, this project fights against the hegemony of colonial history in Philadelphia and helps to center low-income Jewish immigrants in the Philadelphia’s history.