Jews in Gotham

New York Jews in a Changing City, 1920-2010

368 pages

January, 2015

ISBN: 9781479878468



Also available in


HistoryHistoryJewish Studies

Part of the City of Promises series


Jeffrey S. Gurock is Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University. A prize-winning author, he has written or edited fifteen books in American Jewish history. Gurock has served as chair of the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society and as associate editor of American Jewish History. He lives with his family in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

All books by Jeffrey S. Gurock

Jews in Gotham follows the Jewish saga in ever-changing New York City from the end of the First World War into the first decade of the new millennium. This lively portrait details the complex dynamics that caused Jews to persist, abandon, or be left behind in their neighborhoods during critical moments of the past century. It shows convincingly that New York retained its preeminence as the capital of American Jews because of deep roots in local worlds.  


  • "In 1960, Fortune magazine published an article that trumpeted the 'Jewish élan' of New York City, and credited the Jewish community with contributing 'mightily to the city’s dramatic character — its excitement, its originality, its stridency, its unexpectedness.' In his exhaustive history of Jews in New York from 1920 to the present, Gurock covers the wax and wane of immigration, segregation, suburban flight, anti-Semitism, socialist conviction and Zionism. In the 1920s, Jews continued to settle in clusters, mostly on the Lower East Side and in socialist cooperative housing in the Bronx. From there, Gurock sketches a map of the Jewish community’s sprawl: Orthodox Jews of Eastern Europe across Brooklyn, Sephardim in Flatbush and Bensonhurst, German Jews in Washington Heights and Yorkville, and an increasingly affluent mix on the West Side of Manhattan and in Jackson Heights and Forest Hills, Queens. After World War II, Hasidic sects established themselves in Williamsburg and Crown Heights, in a concentration that homogenized previous divisions. Groups that 'had once sprawled from Bratislava to Odessa were now located a few streets from one another.' Many areas suffered from poverty and crime, which increased racial tensions, and in 1964, race riots broke out. Anecdotes embroider and occasionally deepen his broad sweep: Leonard Bernstein’s 'West Side Story,' for example, was initially about Italian Catholics and Jews (he later replaced the Jewish family with a Puerto Rican one)."

    —Anna Altman, New York Times

  • "Gurock’s analysis of Jewish New Yorkers as they migrated out of and up from downtown tenements to ‘subway suburbs' to suburbia will be of much use to students and scholars of ethnicity, urban studies, Jewish history and, of course, all those interested in The City, New York."

    Religious Studies Review

  • "You don't have to live in New York, or even have visited, to enjoy the book. Gurock intermingles much of the narrative with anecdotes and interesting data."

    —Burton Boxerman, St. Louis Jewish Light

  • "In 1900, the Jewish population of New York was despised, impoverished, and ghettoized. A century later, it had become the most accomplished, the most prosperous, and the most successful ethnic group in the nation. This is the story of that journey and that achievement, and no one has told it with more authority and sensitivity than Jeffrey Gurock. And as they used to say on the subway advertisement, you don't have to be Jewish to love this book."

    —Kenneth T. Jackson, editor-in-chief, The Encyclopdia of New York City

  • "Jeffrey Gurock’s masterful and sensitively drawn survey offers a penetrating blend of distinguished scholarship and acute observation from someone who has lived the life and knows well its complexities and nuances. Drawing upon a wide range of opinions and shades of Jewishness, he has fashioned a vivid, richly detailed, and endlessly fascinating narrative about variegated Jewish life in the iconic diaspora metropolis. Balanced, engrossing, and learned. Read and enjoy!"

    —Thomas Kessner, Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York Graduate Center