The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

2011 SHGAPE Distinguished Historian Address

The Encounter between Jews and America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Hasia Dinera1 c1

a1 New York University


The period after 1870 through the middle of the 1920s, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, coincided with the mass migration of Jews to the United States. Nearly three million Jews, primarily from eastern Europe, overwhelmed the numerically small Jewish community already resident in America. Of the Jews who left Europe in those years, approximately 85 percent opted for the United States, a society that took some of its basic characteristics from the particular developments of this transitional historical period. This essay focuses on five aspects of Gilded Age and Progressive Era America and their impact on the Jews. These features of American society both stimulated the mass migration and made possible a relatively harmonious, although complicated, integration. Those forces included the broader contours of immigration, the nation's obsession with race, its vast industrial and economic expansion, its valorization of religion, and its two-party system in which neither the Democrats or the Republicans had any stake in demonizing the growing number of Jewish voters.

(Online publication January 13 2012)



Hasia Diner is a professor of history and Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University. Her most recent book, We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jew and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, won the National Jewish Book Award in 2010 and the Saul Viener Prize of the American Jewish Historical Society in 2011. The essay in this issue is a revision of her Distinguished Historian address to the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era in March 2011.