Presentation Title

From Assimilated to Outstandingly Jewish: Displaying American Jewry at the Chicago World’s Fairs of 1893 and 1933

Presenter's Name(s)

Kiara B. DayFollow

Time

10:40 AM

Location

Mildred Livak Ballroom

Abstract

This paper examines how American Jews displayed themselves at Chicago’s World’s Fairs in 1893 and 1933. It argues that in both instances American Jewry utilized the prominent platform of the fairs to condemn persecution of European Jews and the growth of antisemitism by asserting their Americanness. During the Columbian Exposition of 1893, well-established American Jews, led by Reform leaders, subtly exhibited themselves as acculturated and integral to the American narrative in order to downplay the foreignness of new Eastern European immigrants. During the Century of Progress in 1933, American Jews, led by cultural Zionists, exhibited themselves as a strong and distinctive group in an overt fight against Nazism. Both of these fairs offer a window into the changing face of American Judaism, revealing how Jewish identity reflected the shifting circumstances of persecution and antisemitism.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Nicole Phelps

Status

Graduate

Student College

Graduate College

Program/Major

History

Primary Research Category

Arts & Humanities

Second College (optional)

College of Arts and Sciences

Second Program (optional)

History

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From Assimilated to Outstandingly Jewish: Displaying American Jewry at the Chicago World’s Fairs of 1893 and 1933

This paper examines how American Jews displayed themselves at Chicago’s World’s Fairs in 1893 and 1933. It argues that in both instances American Jewry utilized the prominent platform of the fairs to condemn persecution of European Jews and the growth of antisemitism by asserting their Americanness. During the Columbian Exposition of 1893, well-established American Jews, led by Reform leaders, subtly exhibited themselves as acculturated and integral to the American narrative in order to downplay the foreignness of new Eastern European immigrants. During the Century of Progress in 1933, American Jews, led by cultural Zionists, exhibited themselves as a strong and distinctive group in an overt fight against Nazism. Both of these fairs offer a window into the changing face of American Judaism, revealing how Jewish identity reflected the shifting circumstances of persecution and antisemitism.