Read Hanukkah in America: A History by Dianne Ashton Online


In New Orleans, Hanukkah means decorating your door with a menorah made of hominy grits. Latkes in Texas are seasoned with cilantro and cayenne pepper. Children in Cincinnati sing Hanukkah songs and eat oranges and ice cream. While each tradition springs from its own unique set of cultural references, what ties them together is that they all celebrate a holiday that is difIn New Orleans, Hanukkah means decorating your door with a menorah made of hominy grits. Latkes in Texas are seasoned with cilantro and cayenne pepper. Children in Cincinnati sing Hanukkah songs and eat oranges and ice cream. While each tradition springs from its own unique set of cultural references, what ties them together is that they all celebrate a holiday that is different in America than it is any place else. For the past two hundred years, American Jews have been transforming the ancient holiday of Hanukkah from a simple occasion into something grand. Each year, as they retell its story and enact its customs, they bring their ever-changing perspectives and desires to its celebration. Providing an attractive alternative to the Christian dominated December, rabbis and lay people alike have addressed contemporary hopes by fashioning an authentically Jewish festival that blossomed in their American world. The ways in which Hanukkah was reshaped by American Jews reveals the changing goals and values that emerged among different contingents each December as they confronted the reality of living as a religious minority in the United States. Bringing together clergy and laity, artists and businessmen, teachers, parents, and children, Hanukkah has been a dynamic force for both stability and change in American Jewish life. The holiday's distinctive transformation from a minor festival to a major occasion that looms large in the American Jewish psyche is a marker of American Jewish life. Drawing on a varied archive of songs, plays, liturgy, sermons, and a range of illustrative material, as well as developing portraits of various communities, congregations, and rabbis, Hanukkah in America reveals how an almost forgotten festival became the most visible of American Jewish holidays."Hanukkah, traditionally a minor Jewish festival, grew like a beanstalk in America, becoming one of Judaism’s most widely celebrated holidays. In this definitive history, Dianne Ashton explains how this happened, and what it teaches us about America, about religion, and about Jews."-Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History...

Title : Hanukkah in America: A History
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780814707395
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 350 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Hanukkah in America: A History Reviews

  • ambyr
    2018-12-27 07:23

    I think, when I picked this up, I was expecting pop-history; instead I got meticulously researched academic history that was so fascinating I found myself quoting and citing the book at every opportunity (and occasionally inventing opportunities when none presented themselves). This may have just have been the book I most frequently recommended in 2016.There's a standard narrative in American culture that Chanukah is a minor holiday inflated all out of proportion due to its proximity to Christmas. Ashton presents a compelling argument that the relationship between the two holidays is more complicated than that; the transformation of Chanukah in the American Jewish community, she asserts, began in the 1840s, twenty years before Christmas cemented its place as the central celebration of the American gentile family. Plenty of aspects of American Chanukah do owe their existence to Christmas--Chanukah cards, gift-giving, and of course the dread Chanukah bush--but the promotion of the Maccabees as Jewish role models and attempts to increase the holiday's religious importance owe their roots to other cultural pressures. It's a position I've never seen articulated before, and I think Ashton supports it well.Beyond that central argument, there's a wealth of interesting trivia here, from the fact that 19th-century American Jews lionized Oliver Cromwell to the impressive collection of 19th-century Chanukah hymns and early 20th-century Chanukah plays that Ashton has dug out of archives. I was also intrigued by the discussion of 1960s and 70s counter-culture Judaism; I'd never heard of the Jewish Catalog before and now desperately want to track down a copy.If I have any complaints, it's that I wanted more statistics, more broad survey, more assurance that the modern anecdotes Ashton shares and historical figures she chooses to highlight were representative of (or in opposition to) general trends. But perhaps that's just another way of saying that there's room for more books on this topic, books that take different disciplinary approaches. Hanukkah in American isn't the end-all, be-all discussion of the topic, but neither does it feel incomplete; it's simply offering one lens through which to view the complex evolution of American Judaism.

  • Rachel
    2019-01-22 05:16

    Don't let the fact that Hanukkah in America is published by an academic press scare you off. It's a very readable book about the history of Hanukkah and how it evolved from a minor Jewish holiday into the holiday that most non-Jews think is the holiest of all the Jewish holidays.I happened to already know that Hanukkah is a minor holiday but I wasn't aware of how it became the elaborately celebrated holiday that is today. This book explains in detail how Hanukkah has grown and changed over the last century to deal with what has become known as the December Dilemma. As the author of one Hanukkah guide mentioned in this book observed, "Christmas heightens one's awareness of one's Jewishness almost as much as any single Jewish holiday." Because Jewish children felt left out of the fun and merriment of Christmas, Jewish leaders tried various things to make Hanukkah more fun for them so that the children's families wouldn't feel the need to erect a Christmas tree as some of them had been doing. On example is that a Kansas City chapter of the NFTS (National Foundation of Temple Sisterhoods) printed directions for a Hanukkah party complete with food, games, costumes and more.Whenever a book I read mentions Unitarians, I feel compelled to point it out since it is such a rare occurrence for us. In this case, the book explains that Reform Rabbi set up Christmas-Hanukkah meeting between his Temple Youth League and the teens of the local Unitarian church because "that very liberal Christian group could be trusted not to evangelize to the Jewish youngsters." (Not all Unitarians are Christians but I understand the point.)I found Hanukkah in America to be a really interesting, educational book. I think people of all religions could learn a lot from this detailed account of how Hanukkah has become what it is today.

  • Elizabeth Stolar
    2018-12-25 07:58

    I liked this book a lot although it was very academic and often repetitive. It touched on a lot of Jewish history in general and the evolution of Hanukkah is interesting. I was surprised to see how big of a part a war on Christmas trees has played throughout Hannukkah, as I always found this to be a misguided policy, and am convinced more than ever that holiday trees could have played a role in a Hanukkah celebration (covered in Judaica, for example) and the whole competition with Christmas would have been significantly lessened. (The insistence by some in the Jewish community that Christmas trees specifically are religious is patently false -- demonstrated in part by the numerous Christian churches that originally were against the display of Christmas trees, but that is another issue.) It was interesting to think more about how, as a non-rabinnically steered holiday (i.e. one controlled almost completely within the domestic sphere), Hanukkah has, more than any other holiday changed and been celebrated in different ways by different people. I also was surprised to learn that the emphasis on presents was intentional and part of a specific campaign for Hanukkah celebrations in order to entice children away from the allure of Christmas. A good read and a book I'm sure I'll refer to numerous times.

  • Elyse
    2018-12-29 07:13

    The author sure deserves credit for doing complete research. I 'did' enjoy parts of this book.However, I felt like I should have been taking notes for class. WAY more details than my mind could hold onto --for causal reading.I'm Jewish, its Hanukkah this week, and this book was offered a Kindle discount price.I thought this book would be more 'personable, funny, easy-relaxing reading during my 'Kindle-sauna-relaxation-habit-here-at home'. (I enjoy reading a Kindle book while I relax in our home sauna ---I can't bring my paper books in with me--the pages will fall off)."Hanukkah in American: A History", by Dianne Ashton is 'filled' with HISTORY". Why I thought this book would feel less academic, I've no idea. The author did a wonderful-complete writing about the 'HISTORY' of Hanukkah in America -- yet it was more 'textbook-feeling' than I was in the mood for. Note: I did find it funny why everyone spells 'Chanukkah' different in American than in Israel! .... Why?? For those who don't know: The 'CH' for most American's sound like 'CH' --as in CHAIR ---so --in our country --we often drop the 'CH' (I don't), and make it easier with the HAN.....sound...Not sure I made ANY sense at all. The author does a much better job! (at everything on the subject of CHANUKKAK --or "HANUKKAH" in America).....Shalom! :)

  • Kristi Thielen
    2018-12-24 08:01

    A scholarly look at a Jewish holiday that is still evolving. From generation to generation, the Hanukkah origin story - a military victory on behalf of religious freedom - has been obscured (we are a people distrustful of military authority; we are a people distainful of aggression) or has been celebrated (we are a people proud of American or Israeli military strength). I found it interesting to learn of the increasingly large role that Jewish women played in popularizing the holiday in 19th century America. Their social power in their new country was ascendant at a time that the social power of rabbis - an important element in Jewish communities in the old world -was declining. The fact that women (mothers) spearheaded a holiday that took place largely in their domain (the home) was key to the spread of Hanukkah. To gift or not to gift; to decorate or not to decorate; hanukkiahs in public places or no - opinion has rocketed back and forth. And more recently: the issue of how much Christians and Muslims do (or should) understand that the Maccabees "saved" Judaism and therefore the world in which Christianity and Islam first took root, as well. Learning how we got to the Hannukah we celebrate now is a fascinating story. Read it and have a Happy Hanukkah!

  • Liss Capello
    2018-12-27 07:12

    This book answered a burning question I've had for a long time: why is a relatively minor Jewish holiday like Hanukkah made into such a big deal? The answer is that yes, it has to do with Christmas - but only partly. And not always in a simplistic, reactionary way. Although I found this book extremely dry and long-winded, seeming to repeat itself frequently as it meticulously traced the way Hanukkah has been celebrated by successive generations of American Jews, it told an interesting story in the description of the changing dynamic of the Jewish population within American culture, from the early 1800s through the present day. Hanukkah's story is a relatively simple one, but different groups have played up different angles, frequently using the Hellenic culture described as a metaphor for the American culture in which they were steeped. Where one generation worried about Christmas trees as a Christianizing influence, another worried about worldwide social justice. And yes, everyone worried about raising children in the faith.

  • Evanston PublicLibrary
    2018-12-27 08:19

    This year (2013 Julian calendar, 5774 Jewish calendar) Hanukkah falls very early--we light the first candle on November 27th, the night before Thanksgiving, or "Erev" Thanksgiving, as someone quipped. That hasn't happened since 1888 and won't happen again until 79,811(can one even conceive of dates that far in the future?). So this book, sitting quietly on our new titles display, caught my eye. Ashton's comprehensive history takes us from the minor holiday, shetl version of the holiday to the almost Christmas-like interpretation that western culture has imparted to it. A great deal of Hanukkah hype evolved in America particularly in the middle decades of the 20th century. Was it a form of defense against total assimilation into the mainstream Protestant population? Was it the marketing industry ready to create a new reason to shop, shop, shop? Regardless, here is an illuminating look at one of Judaism's most celebrated holidays as well as a snapshot of the greater American culture. Oh, and may I add...Happy Hanukkah to everyone!(Barbara L. Reader's Services)

  • penny shima glanz
    2019-01-22 02:25

    This is a meticulously researched academic exploration into how Chanukah in America has evolved from a minor rabbinical holiday to one which allows Jews to both fit in with the neighbors during their December celebrations and forge a new identity in a new land. It focuses on the emphasis of women and children leading the movement and how new traditions were formed. With the recent rise of homeowners prominently decorating for many additional holidays in America both for secular and religious reasons, it’s a fascinating read. חנוכה שמחI received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

  • Christina
    2019-01-07 04:16

    A dense read and a serious book but well worth it. I learned a lot not just about Hanukkah but also about Judaism in America. I got a fresh perspective on both Christmas and Hanukkah and how the seasons have evolved in tandem over the years, thanks to market forces, attitudes about women's role at home and in religion, and Jewish leaders agenda to increase Jewish identity. Traditions for both holidays that we think are carved in stone have actually been around only since the late 1880s/early 1900s and have been constantly changing.

  • Fred Eisenhut
    2019-01-01 09:01

    This was a very interesting study of the evolution of Hanukkah over the centuries. I did find the author repeated herself several times, but it was o.k. By repeating her message, it became impossible to miss.I wish we could find a date on the calendar when Christians could say "Thank you" for giving us a wonderful story to inspire us all. The battle between Athens and Jerusalem also takes place in Christian's lives. Perhaps we could put Menorahs in our windows too, as a way to share our gratitude.A very interesting read.

  • Denise Morse
    2018-12-28 03:19

    Between the history of Jewish Deli's and this Hanukkah book, I feel like i have a good foundation of Jewish culture and life in America. I think the book was a little repetitive at times however it gave a very good history of Jews in America and the changing role of this holiday. I did not know the origin story as well as I should and I did not know how the holiday was really not a big deal in the past. I think it could be a little shorter and more concise to get the point across even stronger.

  • M. Allen
    2019-01-19 02:05

    Fascinating, albeit a little dry. A good resource for anyone interested in the practices of celebrating Hanukkah in the United States.

  • Liz
    2019-01-02 04:14

    One reviewer said that this is a forty page essay stretched to book length. I agree.

  • Sarah
    2019-01-14 01:22

    Saw this at the library and thought it would be interesting, given the season. It was interesting, although also quite a bit more detailed than my interest in the subject ran.

  • Mills College Library
    2018-12-24 03:18

    296.43509 A828 2013