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At the Edge of a Dream: The Story of Jewish Immigrants on New York's Lower East Side, 1880-1920

At the Edge of a Dream: The Story of Jewish Immigrants on New York's Lower East Side, 1880-1920

Lawrence J Epstein

ISBN: 978-0-787-98622-3

Aug 2007, Jossey-Bass

320 pages

Select type: Hardcover

In Stock



This beautiful book tells the nostalgic tale of how millions of Jewish immigrants entered America through the portal of the Lower East Side. There in New York City they struggled and ultimately flourished in a neighborhood that was the center of Jewish work, family, and culture. For more than fifty years, the Lower East Side spawned newly-mined Americans, including entertainment icons like George Burns and Ira Gershwin, gangsters like Meyer Lansky, and an extraordinary array of people who would go on to transform American society. 





ONE Escaping from the Old World.

TWO Landing at Ellis Island.

THREE Life in the Tenements.

FOUR Working on the Lower East Side.

FIVE Life on These Mean Streets.

SIX Romance in the New World.

SEVEN Children and Families.

EIGHT Politics and Strife.

NINE The Opponents of Jewish Immigration.

TEN A Helping Hand.

ELEVEN Religion and Its Rebels.

TWELVE Refuge on the Lower East Side.

THIRTEEN Yiddish Theater.

FOURTEEN Yiddish Journalism.

FIFTEEN Yiddish Literature.

SIXTEEN The End of an Era.

SEVENTEEN The Legacy of the Lower East Side.



The Author.


In 1880, there were approximately 7.7 million Jews in the world, of which 75 percent lived in Eastern Europe and 3 percent in the United States. That picture dramatically changes in 1880 with the arrival of millions of Eastern European Jews to the United States, many of whom settle in New York City on the Lower East Side. These changes are described by Lawrence J. Epstein in his new book. Epstein tells us: 'By 1920 there were about 3.6 million Jews on these shores, making up 3.41 percent of the U.S. population; 22.86 percent of the Jews in the world now lived in America.' Epstein’s goal is to provide the reader with 'experience more than analysis' of life on the Lower East Side, and he does that through detailed descriptions of living, courting, loving, marrying, raising a family, going to school, working, praying, politicking, organizing, and enjoying oneself in those crowded streets and tenements. Poignant and humorous archival photos and excerpts from memoirs, novels, scholarly texts, letters, musical scores, and the Jewish Daily Forward are cited and help recreate the vibrancy of the period. The book is not mere romanticized nostalgia. It contains incisive analysis of the socio-historical context of the immigration to the Goldene Medina and how it transformed the lives of the immigrants, world Jewry, and the United States. The book is both fun and informative. Lawrence J. Epstein has published many books on Jewish culture, including A Treasury of Jewish Anecdotes and The Story of Jewish Comedians in America. Archival sources, references, index, notes."" (American Jewish Studies, Winter 2007)