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Jews on the FrontierReligion and Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Shari Rabin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479830473

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479830473.001.0001

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A Congregation of Strangers

A Congregation of Strangers

The Mobile Infrastructure

(p.103) 5 A Congregation of Strangers
Jews on the Frontier

Shari Rabin

NYU Press

This chapter argues that American Jewish denominationalism developed not only to enshrine religious authority but to create cooperation, familiarity, and access among mobile American Jews who seemed to be “strangers” to one another. Beginning with newspapers and informal social networks, leaders like Isaac Mayer Wise and Isaac Leeser worked to develop programs for traveling preachers, rabbinic credentials, and the collection of statistics. These became some of the most important goals of their new denominational bodies, the Board of Delegates of American Israelites and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which sought to familiarize and order American Jewish life. Efforts to create a national union failed because of sectarian and sectional divisions, but they did succeed in enshrining norms of congregational membership, professional leadership, and rational information throughout the nation.

Keywords:   denominationalism, statistics, Isaac Mayer Wise, Isaac Leeser, Union of American Hebrew Congregations

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