Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Story of a Multiracial Jewish Family
Author Laura Arnold Leibman discusses her new book with Gender and Jewish Studies Professor Samira K. Mehta.
An obsessive genealogist and descendent of one of the most prominent Jewish families since the American Revolution, Blanche Moses firmly believed her maternal ancestors were Sephardic grandees. Yet she found herself at a dead end when it came to her grandmother's maternal line. Using family heirlooms to unlock the mystery of Moses's ancestors, Once We Were Slaves overturns the reclusive heiress's assumptions about her family history to reveal that her grandmother and great-uncle, Sarah and Isaac Brandon, actually began their lives as poor Christian slaves in Barbados. Tracing the siblings' extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts they left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and, finally, New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and--at times--white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived, and sheds new light on the fluidity of race--as well as on the role of religion in racial shift--in the first half of the nineteenth century.
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Did your ancestors pass through Canada on their way to the U.S., or did a branch of your family settle in Canada? It’s fairly common for American Jews to have some Canadian connections in their family. Bill Gladstone, a professional genealogist, publisher, and author based in Toronto, will provide an overview of major resources for Jewish genealogy research in Canada, including censuses, naturalizations, immigration records, border crossings, and city directories.
This program is sponsored by the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute at the Center for Jewish History. It is funded, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Ticket Info: Pay what you wish; register at programs.cjh.org/tickets/family-history-today-2021-08-12 for a Zoom link
Ever since she was young, author Julie Klam has been fascinated by the Morris sisters, cousins of her grandmother. According to family lore, early in the 20th century the sisters' parents moved the family from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles so their father could become a movie director. On the way, their pregnant mother went into labor in St. Louis, where the baby was born and where their mother died. The father left the children in an orphanage and promised to send for them when he settled in California--a promise he never kept. One of the Morris sisters later became a successful Wall Street trader and advised Franklin Roosevelt. The sisters lived together in New York City, none of them married or had children, and one even had an affair with J. P. Morgan.
The stories of these independent women intrigued Klam, but as she delved into them to learn more, she realized that the tales were almost completely untrue. The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters is the revealing account of what Klam discovered about her family--and herself--as she dug into the past. Part memoir and part confessional and told with the wit and honesty that are hallmarks of Klam's books, The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters is the fascinating and funny true story of one writer's journey into her family's past, the truths she brings to light, and what she learns about herself along the way.
Julie will be in conversation with journalist and Jewish genealogist Jennifer Mendelsohn, founder of #resistancegenealogy, a project that uses genealogical and historical records to fight disinformation and honor America's immigrant past.
Co-sponsored by Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers. Pre-order the book here and get a copy signed by the author.
This program is funded, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Ticket Info: Pay what you wish; register at programs.cjh.org/tickets/almost-legendary-2021-08-18 for a Zoom link
LBI Book Club, Vol. XIII: The Golem
First published in serial form in 1914 in the periodical Die Weißen Blätter, The Golem was published in book form in 1915 by Kurt Wolff, Leipzig. The novel centers on the life of Athanasius Pernath, a jeweler and art restorer who lives in the ghetto of Prague. But his story is experienced by an anonymous narrator, who, during a visionary dream, assumes Pernath's identity—but as he thirty years before. This dream was perhaps induced because he inadvertently swapped his hat with the real (older) Pernath's. While the novel is generally focused on Pernath's own musings and adventures, it also chronicles the lives, the characters, and the interactions of his friends and neighbors. The Golem, though rarely seen, is central to the novel as a representative of the ghetto's own spirit and consciousness, brought to life by the suffering and misery that its inhabitants have endured over the centuries. Through the novel, the narrator's own mental health and memories come into question. If you are a fan of the dark, atmospheric works of Kafka or Poe, The Golem is likely for you!
About Gustav Meyrink
Gustav Meyrink (1868 - 1932) was the pen name of Gustav Meyer. An Austrian author, novelist, dramatist, translator, and banker, he is most famous for his novel The Golem. He has been described as the "most respected German language writer in the field of supernatural fiction". He studied theosophy, Kabbala, Christian Sophiology and Eastern mysticism. Until his death Meyrink practiced yoga and meditation. Results of these studies and practices are found in Meyrink's works, which almost always deal with various occult traditions. He was also a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a spirituality and occult movement, in London. Fired from his job in banking after it was discovered he was consulting the spirit world to make financial decisions, he moved full time into translating and writing—The Golem came out only a few years after he was arrested and imprisoned for his behavior at the bank. During his life Meyrink lived in a number of places in German-speaking Europe, most notably spending 20 years in Prague. In 1927 he converted to Buddhism. Meyrink was not Jewish, but was assumed to be so by many of his readers and even close associates. During the Nazi period his work was banned as being "Jewish" or "Jewish influenced."
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