In the context of Indecent’s success, along with concurrent off-Broadway revival of God of Vengeance, Eddy Portnoy’s book Bad Rabbi is a timely excavation of the real-life, nonfictional, but perhaps sensationalized stories of sex, violence, misery, and depravity that characterized much of urban Jewish life in the first decades of the twentieth century. Mining the depths of Yiddish press, largely produced in New York City and Warsaw, Portnoy’s study hones in on the scoundrels, cheats, criminals, and gossipmongers of Jewish enclaves within the growing, cosmopolitan urban centers in the United States and Poland. At the center of Bad Rabbi is the flourishing Yiddish press and the dogged journalists who documented the daily lives of the “rabble” — the “downwardly mobile” Jews who, Portnoy claims, have been lost to a predominantly celebratory narrative of popular Jewish history.
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.
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.
This is the latest in a series of posts based on the letters of the New York socialite, Julia Gardiner Gayley (1864-1937), to her eldest daughter, Mary Gayley Senni (1884-1971), a countess who lived on the outskirts of Rome. In 2010, the author purchased a trove of the letters in a Roman flea market. This mother-daughter correspondence spanned the years 1902-1936 and provides an intimate and unfiltered view of life in New York during the early twentieth century. You can find the earlier posts on our homepage.
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