cover image The Jews of Harlem: The Rise, Decline, and Revival of a Jewish Community

The Jews of Harlem: The Rise, Decline, and Revival of a Jewish Community

Jeffrey S. Gurock. New York Univ., $35 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4798-0116-9

Gurock (Jews in Gotham), professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University, comprehensively chronicles the shifting fortunes of Harlem’s once-bustling but now largely overlooked Jewish community. His story begins in 1870 as a Jewish family, the Stones, migrates from the Lower East Side to Harlem in search of a better consumer base for their retail clothing business. The small group of Jews who began to settle in northern Manhattan proved to be the nucleus for what became a substantial and diverse Jewish population over the next several decades. Gurock touches on every aspect of Jewish life—including politics, labor relations, religion, and interactions with gentile neighbors—as he traces the area’s development. In 1917, many of the Harlem’s Jews began moving further north into the Bronx, and soon the exodus decimated the community. Far from being just a niche book, this well-written volume makes clear that the Harlem Jewish community significantly influenced American Jewry as a whole. Gurock ends on a hopeful note, noting how a new nucleus of committed Jews has formed in Harlem and begun to set up religious establishments there. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of American Judaism. (Nov.)