Peddlers, ordinary, unsung, and usually anonymous, Jewish men made up the foot soldiers of the great Jewish migration, spanning the long era from the end of the eighteenth century into the early twentieth. Jews from Central and Eastern Europe as well as the Islamic lands left their homes for a series of new world –the British Isles, Scandinavia, North, South, and Central America, the Antipodes, and southern Africa and used peddling as the strategy which got them started in these places. What were the implications of this particular occupation, one which forced them to knock on their customers’ doors and to speak to the customers in their own languages, for Jewish integration and transformation in these new places?
Hasia Diner is the Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University, with joint appointment in the department of history and the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. She is also director of the Goldstein Goren Center for American Jewish History. She has built her scholarly career around the study of American Jewish history, American immigration and ethnic history, and the history of American women. She has written about the ways in which American Jews in the early twentieth century reacted to the issue of race and the suffering of African Americans, and the process by which American Jews came to invest deep meaning in New York’s Lower East Side. Her most recent book, We Remember with Reverence and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence After the Holocaust (2009) won the National Jewish Book Award in the category of American Jewish Studies. She has also written about other immigrant groups and the contours of their migration and settlement, including a study of Irish immigrant women and of Irish, Italian, and east European Jewish foodways.