REVIEWS discussion about how and why Reform Judaism emerged (out of Charleston) (13839). Pencak includes a curious ten-page discussion of two novels by nonJews on the Jews' ``acceptance in the American novel'' in the Philadelphia section. It reads out of place; he had already reached his goal of showing that antisemitism in the turbulent 1790s had given way to a climate of ease and acceptance most importantly enshrined in states' new--or newly amended--constitutions by the 1800s (what he calls ``the Jeffersonian triumph''). Despite these shortcomings, Pencak offers important insights and descriptions, including the remarkable ways that Jews created mythologies about the colonial period as soon as it had passed, obscuring the tensions and conflicts of the lived experience, valorizing their own acceptance as if it was Whiggishly attained rather than a struggle to accomplish. The book has already undergone four reprints since its publication four years ago. His writing is superb, his stories engrossing, and his research unimpeachable. Perhaps most importantly, Pencak achieves his own aim: to place Jewish communities in the local contexts of colonies and city life, particularly in terms of Jews' engagements with non-Jews. Da vid S . Ko ffm an is a doctoral candidate
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Feb 27, 2009
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