Our Parents' Lives: The Americanization of Eastern European Jews

Neil M. Cowan, Author Basic Books $19.95 (305p) ISBN 978-0-465-05425-1
This dramatic collective memoir of East European Jewish immigrants from 1895 to 1915, related in accounts of their daily lives and hardships in Europe and during resettlement in the U.S., is less a sociological study than a tribute to the parents of the husband-and-wife authors. The focus is on the special difficulties in assimilation into a largely secular Christian culture as opposed to the pervasive dictates of their own religion that governed every aspect of these immigrants' lives. The resulting conflict eventually gave way to a new Jewish-American culture, stress the authors. Strongly influenced by American secular schooling for both sexes, they participated with their Gentile contemporaries in the sexual revolution, including birth control, and joined in reforms of medical care and child-rearing. The spirit of enterprise along with disciplines of Yiddishkeit which enabled Jews to survive abroad, according to the authors, largely accounted for their success in America without the loss of their ``Jewishness.'' Neil Cowan is a public-affairs consultant in New York City; Ruth Schwartz Cowan is professor of history at the State University of New York. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8135-2296-8
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-465-05426-8
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