Coalfield Jews: An Appalachian History (Hardcover)
The stories of vibrant eastern European Jewish communities in the Appalachian coalfields
Coalfield Jews explores the intersection of two simultaneous historic events: central Appalachia’s transformative coal boom (1880s-1920), and the mass migration of eastern European Jews to America. Traveling to southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia to investigate the coal boom’s opportunities, some Jewish immigrants found success as retailers and established numerous small but flourishing Jewish communities.
Deborah R. Weiner’s Coalfield Jews provides the first extended study of Jews in Appalachia, exploring where they settled, how they made their place within a surprisingly receptive dominant culture, how they competed with coal company stores, interacted with their non-Jewish neighbors, and maintained a strong Jewish identity deep in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. To tell this story, Weiner draws on a wide range of primary sources in social, cultural, religious, labor, economic, and regional history. She also includes moving personal statements, from oral histories as well as archival sources, to create a holistic portrayal of Jewish life that will challenge commonly held views of Appalachia as well as the American Jewish experience.
Deborah R. Weiner is research historian and family history coordinator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and director of Historic Jonestown, Inc., both in Baltimore.
"Deborah R. Weiner chronicles the lives and communities of Jewish residents of small town Appalachia in this well researched book. . . . The book's careful reconstruction of the lives of those small town Jews no doubt appeals to descendents of the coalfield communities."--Journal of American History
"It is a pleasure to encounter examples of the increasing - and increasingly sophisticated - literature on American Jewish life outside the urban Northeast. . . .She uses a wide range of archival sources and personally interviewed three dozen former and present Jewish residents, unearthing details that give the real flavor of their experience. . . . Her book helps us understand both place and people."--Journal of Southern History