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March 18, 2016

Rare Vintage Photographs Capture Everyday Life of American Jews from the Early 20th Century

Jews have been present in what is today the United States of America since the mid-17th century. However, they were small in numbers and almost exclusively Sephardic Jewish immigrants of Spanish and Portuguese ancestry.

Jewish migration to the United States increased dramatically in the early 1880s, as a result of persecution and economic difficulties in parts of Eastern Europe. Most of these new immigrants were Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, though most came from the poor rural populations of the Russian Empire and the Pale of Settlement, located in modern-day Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.

At the beginning of the 20th century, these newly arrived Jews built support networks consisting of many small synagogues and Ashkenazi Jewish Landsmannschaften (German for "Countryman Associations") for Jews from the same town or village. American Jewish writers of the time urged assimilation and integration into the wider American culture, and Jews quickly became part of American life.

In the classroom, Woodbine School, NJ.

Military Band, Woodbine, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Watermelon party, Woodbine, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Group of young school students, Woodbine, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Rejoicing in the Law - Simchas Torah, ca. 1900.

Boy in corn field, Woodbine, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Women, children and houses, South Jersey Colonies.

Synagogue construction, BDH Trade School, South Jersey Colonies, Carmel, New Jersey.

Workers coming from the N. Snellenburg & Company Manufactory of All Kinds of Tailor Made Clothing, South Jersey Colonies.

Men in meeting, Woodbine, New Jersey.

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbine Agricultural School, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Pupils drilling (calisthenics) at the Woodbine Agricultural School, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Group of Woodbine Agricultural School students, Woodbine, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Coming from Synagogue in Brotmanville, New Jersey, ca. 1900.

Jews of the U.S. who have distributed twelve million dollars of the relief moneys raised by American Jewry since the beginning of WWI. Jacob Schiff, philanthropist, international banker and one of the founders of the American Jewish Historical Society, appears in the lower right corner. August 16, 1918.

J.W.B. Dinner - Eighth Street Temple, Jan. 23, 1923, Washington, D.C.

Women and soldiers at an event at Camp Raritan, ca. 1920.

Trails to bungalows hidden in the hills at Ray Hill Camp, ca. 1920.

Children pledging the flag at Cedar Lake Camp, ca. 1930.

Bikurim celebration, 1930.

Bikurim celebration, 1930.

Bikurim celebration, 1930.

(Photos via Center for Jewish History)


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