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Insecure Prosperity:
Small-Town Jews in Industrial America, 1890-1940
Ewa Morawska

Winner of the 1997 Anthony Leeds Prize, Society for Urban Anthropology
Winner of the 1997 Saul Viener Prize in American Jewish History
Winner of the 1997 Theodore Saluotos Book Award, Immigration History Society
Honorable Mention for the 1997 Thomas and Znaniecki Award of the Immigration Section of the American Sociological Association
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1996

Paperback | 1999 | $72.50 | £60.95 | ISBN: 9780691005379
440 pp. | 7 3/4 x 10 | 31 halftones
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This captivating story of the Jewish community in Johnstown, Pennsylvania reveals a pattern of adaptation to American life surprisingly different from that followed by Jewish immigrants to metropolitan areas. Although four-fifths of Jewish immigrants did settle in major cities, another fifth created small-town communities like the one described here by Ewa Morawska. Rather than climbing up the mainstream education and occupational success ladder, the Jewish Johnstowners created in the local economy a tightly knit ethnic entrepreneurial niche and pursued within it their main life goals: achieving a satisfactory standard of living against the recurrent slumps in local mills and coal mines and enjoying the company of their fellow congregants. Rather than secularizing and diversifying their communal life, as did Jewish immigrants to larger cities, they devoted their energies to creating and maintaining an inclusive, multipurpose religious congregation.

Morawska begins with an extensive examination of Jewish life in the Eastern European regions from which most of Johnstown's immigrants came, tracing features of culture and social relations that they brought with them to America. After detailing the process by which migration from Eastern Europe occurred, Morawska takes up the social organization of Johnstown, the place of Jews in that social order, the transformation of Jewish social life in the city, and relations between Jews and non-Jews. The resulting work will appeal simultaneously to students of American history, of American social life, of immigration, and of Jewish experience, as well as to the general reader interested in any of these topics.


"It will be difficult for anyone to assert that the Jewish experience in smaller United States communities is just New York in miniature after reading Ewa Morawska's masterly study.... A magnificent addition to the literature of American Jewish History."--Hyman Berman, Journal of American History

"Nicely supplements studies of the urban American Jewish experience.... [One] comes away from this book impressed by its depth of research and by its socio-historical scope."--The Jerusalem Post

"Ewa Morawska has written a gem of a book ... [an] opalescent mother of pearl with its many nuances.... A new standard for historical and sociological studies of immigrants, small city societies, middle-class culture, and American Jews."--Deborah Dash Moore, Journal of Social History

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Preface: What this Book is About, What is Different About It, and Who Helped in its Making
Ch. 1 In the Shtetls and Out 3
Ch. 2 Fitting Old-Country Resources into a New Place: The Formation of a (Multi)-Ethnic Economic Niche 31
Ch. 3 Insecure Prosperity 72
Ch. 4 Small Town, Slow Pace: Transformations in Jewish Sociocultural Life 133
Ch. 5 In the Middle on the Periphery: Involvement in the Local Society 186
Ch. 6 Through Several Lenses: Making Sense of Their Lives 214
Epilogue: Postwar Era: A Decline of the Community 245
Appendix I: (Self)Reflections of a Fieldworker 255
Appendix II: Members of the Jewish Community in Johnstown and Vicinity Who Participated in This Study 286
Notes 287
Index 361

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File created: 7/11/2017

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