A revealing look at how death and burial practices influence the living
Dust to Dust offers a three-hundred-year history of Jewish life in New York, literally from the ground up. Taking Jewish cemeteries as its subject matter, it follows the ways that Jewish New Yorkers have planned for death and burial from their earliest arrival in New Amsterdam to the twentieth century.
Allan Amanik charts a remarkable reciprocity among Jewish funerary provisions and the workings of family and communal life, tracing how financial and family concerns in death came to equal earlier priorities rooted in tradition and communal cohesion. At the same time, he shows how shifting emphases in death gave average Jewish families the ability to advocate for greater protections and entitlements such as widows’ benefits and funeral insurance. Amanik ultimately concludes that planning for life’s end helps to shape social systems in ways that often go unrecognized.
"Will be of interest to historians of Americans death-practices, and to students of American Jewish history. Yet it also should appeal to those who are themselves New Yorkers wishing to learn more of their citys past, and especially to the descendants of those many persons buried in the cemeteries described in the book." ~Lucy Bregman,Temple University
"Through meticulous research, Amanik has uncovered the intriguing story of how Jews in New York, over more than three centuries, have dealt with end of life concerns and dilemmas. Decidedly not a maudlin work on death and dying, this engaging book deepens our understanding of Jewish family life in Gotham and highlights tensions within the community over control of cemeteries the most basic Jewish institution. A notable contribution to the saga of the worlds largest Jewish community." ~Jeffrey S. Gurock,Author of Jews in Gotham: New York Jews and Their Changing City