Prejudice & Anti-Semitism

“Too Early to Intervene”: Rabbi Stephen Wise and President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Stephen S. Wise sitting in his study

Rabbi Steven Wise was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874, before immigrating with his family (as an infant) to New York. He grew into one of the most renowned American Reform rabbis and Zionist leaders of the 20th-century. In 1922, Wise founded the Jewish Institute of Religion. He was also a founding member of the…

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Emma Lazarus: Writings and Philanthropy

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) wrote these words memorialized on the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus was born to a Jewish family in New York, near Union Square, on July 22, 1849. She held a strong classical education along with fluency in German and French.…

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The Lynching of Leo Frank

Black and white photograph of Leo Frank at trial.

The name Leo Frank (1884-1915) rose to fame for highly violent reasons. Accused in 1913 of murdering a thirteen-year-old girl who worked at the Atlanta National Pencil Factory (where Frank was a manager), a sensational and heavily flawed trial ensued.  The body of Mary Phagan was found in the basement of the factory; most modern…

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Henry Ford and Antisemitism: The Notorious “Dearborn Independent”

Henry Ford (1863-1947) is famous most generally for founding the Ford Motor Company, developing the assembly-line technique for mass production, and creating the first automobile affordable to middle-class Americans. He is relevant to Jewish studies, however, because he was hailed by many as an “antisemite.” But on what grounds? In the early 1920s, Ford sponsored…

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The Kidnapping of Edgardo Levi Mortara

A black and white drawn, gridded image depicting the abduction of Edgardo Levi Mortara as a six-year-old child in 1858. On the right side of the image, Edgardo’s family appears pained; one woman has fainted, held up by another. The father’s arms are outstretched to the boy, but the boy is being ushered away by a representative of the Catholic Church on the left frame of the image and does not look towards his father. The image is crowded with figures, from family, to onlookers, to the boy, Edgardo, himself.

The tale of the kidnapping of Edgardo Levi Mortara (1851–1940) is not an easy one to sit with; nor was it amenable to ears in the years it came to pass. The boy, Edgardo, you see, was a Jew. Born to Italian Jewish merchants in Bologna, Italy, in the year 1851, Edgardo lived and breathed…

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