Book announcement — “Jewish Immigrants in Early 1900s America: A Visitor’s Account,” with 50 vintage pictures

Book cover: "Jewish Immigrants in Early 1900s America"

Fifty vintage photos and illustrations enhance this booklet by political writer Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu. Originally published in French in 1905, it’s the text of a talk he gave shortly after his two-month visit to America.

Leroy-Beaulieu toured Jewish communities in the northeastern U.S. in the spring of 1904 to see how the throngs of recent Jewish refugees were doing in the New World. He was so impressed with what he saw that, when he got home to France, he gave this detailed and celebratory talk to the Jewish Studies Association in Paris, kvelling about how Jewish refugees were thriving in “that land of wonders and liberty,” the United States.

This new translation features Continue reading

Jewish Schools in Palestine and Syria, 1870s-1900s: The Alliance Israélite Universelle

This fascinating 1903 article from the French magazine Le Monde Illustré has good and bad points.

Its positive side: An eloquent journalist gives us a rare, vivid look inside the modernization of Jewish education in the Middle East more than a century ago. Its negative side: His biases. The author was a staunch colonialist whose writings bashed non-European cultures, exalted all things French, and reserved special scorn for Orthodox Jews and religion in general. Despite these shortcomings, the article contains great information and illustrations. It is therefore worth trudging through the rough bits, which are mostly near the beginning.

I first translated this for an English edition of Ángel Pulido’s book Sephardic Jews and the Spanish Language. That book abridges the article and omits most of the pictures, so I’m posting the full piece here with all the original images. Since it’s from 1903, expect a certain amount of now-dated terminology (“Oriental,” “Moslem,” sexist language, etc.).


THE FRENCH LANGUAGE IN THE EAST
The Educational Work of the Alliance Israélite
by Quercus


(Le monde illustré, April 11, 1903.

English translation ©2016 by Steven Capsuto.)


It looks best from a distance, in the great silence and vast peace of the desert: the silky Sea of Gennesaret, nestled mysteriously in a hollow among the iridescent mountains, dominated by the snowy cap of Mt. Hermon. The still surface of the water is an intense azure that holds your eye, and the pale-blue sky itself looks so deep that it could be another Continue reading

Book announcement — “Sephardic Jews and the Spanish Language,” about Sephardim and Ladino in the early 20th century


The Between Wanderings book series publishes new translations of vintage books celebrating Jewish life from the 1850s to 1920s—a time of intense migration, changes and challenges for Jews. Some of the books feature first-person accounts of the era’s Jewish communities, customs, folklore, synagogues, schools, foods and culture.
 


I’m pleased to announce a new annotated English translation of Ángel Pulido’s Sephardic Jews and the Spanish Language. Scholars of Sephardic history and culture have been quoting this seminal book for 112 years, and it has never been available in English before. Continue reading

Tradition and assimilation in a Jewish immigrant family in Boston (1890s)

Mary Antin in 1915

Mary Antin in 1915

This blog will often feature personal narratives written by Jews in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They’re like guest bloggers from our past, telling us their stories.

Today’s “guest” is immigration rights activist Mary Antin (1881-1949), who emigrated from Russia to Boston with her family in the 1890s. In her teens, she wrote a short book about her journey: From Plotzk to Boston (Boston: W.B. Clarke & Co., 1899), which she originally drafted in Yiddish. In the preface, she tells us:


In the year 1891, a mighty wave of the emigration movement swept over all parts of Russia, carrying with it a vast number of the Jewish population to the distant shores of the New World—from tyranny to democracy, from darkness to light, from bondage and persecution to freedom, justice and equality. But the great mass knew nothing of these things; they were going to the foreign world in hopes only of Continue reading

Jewish life in the 1850s–1920s, in the words of people who were there.

Welcome to Between Wanderings, a new blog celebrating Jewish life and culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—a time of great migration and change—told in the words of people who lived then.

The Between Wanderings Project has two parts:

The blog brings you excerpts of memoirs, diaries, letters, articles, fiction and other texts written by Jews in many countries (and occasionally by Gentiles who took an interest in the Jewish world), and links to historical resources. Many of the entries will be translations from other languages. Here are the sorts of posts you can expect:

  • An immigrant family caught between tradition and assimilation in 1890s Boston
  • A profile of Jewish schools in the Middle East in the early 1900s, with lots of photos
  • Links to vintage Yiddish music recordings from the 1900s to 1920s
  • Moving accounts of holiday celebrations among Jewish soldiers in World War I
  • Classic, lovely short stories by authors such as Sholem Aleichem
  • Descriptions of “proto-bat mitzvahs” in 19th-century Italy
  • A collection of evocative, colorful Sephardic proverbs
  • A look at New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the last century
  • …and many other treats!

The Between Wanderings book series consists of classic Jewish-themed books of the 1850s–1920s, newly translated into English, available as e-books and/or paperbacks. Currently available for purchase:

Two more book translations are already underway.