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Preview — Jews and Booze by Marni Davis
Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition
by Marni Davis
At the turn of the century, American Jews and prohibitionists viewed one another with growing suspicion. Jews believed that all Americans had the right to sell and consume alcohol, while prohibitionists insisted that alcohol commerce and consumption posed a threat to the nation's morality and security. The two groups possessed incompatible visions of what it meant to be a ...more
Hardcover, 262 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by New York University Press
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(showing 1-30 of 77)
An interesting chapter in American Jewish history with which I was unfamiliar. Davis explores Jewish involvement in the alcohol trade in nineteenth and early twentieth century America, focusing on how working in this field both helped connect Jews to the larger culture and, at the same time, worked to define a subculture. Then, with the rise of the Temperance Movement, American Jews had the experience of being on the losing side of a contentious issue that split the nation. How Prohibition influ ...more
Marni Davis' book offers a glimpse into the dynamics of an ethnic group that, for a long time, was 'not quite white' through the lens of the booze trade. It's a consuming and interesting history, and it shows clearly that assimilation was a fluid dynamic among Jews in the United States until after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Over the course of just over 200 pages Davis contextualizes the role of Jews in the booze trades and takes us through their changing (and in many respects unchanging) ...more
This is a well researched and very interesting overview of the role of Jewish immigrants, especially in the years after the Civil War, in the liquor business. What was really fascinating was he history of Jewish immigration to the south, the growth of a southern Jewish community, commerce and anti-semitism.
I do hope the irony isn't lost on anyone when I say this is the most DRY book I have ever read on the subject of alcohol. Lists and tangents and citations even in the conclusion, I had such high hopes based on the title of the book. I knew it could be purchased as academic reading for schools which should have given me pause, but the catchy title convinced me to proceed without caution. Well played on that front, Marni Davis. I'm sorry to say that was the best trick of the book: the inside was j ...more
I've always emphasized the anti-German component to prohibition campaigning, but had not considered what Davis outlines--a significant anti-Semitic strain as well. She traces the involvement of Jews in the liquor industry, from post-1848 emigration and the building of a network of breweries, tied saloons and boarding houses, to prohibition, a period in which knowing a rabbi with dispensation for wine became useful and Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky openly acted as "tough Jews" as well as eco ...more
Very engaging. Tells an important story and describes it well. I particularly appreciated learning that Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise opposed prohibition on the basis of Church-State separation, arguing that prohibition was the brainchild of religious groups wanting to impose their personal faith restrictions on an entire nation.