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Opening Doors: The Unlikely Alliance Between the Irish and the Jews in America (Hardcover)

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The extraordinary untold story of how Irish and Jewish immigrants worked together to secure legitimacy in America.

Popular belief holds that the various ethnic groups that emigrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century regarded one another with open hostility, fiercely competing for limited resources and even coming to blows in the crowded neighborhoods of major cities. One of the most enduring stereotypes is that of rabidly anti-Semitic Irish Catholics, like Father Charles Coughlin of Boston and the sensationalized Gangs of New York trope of Irish street thugs attacking defenseless Jewish immigrants.

In Opening Doors, Hasia R. Diner, one of the world’s preeminent historians of immigration, tells a very different story; far from confrontational, the prevailing relationships between Jewish and Irish Americans were overwhelmingly cooperative, and the two groups were dependent upon one another to secure stable and upwardly mobile lives in their new home. The Irish had emigrated to American cities en masse a generation before the first major wave of Jewish immigrants arrived, and had already entrenched themselves in positions of influence in urban governments, public education, and the labor movement. Jewish newcomers recognized the value of aligning themselves with another group of religious outsiders who were able to stand up and demand rights and respect despite widespread discrimination from the Protestant establishment, and the Irish realized that they could protect their political influence by mentoring their new neighbors in the intricacies of American life.

Opening Doors draws from a deep well of historical sources to show how Irish and Jewish Americans became steadfast allies in classrooms, picket lines, and political machines, and ultimately helped one another become key power players in shaping America’s future. In the wake of rising anti-Semitism and xenophobia today, this informative and accessible work offers an inspiring look at a time when two very different groups were able to find common ground and work together to overcome bigotry, gain representation, and move the country in a more inclusive direction.

About the Author

Hasia R. Diner is a professor emeritus of American Jewish History and former chair of the Irish Studies program at New York University. She is the author of numerous books on Jewish and Irish histories in the U.S., including the National Jewish Book Award winning We Remember with Reverence and Love, which also earned the Saul Veiner Prize for most outstanding book in American Jewish history, and the James Beard finalist Hungering for America. Diner has also held Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships and served as Director of the Goren Center for American Jewish History.

Praise For…

“If you think you know how Jewish and Irish Americans have interacted in the past, think again: Hasia Diner has news for you in this wonderful and important new book. There’s a revelation on every page, it seems. The author’s expertise is breathtaking; the story she tells is surprising and exciting. This is a book only Hasia Diner could write. And thank goodness she did.”
—Terry Golway, author of Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of American Politics

"Hasia Diner's Opening Doors is an eye-opening, lucidly written account of the relationship between the Irish and Jewish immigrant communities. Diner digs beneath timeworn tropes and stereotypes to reveal a far richer, more nuanced history. In a time when inter-ethnic divisions are encouraged and cultivated, Diner reminds us of what can be achieved when immigrant groups join together to seek a fairer, freer country, Engaging and timely, Opening Doors is an important contribution to our understanding of our immigrant past and our hopes for the future."
—Peter Quinn, author of Cross Bronx: A Writing Life

“What a great book! Opening Doors is a tour de force of erudition and insight. Diner demonstrates that the relationship between Irish Americans and Jewish immigrants was one of the keys to the making of modern America.”
—Tyler Anbinder, author of Plentiful Country and City of Dreams

“In a glorious cascade of vivid life stories, Hasia Diner explains how migration brought Irish and Jewish people together for the first time in the dynamic setting of urban America. Irish immigrants set a template that Jewish immigrants followed—in the tenements, the labor movement, politics, education, and popular culture—and together they opened doors for themselves, their children, and everyone committed to cultural pluralism in the United States. A crowning accomplishment by the preeminent historian of Jewish America.”
—Kevin Kenny, author of Diaspora: A Very Short Introduction

"Hasia Diner, among the most innovative and fluent of all American Jewish historians, has written a superb study, a work of considerable historical as well as contemporary importance. She demonstrates how the relationship between Irish and Jews in the United States—typically viewed as one of antagonism—was far more complex and less conflicted than recalled. This a bracingly relevant reminder of how America was—and remains—different."
—Steven J. Zipperstein, author of Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250243928
ISBN-10: 1250243920
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: July 30th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English