Screenshot 2019-07-29 at 12.56.34 PM.png
Posts in Religion
Eddy Portnoy's Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange But True Stories From the Yiddish Press

Eddy Portnoy's Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange But True Stories From the Yiddish Press

Reviewed by Tamar Rabinowitz

In April of last year, a play about a play became a surprise Broadway hit. The Pulitzer Prize winning Indecent recounted the making of renowned Yiddish playwright, Shalom Asch’s 1906 God of Vengeance — a story of a wealthy, exploitative, and violent Jewish brothel owner eager to marry off his daughter to a respectable scholar. A tale about faith, hypocrisy, sexuality, and deceit, God of Vengeance unearthed the unsavory aspects of Eastern European Jewish life, leaving contemporaries to wonder if it “was good for the Jews?”

Read More
John Hughes, Irish Catholic NYC, and the Year of Revolutions

John Hughes, Irish Catholic NYC, and the Year of Revolutions

By John Loughery

In 1847, a rather breathless British travel writer, a Protestant named Susan Minton Maury, published her Statesmen of America in 1846 and was sufficiently impressed (not to say awed) by New York City's bishop, John Hughes, to devote twenty-five pages of her book — more space, in fact, than she gave to Daniel Webster, Chief Justice Taney, William Seward, or Martin Van Buren — to someone she described as “the historical man of the day” and the most impressive cleric in America. With his name appearing regularly in national newspapers, Hughes was certainly the most talked-about clergyman in the country.

This is an exclusive excerpt, adapted from the author's new book (released today!), Dagger John: Archbishop John Hughes and the Making of Irish America, courtesy of Cornell University Press.

Read More
Harlem's Missionaries to Africa: An Interview with Elisabeth Engel

Harlem's Missionaries to Africa: An Interview with Elisabeth Engel

Today on Gotham, editor Nick Juravich sits down with historian Elisabeth Engel, to speak about her experience writing her first book, Encountering Empire, on the lives of African American Missionaries in colonial Africa during the early twentieth century, and her thoughts on the subject since the monograph was published.

Read More
​Coming Home to Harlem: The New Home of Missions in the Black American Community

​Coming Home to Harlem: The New Home of Missions in the Black American Community

By Elisabeth Engel

In Encountering Empire, historian Elisabeth Engel traces how black American missionaries — men and women grappling with their African heritage — established connections in Africa during the heyday of European colonialism. Reconstructing the black American “colonial encounter,” a neglected chapter of Atlantic history, Engel analyzes the images, transatlantic relationships, and possibilities of representation African American missionaries developed for themselves while negotiating colonial regimes. Between 1900 and 1939, these missionaries paved the way for the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the oldest independent black American institution, to establish a presence in Britain's sub-Saharan colonies. African Americans thus used imperial structures for their own self-determination.

This post, drawn from the book's fourth chapter, discusses how concepts of home crystallized a counterculture of diasporic pan-Africanism within AME missionary circles. A key part of defining “home” for these missionaries was moving to a new headquarters in Harlem.

Read More
Jewish New York

Jewish New York

By Geraldine Gudefin

Whether they are thinking of bagels or Woody Allen, to many Americans, Jews are intimately connected, if not synonymous with New York. Jewish New York, an edited volume from New York University Press out this month, explores the historical developments that have led to this association and asks: "when and in what sense did New York become a city of promises for Jews"? The book is a condensed version of the prize-winning City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York (2012), the first comprehensive history on the subject. Synthesizing three volumes into one single tome, it is also half the length, at 500 pages. The book, which contains essays by Jeffrey S. Gurock, Annie Polland, Howard B. Block, and Daniel Soyer, has greatly benefited from the careful editing of Deborah Dash Moore, a prominent historian of Jewish America. Organized into broad themes, the book is divided into four parts that follow a roughly linear chronological arc, from the colonial period to the present, with eleven chapters and a visual essay by art historian Diana L. Linden.

Read More