Commentary Magazine

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Telling the Story of America's Jews

- Abstract

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the American Jewish community: in September 1654, 23 Sephardi Jews arrived in New Amsterdam from Recife, Brazil. The usual celebrations have been laid on, from reenactments to museum exhibits—the Library of Congress has mounted a lavish show—to concerts to books. Two of the year’s history books stand out for ambitious breadth—American Judaism: A History,* by the well-known historian Jonathan Sarna, and Hasia Diner’s Jews of the United States, 1654-2000.

Both of these (approximately competing) histories have something to offer: they are comprehensive and wide-ranging, and each author tries to say something definitive about the meaning of the American Jewish experience. Naturally, each has its faults, and those faults tend to reflect the faults of the American Jewish community at large.

About the Author

David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale.