American Jewish History: An Economic Perspective
This project offers a new perspective on economics as the driving engine of the American Jewish experience writ large.
Though scholars have long been interested in the economic lives of American Jews, the field has been limited by an overreliance on one central question: Are the contours of Jewish economic life dictated by genetic characteristics or Jewish propensities toward capitalist pursuits, or are they more reflective of the particular economies and structural factors of each place and time?
Moving beyond the limitations of this question can shed light on countless other themes in American Jewish history – many of which are clearly linked to the economy, such as class, upward mobility, philanthropy, and professionalisation. But such a focus also revisits familiar, seemingly “non-economic” topics within American Jewish history from an economic perspective, reshaping our understanding of mobility, migration, religion, secularization, community building, anti-Semitism, regionalism, youth, education, Jewish and non-Jewish interactions, and a host of other themes.
Join this history seminar to utilise economic history as a prism, reshaping our understanding of power, gender, race, and fostering interdisciplinary work.
Dr. Michael R. Cohen is the Stuart and Suzanne Grant Professor in the American Jewish Experience at Tulane University, and he currently serves as Founding Director of the Stuart and Suzanne Grant Center for the American Jewish Experience. Cohen’s most recent monograph, Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era (NYU Press), was a finalist for the American Jewish Historical Society’s Saul Viener Book Prize. He is also the author of The Birth of Conservative Judaism: Solomon Schechter's Disciples and the Creation of an American Religious Movement (Columbia University Press), as well as several articles and reviews. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of American Jewish History (Oxford UP), and his third book-length monograph, American Jews: An Economic History, is under contract with NYU Press. This year, while working on this monograph, Dr. Cohen will also be leading an initiative that brings together American and Australian scholars around the themes of economics and migration. Cohen earned his Ph.D. from Brandeis University and his A.B. with honors from Brown University, and he is currently a Visiting Professorial Fellow at UNSW.