Good Times: The Jewish Elite between the Wars

Fred Rosenbaum

in Cosmopolitans

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780520259133
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945029 | DOI:
Good Times: The Jewish Elite between the Wars

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The German Jewish merchant class had dominated the American Jewish community since the mid-nineteenth century, but after World War I its power began to erode. The Reform movement, with its Americanized liturgy and refusal to embrace Zionism, held little appeal for Yiddish-speaking newcomers and faced a dwindling membership. Moreover, East European Jews were finally entering politics. Yet in San Francisco and Oakland, the old guard seemed rock solid in the 1920s. German Jews remained in the majority (as almost nowhere else) and their synagogues thrived. While the congregation's innovative rabbi, Louis I. Newman, reached across denominational and class lines, its cantor, Reuben Rinder, established himself as a potent catalyst in the realm of Jewish music. Membership at Emanu-El, Sherith Israel, and Oakland's Sinai soared in the 1920s. Philanthropy abounded as well. After World War I one firm, Levi Strauss and Company, was on course to become the largest apparel maker in the world. Two disciplined and discerning corporate executives were largely responsible for the transformation: Walter Haas and Dan Koshland.

Keywords: San Francisco; Jews; politics; World War I; Levi Strauss and Company; Walter Haas; Dan Koshland; Emanu-El; Jewish music; Reuben Rinder

Chapter.  14944 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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