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Studies in Contemporary Jewry an Annual XV 1999$
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Ezra Mendelsohn

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195134681

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195134681.001.0001

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Harley Erdman, Staging the Jew: The Performance of an American Ethnicity,1860–1920. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997. xiv + 221 pp.

Harley Erdman, Staging the Jew: The Performance of an American Ethnicity,1860–1920. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997. xiv + 221 pp.

Chapter:
Harley Erdman, Staging the Jew: The Performance of an American Ethnicity,1860–1920. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997. xiv + 221 pp.
Source:
Studies in Contemporary Jewry an Annual XV 1999
Author(s):

Mark Hodin

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195134681.003.0028

A review of the book, Staging the Jew: The Performance of an American Ethnicity, 1860–1920 by Harley Erdman is presented. A particularly complex and significant circumstance in the history of Jews in U.S. public culture is the overlap between the period of greatest East European Jewish immigration to America (1881–1917) and the process of (mostly German) Jewish embourgeoisement and assimilation. While Jews mixed with Gentiles socially and rose in business, their representations in popular culture grew more visibly ethnic in the context of an exotic and foreign Lower East Side. This dynamic especially informed the role of Jews in the field of commercial entertainment, where explicitly Jewish shtick became part of the American vernacular by the turn of the century, and Jewish managers and performers came to wield considerable power behind the scenes. How this emergent Jewish cultural authority in show business shaped “the fluctuating expectations gentiles have had of Jews and Jews have had of themselves” is the compelling subject of the book.

Keywords:   Jewish shtick, American Jews, embourgeoisement, assimilation

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