Sacred and secular: The place of public funerals in the immigrant life of American Jews

  • Arthur Aryeh Goren


Immigrant Life 
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  1. 1.
    For Revel see,New York Times, 3 December 1940; 4 December 1940; Aaron Rothkoff, Bernard Revel,Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1972), 221–23; for Brandeis see,New York Times, 8 October 1941; Alpheus Thomas Mason,Brandeis: A Freeman's Life (New York: Viking Press, 1946), 637–38.Google Scholar
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    Two studies of public funerals deserve mention: Leonard Dinnerstein, “The Funeral of Jacob Joseph,” inAnti-Semitism in American History, ed. David A. Gerber (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 275–301, and Ellen Kellman, “Sholem Aleichem's Funeral (New York, 1916): The Making of a National Pageant,”YIVO Annual 20 (1991): 277–304. Dinnerstein focuses on the riot that marred the funeral in the context of police brutality, ethnic group relations, anti-semitism, and municipal reform politics. Kellman's study pays meticulous attention to the funeral as cultural and social event and places it firmly within the context of communal politics.Google Scholar
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    Yiddishes Tageblat, 29 July 1902;Yiddishes Tageblat, 31 July 1902; TheNew York Times reported that many prosperous Jews “vied with each other in their efforts to secure in advance the right to bed buried near him in the cemetery,” one merchant offering $5,000 to the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol which had won the right to bury Rabbi Joseph in its cemetery. The offer was rejected (29 July 1902). Karp writes that the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol won the rights by promising the widow $1,500 and a $15 monthly stipend. Publications of theAmerican Jewish Historical Society 44 (March): 180–81.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, the warm tribute by Bernard G. Richards, a centerist Zionist active in the cultural life of the lower East Side (American Hebrew, vol. 84 [18 June 1909]: 172–73), and the critique of Gordin's dramatic work by Louis Lipsky, the Zionist, publicist and theater critic, ibid, 192–93. Kellman has made the point that popular Yiddish authors were often regarded as “national figures” and their funerals well attended. Kellman mentions the funerals of Nokhum Mayer Shaikevich-Shomer (1905), Gordin (1909) and Eliakum Zunser (1913). See Kellman,YIVO Annual 20: 303.Google Scholar
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    Morgen Zhurnal, 14 June 1909;Morgen Zhurnal, 13 June 1909. The issues of the YiddishesTageblat are missing for the dates under consideration in the microfilm runs held by the main Jewish research libraries. There are photographs of exposed bodies of Jewish dead. In nearly all cases, they are of pogrom victims and were taken for use as evidence or for propaganda purposes. See Zvi Gitelman,A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present (New York: Schocken, 1988), 22, 30–31, 111. Gitleman does bring a photograph of the dead wife of a wealthy Jewish merchant in Siberia and notes in the caption the “combined Christian customs, such as the flowers and candles shown here, with their Jewish beliefs” (p. 85).Google Scholar
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    Leon Stein,The Triangle Fire (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1962) is a detailed account of the fire and its aftermath. See also Charlotte Baum, Paula Hyman and Sonya Michel,The Jewish Woman in America (New York: Dial Press, 1976), 148–53.Google Scholar
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    New York Times, 6 April 1911;Forverts, 6 April 1911; Stein,Triangle Fire, 149, 153–55. With unintentional irony, a historian of cemeteries comments on the monument marking the burial of the unidentified victims: “Though the memorial to the unidentified victims of the Triangle Factory Shirtwaist fire which stands in an empty field in Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn, is not lettered in Hebrew (and does not, for that matter, in any other fashion indicate the ethnicity of those it commemorates), it remains as a monument to the early twentieth century Jewish experience in America.” Roberta Halporn, “American Jewish Cemeteries: A Mirror of History,”Ethnicity and the American Cemetery, ed. Richard E. Meyer (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993), 143. For a photograph of the memorial see ibid., 146.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Haifa University Press 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur Aryeh Goren
    • 1
  1. 1.Columbia University The Hebrew University of JerusalemIsrael

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