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Sarah Halpern ’08: Caring for their Own: Jewish Community of Rochester 1920-1945 and the Development of New American Jewish Identity

By Upstate Institute on July 1, 2008

Submitted to the Department of History

Nestled along Erie Canal in upstate New York, Rochester hosted the second largest Jewish population in the state of New York by 1940 with over 30,000 Jews. Halpern’s paper explores this community in two ways.

First, it strives to answer the broad question of American Jewry’s inaction during the years that Adolf Hitler was in power. Rochester was something of an exception to the historical trend. Rochester Jews cooperated for the sake of preserving Judaism and the Jewish people and did what they could within their limited economic and political framework.

Second, their unity around this topic derived from the changes in the community after the Immigration Act of 1924 blocked the flow of newcomers from Eastern Europe and during the Great Depression. This and other local catalysts gave Rochester Jews an opportunity to redefine the meaning of being Jews in America and Americans in a Jewish sense during the political, social, religious, and economic turmoil in the United States.

Download the paper to learn more.

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