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"No whisky Amazons in the tents of Israel": American Jews and the gilded age temperance movement.

In November 1874, a collective of temperance-minded women gathered in Cleveland, Ohio. Their goal: to establish a national political organization that would work toward the total eradication of beverage alcohol from American life. They named their confederation the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), though they engaged in a brief debate over whether it was politically wise to include the word "Christian" in the organization's name. Some of the women present feared that by referring so explicitly to their religious affiliation, they would "shut out the Jews," whom they hoped to enlist in the struggle. In the end, this concern was dismissed. Though the organization's founders understood their overarching mission to be the defense of Christian (by which they meant Protestant) moral values, the general consensus was that "since there was no creed test" for joining the WCTU, the alienation of Jewish women "need not be feared." (1)

Twenty years later an editorial in the American Jewess, a monthly periodical edited by journalist and clubwoman Rosa Sonneschein, suggested that American Jewish women had, in fact, come to see the WCTU as contrary to their religious and cultural sensibilities. Sonneschein's 1895 column reported that at a recent WCTU conference, Frances Willard, the group's president, had urged the organization to create alliances with Jewish and Catholic women. This indicated "tolerance and progress," the editor of the Jewess proclaimed. Still, she predicted that Jews would steer clear of the organization, in part because "the name Christian indicates too narrow a sphere." (2)

Yet Jews' main objection concerning the WCTU, Sonneschein emphasized, was not its sectarian name but the cause it espoused. While Jews consumed alcohol in their weekly religious rituals and in their home-based social gatherings, the editorial noted, "drunkenness is amongst them ... only encountered in a few isolated cases." Alcohol abuse, in other words, was not a Jewish concern, and Jews' moderate drinking habits indicated that the problem with alcohol wasn't located in the alcohol itself but in the drinkers who failed to exercise self-control. As a result of their distinctive cultural relationship to alcohol, Sonneschein concluded, Jews would remain "loath to subscribe to total abstinence" and would never join the ranks of temperance activists. (3)

This was, comparatively speaking, one of American Jewry's more courteous rejections of the late-nineteenth-century temperance movement. Though they supported moderation as a personal virtue and an admirable trait, American Jews of both genders regularly voiced disdain for postbellum anti-alcohol activists' insistence that morally right-minded people never touched a drop. Further, they protested the movement's call for the total prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcohol and regarded such laws as posing unjust restrictions upon personal behavior and commercial enterprise. In sum, they regarded the anti-alcohol movement as ridiculous--even repulsive--and certainly as a threat to the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.

Jews were not the only Americans to dismiss or express contempt for the temperance movement. Granted, anti-alcohol activists numbered in the hundreds of thousands and accumulated some notable achievements during the Gilded Age. The WCTU boasted 150,000 dues-paying members in 1890, and their influence on educational curriculum was felt nationwide. (4) They and other post-Civil War anti-alcohol organizations, such as the Prohibition Party (founded in 1869) and the Anti-Saloon League (founded in 1893), lobbied municipal politicians and local leaders effectively enough to help pass laws that limited, and in some cases prohibited, traffic in liquor in hundreds of towns, cities, and counties. But despite these successes, the movement's ultimate (though short-lived) victory--the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919--was far from a foregone conclusion in the nineteenth century. Anti-alcohol activists lost most of their Gilded Age legislative battles, and clashed with critics and enemies all over the country. Urban denizens, immigrants and their native-born children, and businessmen were among those most likely to fight against temperance legislation. The American Jewish population at this time was primarily urban and entrepreneurial, and most were either immigrants from central Europe or their descendants. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Jews were among the movement's most vocal critics.

In the years between the "Women's Crusade" of 1873-1874 and the beginning of the twentieth century, American Jews attacked the temperance movement and its organizations from several angles. One of their quarrels with the movement hinged on gender conventions: American Jews dismissed the women of the anti-alcohol movement as a wretched and debased lot who had turned away from their natural role as keepers of the private realm. They insisted that Jewish women would never behave so recklessly. In addition, American Jews took umbrage at calls for "total temperance," and often pointed to their own widely held reputation for sobriety not only to prove alcohol's essential harmlessness, but also to imply that Jewish self-control and moderation of habit could serve as a model of enlightened citizenship in a pluralistic liberal democracy. Finally, they constructed a political argument that asserted the citizen's right to behave according to private conscience and morality, characterizing temperance activists as religious zealots who sought to tear down the wall between church and state.

Jews regarded the anti-alcohol movement as a potential threat to their own ancient religious rituals and social practices. But Jewish criticism of the temperance movement was an act of communal self-protection with objectives beyond the right to drink; it was a defense of the nonsectarian state that American Jews held dear. Jews' experience in the United States--where they could participate in economic and political life and join civic institutions to an extent impossible elsewhere--had facilitated the creation of a group identity that was acculturated and proudly American but also unapologetically Jewish. But the temperance movement's religious commitments signaled the expansion of nineteenth-century efforts to "Christianize" American life and reorganize its laws around Protestant values and morality. Jews feared that if these movements achieved their goals, their equal status, even their citizenship, could be in peril. (5)

Jews could have responded to the temperance movement merely by denying its legality and disputing its claims to be consistent with American political values. Instead, they went a step further: by rejecting the temperance movement and presenting themselves as a preferable counterpoint to both the drunkard and the teetotaler, American Jews sought to bolster their claim to American citizenship.

"The Sex Specially Aggrieved": Temperance Women and Jewish Women

When Rosa Sonneschein wrote her 1895 editorial in the American Jewess, she was likely unaware of a petition circulated by the women of Philadelphia's Congregation Rodeph Shalom in early 1874. The document contradicts Sonneschein's declaration that Jewish women would never participate in temperance activism, though it is an extremely rare example of them doing so. The petition, addressed to the city's mayor, expressed hope that municipal laws forbidding the sale of alcohol on Sundays would be more strictly enforced. As members of "the sex specially aggrieved by the traffic in alcoholic drinks and the consequent intemperance of husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons," the women of Rodeph Shalom begged the mayor to ensure that "the Lord's Day may no longer be desecrated by the traffic in strong drink." (6)

This is an extraordinary document, not only because it presents Jewish women in alliance with the anti-alcohol movement, but also because its authors referred to Sunday as "the Lord's Day." By the 1870s, a small number of those Jewish congregations oriented toward religious reform had switched their Sabbath worship to Sundays or added a Sunday service in order to align Jewish religious life with American socioeconomic practices, although Rodeph Shalom--which had adopted other reforms--had not. Even within such congregations, Jewish participants rarely if ever referred to Sunday in traditionally Christian theological terms, or parroted evangelical Protestant demands to ban alcohol commerce, or commerce altogether, on Sundays.

The ladies' petition was inspired by the Women's Crusade, a grassroots direct-action protest against the liquor trade. Though women had been an important force in the antebellum temperance movement, they found themselves mostly excluded from formal membership in temperance groups such as the American Temperance Union and the Washingtonians. At best, they were relegated to women's auxiliaries, such as the "Martha Washingtonians." This marginalization frustrated many temperance women, who insisted that since members of the "gentler sex" were too often at the mercy of drunken men (usually their husbands), denying women the right to fully participate in the movement was not only an injustice but injurious to the cause. (7)

In December 1873, middle-class Protestant women in Ohio and western New York State began to demonstrate against the American liquor industry, which had increased its production, expanded its distribution, and exerted considerable pressure upon elected officials over the previous decade. Armed with bibles and church hymnals, and willing to put their own safety in jeopardy, groups of women preached and sang outside local saloons and liquor stores, stoically withstanding the humiliation--and occasional physical abuse--meted out to them by saloonkeepers and patrons. By the crusade's end in 1874, tens of thousands of women had participated in theatrical displays of civil disobedience in thirty states. They begged and shamed saloon patrons until the men promised never to set foot in a saloon again, and even convinced some saloonkeepers, liquor dealers, and drugstore owners to destroy the offending stock. (8)

There is no record of Jewish women participating in the civil disobedience of the crusade, and considering the overtly Protestant nature of these demonstrations, it is unlikely that any did. But the Rodeph Shalom petition suggests that some wished to be a part of the movement. Witnessing their Protestant counterparts' engagement in the political sphere, some middle-class Jewish women longed for a similarly bracing outlet through which to express their social and political points of view. They aspired to emulate their gentile neighbors, who organized or joined social reform organizations that brought what they saw as women's natural, motherly benevolence and single-minded passion for protecting home and family into the public realm. The National Council of Jewish Women, founded in 1893 by middle-class women of central European birth and heritage, in fact looked to the WCTU as the model for their organizational structure, though they never took up the anti-alcohol cause themselves. (9)

Even though groups like the WCTU sometimes served as models for Jewish organizations, Jewish women hesitated to join existing social reform groups, which often were directly affiliated with Protestant organizations. Some Christian social reformers openly sought to bring members into their religious fold, and Jewish women understandably shunned contact with those who expressed missionary objectives. Jewish women thus struggled to find a place for themselves within the larger context of American women's activism. So when Rodeph Shalom's women organized to protest liquor commerce on Sundays, they were doing so with a popular contemporary--and one might even say modish--paradigm in mind, albeit one that few American Jews, male or female, regarded as relevant to their own experience.

Among those who dismissed the Women's Crusade as inapplicable to Jewish life was Rodeph Shalom's rabbi, Marcus Jastrow. In March 1874, as the Women's Crusade was winding down, Jastrow responded with a sermon critical of his female congregants' petition and of the crusade in general. "There is no division of opinion among us," he declared, "as to the impropriety of the ostentatious manner in which those whose province is the domestic altar ... allow themselves to be dragged into publicity and risk contact with such as ought forever to be excluded from the sight of the priestesses of decency and chastity." Regardless of their benevolent intentions, Jastrow implied, these women--members of "the sex whose power lies in its weakness"--had overstepped acceptable boundaries. In his estimation, their behavior was fundamentally un-Jewish: "Maybe we are a people too old-fashioned for the 'woman of the age'; but it is sure that our hearts shudder at the idea of our wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters" venturing into the political arena and forsaking their dignity. (10)

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of organized Reform Judaism in the United States, shared Jastrow's low opinion of women's political activism. Wise launched what became American Reform's flagship institutions, including Hebrew Union College, a rabbinical seminary that aimed to train a liberal, modern, and acculturated American rabbinate. Jastrow and Wise disagreed about much; though both men advocated modifications of Jewish practice to fit the needs of contemporary American Jews, Jastrow feared Wise was moving American Judaism too far from its historical tenets and traditions and accused him of draining their religion of its fundamental meaning. (11) Wise and Jastrow agreed wholeheartedly, however, on the subject of the temperance movement. Nowhere in the American Jewish press were the follies of the movement enumerated so extensively and with as much vigor as in the American Israelite, Wise's weekly newspaper. Between 1868 and 1899, he wrote about and against temperance activism at least forty-three times, and he was consistently, acerbically critical of those who agitated for it. (12)

Wise weighed in on the gender issue in March 1874, a few weeks before Jastrow's sermon. "Any Jewish lady would consider it sacrilege and blasphemy to abuse prayer and benediction for purposes of public demonstrations," he wrote. To make his case, he invoked two of the most celebrated women of the Pentateuch: "Miriam shouts and sings when liberty triumphs, Deborah rises when the country is in danger; but there were no whisky Amazons in the tents of Israel. Therefore our daughters cannot be misled into this piece of business." (13)

Some contemporaries evoked the image of the Amazon, the female warrior of Greek mythology, to convey respect and admiration for the movement. In the midst of the crusade, for instance, the New York Times reported that a gathering of "Amazons" in Ohio had "given no rest to the enemy," the local saloonkeepers. This movement led by "singing ladies," the Times continued, "enlists everywhere the full sympathy of the best people of every town and village ... [with] a fixed purpose, based upon a principle." (14) According to this view, the bravery of the temperance "Amazons" echoed the fearlessness of their ancient and mythical namesakes.

But in his own usage, Wise did not invest the word "Amazon" with any positive connotations. In his opinion, temperance women radically transgressed their proper role and upended the natural order of gendered behavior. Equally horrifying to Wise was that, in his estimation, they profaned religion by exploiting it in the service of political ideology. Where others saw righteous warriors, Wise saw self-righteous fanatics and obstreperous harridans. Wise used the term "Amazon" as an insult to both their femininity and their politics. He was then able to present an idealized image of the Jewish woman, whom he regarded as the mirror opposite of the temperance crusader: a politically astute yet ladylike, rational, and dignified defender of the nation.

A few weeks after Wise's piece appeared in the Israelite, Rabbi Samuel Freudenthal of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, also referred to the women of the temperance movement as "whisky Amazons." In response to a missive from a local temperance group "urging him to appoint a committee of six Hebrew ladies to co-operate with it in a crusade," he declared that "it is impossible to fanaticize an Israelite" of any gender. Jewish women, Freudenthal insisted, would not deign to participate in the radical tactics of the Women's Crusade. (15) Freudenthal likely had read Wise's editorial in the Israelite, agreed with the sentiment, and when the occasion arose, found it useful to borrow his terminology.

As Jastrow's scolding sermon and Wise and Freudenthal's derisive comments suggest, many members of the American rabbinate had decided that temperance activism--and particularly women's temperance activism--had no place in Jewish life. So strong was their conviction, in fact, that they were sometimes willing to silence Jewish women who expressed sympathies with the movement. Certainly, Jastrow's dismissal of his female congregants' petition can be understood in this light. And in 1878, when fourteen-year old Dora Rosenstein submitted an essay on temperance to Atlanta's Jewish South, the newspaper's publisher and editor, Rabbi Edward B. M. Browne, would not let it see the light of day. Browne, who also led the city's Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, noted in his paper that he would have published Dora's "very good" essay "but for the fact that we Israelites need no temperance literature, as we are not intemperate. Try something else, Miss Dora." (16)

With very few exceptions, however, these rabbis were correct about American Jewish women's lack of interest in the temperance movement. As Rosa Sonneschein's polite but firm rejection of Willard's invitation confirms, Jewish women joined Jewish men in viewing the movement as too fanatical and intolerant to merit their involvement. Like their male counterparts, they not only regarded total temperance as unnecessary, but were more than happy to point to their own ethnic community as proof.

"Do As We Israelites Do": Alcohol Consumption and Jewish Identity

In chastising his protemperance female congregants for their foray into the public arena, Jastrow also took them to task for their claim of being "aggrieved" by the liquor traffic. "Our women," he insisted, "are not ... specially aggrieved by the traffic in alcoholic drinks." (17) This was a reference to the longstanding assertion, dating back at least to Immanuel Kant, that the Jews were a sober and temperate people. (18) American commentators made similar observations throughout the late nineteenth century, and even those who viewed Jews in a negative light admitted that Jewish drinking habits were admirably moderate. In x 886 Life magazine partly attributed Jewish health and longevity to the fact that Jews "use alcohol liquors very sparingly and thus keep up good digestion." Three years later the temperance organ Christian Advocate pointed out, without apparent hostility, that "Jews who drink, but are seldom drunkards, are not as a class in favor of Prohibition." In a series on New York's Jews written for Century Magazine in 1892, journalist Richard Wheatley found one of clearest proofs of the "moral standing of the Hebrews" to be the fact that "drunkenness is not a Jewish vice." Wheatley's series was accompanied by several illustrations depicting respectable Jews in middle-class American attire consuming wine in their religious rituals (see Figs. 1 and 2). (19)

In their arguments against mandatory temperance laws during the late nineteenth century, American Jews regularly highlighted their reputation for sobriety and moderate alcohol consumption, proposing themselves as living proof of the excessiveness of anti-alcohol legislation. This was clearly Jastrow's intention when he suggested that those who feared and despised alcohol (or loved it too much) should "do as we Israelites do ... [R]aise your children so as not to look with genuine or affected horror on a social gathering that is cheered up with so-called strong drinks, while you see its participants come forth unscathed in body and soul." (20) Jews, according to Jastrow, taught every upcoming generation to enjoy nature's bounty and the company of others with equal measures of joyfulness and self-restraint. Or, as Rabbi Browne of Atlanta so pithily put it in the late 1870s: "Yes, the Jew drinks," but he also "knows when to stop." (21)


Jastrow and Browne offered Jewish drinking habits as a model for non-Jews to follow, implying that Jews were a healthy and beneficial element in the American body politic. When temperance activists expressed interest in Jewish drinking practices, however, they often ignored modern-day Jews, preferring to focus their attention on the ancient Israelites. As far back as the antebellum temperance movement, Christian clergy had looked to the Hebrew Bible to determine whether the Israelites drank yayin, intoxicating wine, or thirosh, unfermented grape or raisin juice. These Christians hoped to prove, through exhaustive biblical exegesis, that Jesus consumed thirosh at his Passover seder. If it was just fruit juice, as anti-alcohol absolutists insisted, then there was no wine at the Last Supper, and unfermented wine could be used for Christian communion. (22)


Evangelical temperance activists sought the expertise of Jews whenever possible, under the assumption that current Jewish rituals paralleled those of the biblical era. They had found a willing spokesman during the early nineteenth century in diplomat, playwright, and New York newspaper publisher Mordecai M. Noah. Noah was the best-known Jewish public figure in the antebellum United States, and both his journalistic and dramaturgic writings were widely cited as representations of Jewish opinion and tradition. In 1836, when the secretary of the New York State Temperance Society asked Noah about Jewish wine customs, Noah responded publicly in his newspaper, the Evening Star, that contemporary Jews commonly used unfermented raisin wine in their Passover rituals. But what Noah did not say, and what he probably did not himself know--his knowledge of Jewish law and custom left much to be desired--was that this was primarily a practice of diasporic expediency, a way for Jews far from Jewish population centers to have access to kosher wine. Regardless, temperance Christians embraced Noah's assertion, interpreting it as confirmation of their theory that Jesus did not drink fermented wine at Passover. (23)

Wise was decidedly less willing to help the temperance movement than Noah had been. He expressed hostility toward temperance theologians who tried to harness the Hebrew Bible in support of their cause. He insisted that there was no injunction against alcohol in Jewish history or theology. The leading figures of the Torah all drank fermented wine, he pointed out. Even though some, like Noah of the flood, drank to catastrophic excess, Moses "left no law regarding inebriation ... the Mosaic code knows of no punishment for the drunkard, not even for the habitual drunkard." The rabbis of the Talmud went one step further, including wine as a required component of Jewish domestic ritual. Some of them, he wrote, even considered it a sin to abstain from wine. (24)

Wise argued that temperance Christians who hoped to enlist a Jewish Jesus in their battle against alcohol were wasting their time and displaying an embarrassing ignorance of biblical history. If Christians were going to look to Jewish culture as a model or a guide, he suggested that they dispense with exegetical efforts and instead look to their Jewish neighbors. In 1872, Wise attempted to shift temperance activists' attention away from the ancient past and toward the present. "Temperance men have often asked us," he wrote, why Jewish "drunkards" were so rare "although scarcely any of them abstain entirely from wine, beer and other fermented liquors." His answer was twofold: from childhood Jews drink alcohol at home, with their parents, as part of their religious ceremonies and thus learn to respect it; and the very teachings of Judaism created the sort of man who "controls his passions and bridles his appetites [and] has himself, more or less, under the control of reason." (25)

This explanation allowed Wise to make two claims: first, Jews' ability to drink in moderation proved that habitually excessive drinkers should blame themselves and not the substance; and second, American Jews could serve as a model of the rational, self-mastered citizen. When scientists declared that Jews had somehow inherited a physiological insusceptibility to intemperance, he replied that it was not "racial" qualities, but rather "the liberated intelligence [which] is the motor of the will to domineer over the lower instincts." (26) Judaism, for Wise, was synonymous with reason and self-control--crucial traits for the modern and democratic citizenry envisioned by the most optimistic of the nation's founders.

Gustav Gottheil, rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, the center of Reform Judaism in New York City, echoed Wise's arguments. In a sermon on Judaism and temperance delivered in the 1890s, Gottheil also dismissed exegetical claims: "We are sorry we cannot offer the temperance reformer the much-coveted comfort of the example of Jesus," since, as a Jew, he would have consumed fermented wine at the Last Supper. "We may render him more substantial aid ... not as total abstainers or total prohibitionists, but as a sober people, who have been effectively taught by their religion to use every gift of God and not to abuse it." (27)

The role that the Jewish home and family played in inoculating Jews against excessive attitudes toward alcohol also figured largely in the anti-temperance rhetoric of Philadelphia rabbi Joseph Krauskopf, a former student of Wise. Krauskopf beseeched American lawmakers to turn away from the temperance movement's demands and instead to look to the Jews, whose thousands of years of experience had led them to a sane and moderate approach to alcohol consumption. "Encourage the method pursued in Israel, a method that has almost freed them from drunkenness and its consequences," he declared in an 1889 sermon. "Encourage the free and open and unrestricted use of alcoholic stimulants within the sacred environments of the home." Acceptance of alcohol as a part of everyday life, according to Krauskopf, disinclined Jewish men from running off to the saloon; it kept them at home with their families, and "has contributed no small share to their ... domestic purity and happiness." If all would follow the Jewish model, he concluded, "there will be Temperance with all, Total Abstinence with none." (28)

All of these rabbis presented American Jews as exemplars of voluntary moderation, even while they refused to allow Jewish history, or the Jewish body, to be used as weapons in the temperance arsenal. This strategy rendered real, flesh-and-blood Jews, rather than the ancient Jews of the evangelical imagination, as the temperance ideal: sober, industrious, and guided by reason. That Jews regularly partook of drink and yet remained respectable American citizens proved, according to this argument, that total abstinence was unnecessary for a healthy and productive life. This argument also provided an opportunity to advocate for tolerant and unprejudiced political attitudes, and to imply that the nation would be ill-served by the temperance movement's attempts to impose their extremist politics upon an increasingly diverse population. Jews implied that they could be the model of such tolerance. Of course, they would also be its beneficiaries.

As the short piece in the American Jewess suggests, Jewish women also articulated their confidence that Americans might look to Jews as models of moderation in both consumption habits and political values. Esther Ruskay, an essayist on Jewish women's topics for both Jewish and secular publications, explored this issue in a 1902 essay that might have been based on her own experience. Ruskay described four American women in the midst of a discussion on some of the political and social movements of the day. Three of these women were Christian, and each was an advocate for a favorite fashionable cause: one a vegetarian, one a suffragist, and the third "a rabid disciple of Frances Willard." The fourth woman, and the only Jew among them, remained silent (and a little bored) until the temperance activist asked, "Is not drinking wines and liquors and stimulants a sin [and] a practice out of consonance with the highest conceptions of manhood?" (29)

Called upon to defend Jewish religious practices, not to mention Jewish masculinity, Ruskay's Jewish character suddenly found her voice. She pointed out that "one of the Psalms refers to God ... creating wine to make glad the heart of man." Therefore it could not be a sin. Besides, she tells her friends, "wine is a necessary adjunct of [Jewish] ceremonies, and yet intemperance has never been a prevalent vice among Hebrews." (30)

"As it all came to Number Four in a rush," Ruskay wrote, "she herself was struck by the practical tenor of the laws of her people." Jewish law, she suddenly understood, "enables the Jew to live a temperate, well-ordered life, with none of the evils and none of the fears of this modern age to puzzle or to threaten them." Temperance ladies, according to Ruskay, were so terrified of alcohol's effect upon the modern world--so terrified of modernity itself--that they sought to have the substance banished altogether. Jews' moderate relationship with alcohol, on the other hand, proved a saner and infinitely more progressive model of "home protection." Jews, she implied, should be regarded as exemplars of calm rationality in the face of societal change and uncertainty. (31)

Ruskay's story presented Jewish women as uninterested in joining the temperance movement. Indeed, "Woman Number Four" offered a sharp corrective to the ideology and practice of the WCTU. Whatever fears the petition of the Rodeph Shalom women had raised decades earlier, Ruskay's critique of anti-alcohol activism reassured middle-class American Jewish men that their wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters did not aspire to enter the political realm, at least not in the style of women's politics most common at the time.

Jewish women's disinterest in the temperance movement also reassured Jewish men that their female counterparts accepted the role of keeper of the home and intergenerational transmitter of Jewish domestic practices, which included the moderate consumption of alcohol in both social gatherings and religious rituals. That they embraced the job of transmitter was, in a way, as important as the information transmitted. The possibility that Jewish women might independently follow Jewish men into the public realm, abandon their role as perpetuators of home- and family-based Jewish traditions, and develop social or even romantic relationships with gentiles imperiled the cohesiveness of American Jewish communities. The willingness of women to create and maintain a Jewish environment in the home and to limit the purview of their organizational activities mainly to the Jewish community, allowed Jewish men to avail themselves of the relative openness and fluidity of American political, economic, and social life. (32)

Though the vast majority of middle-class Jewish women eschewed the assertive activist role taken by temperance women, choosing instead the private world of home and insulation within Jewish community, the stance they took toward alcohol consumption still had significant political meaning. In a culture where middle-class Protestant women were increasingly likely to ban all alcohol from their homes, Jewish women continued to serve it. They also consumed alcohol as participants in Jewish religious ritual. One illustration accompanying Wheatley's previously mentioned 2892 series in Century Magazine depicts a bride poised to take a sip from a goblet of wine (see Fig. 1). Other illustrations portray Jewish families around a seder table, in a sukkah (see Fig. 2), and at the havdalah ceremony that marks the end of the Sabbath. In almost all of these scenes, not only is wine consumed, but it is consumed in the presence of children. (33) For Jewish critics of the Gilded Age temperance movement, this was a point of pride, for it showed Jewish mothers doing their part to create the next generation of temperate, rational, and politically tolerant Americans.

Jews were not the only American ethnic group to openly criticize the anti-alcohol movement and to point to themselves as exemplars of moderation and rationality. German immigrants, most of whom were religiously moderate Lutherans, responded similarly. German Americans were particularly vocal in their resentment of temperance activists' attempts to restrict American leisure activities, denouncing anti-alcohol activists for encouraging intolerant and antidemocratic impulses in American political culture. They also sensed nativism in the movement's occasional screeds against immigrants and feared that the anti-alcohol movement was, at its core, an attack upon German culture and German American communities. The German American press, with few exceptions, stood against women's involvement in politics at any level, accusing "temperance witches" of emasculating their fathers and husbands and dishonoring their families. (34) Indeed, the American Jewish press and the German American press posited remarkably similar arguments against the temperance movement in all respects.

It is significant that the majority of American Jews during the late nineteenth century hailed from German-speaking central Europe. This does not mean that all of these Jewish immigrants thought of themselves as ethnically German, or that German gentiles regarded them as such. The degree to which central European Jews had been acculturated or legally emancipated in their homelands varied widely before German unification in 1871. Relations between Jewish and non-Jewish German immigrants in the United States also varied. Though the two groups often enjoyed mutual admiration and cooperation, and even occasionally interacted in informal social settings, there remained significant limits that divided the two groups both socially and residentially. (35)

Still, shared antipathy to the anti-alcohol movement provided an opportunity for Jews to align themselves with German Americans, who were regarded as among the more dynamic, organized, politically engaged, and well-respected immigrant groups in the United States. This connection served central European Jewish immigrants in three ways. First, it reflected positively on Jews to be associated with Germany's intellectual and cultural heritage. Second, it allowed Jews a feeling of inclusion and acceptance among non-Jews, an experience denied to all but a few elite of their background in Europe. And third, identifying with German Americans enabled those Jews who were ambivalent about assimilation to embrace a version of American identity that, while acculturated, remained distinct from the rest of American society. (36)

Though Jewish and gentile immigrants from German-speaking Europe generally stood shoulder to shoulder on this issue, their political activism moved along parallel tracks, utilizing much of the same rhetoric in different settings and venues. One notable American Jewish figure did make an effort to align the two groups in their common efforts. Bavarian-born lawyer Simon Wolf was a spokesman for both German and Jewish causes. He served on the executive committees of B'nai B'rith and the Union of America Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), and was an advocate for Jewish rights in the United States and abroad. He also worked as a lobbyist for the National German-American Alliance (NGAA) in the early twentieth century. Wolf fought against the anti-alcohol movement throughout his political career, often referring to both his Jewish and German heritages. (37)

One of Wolf's earliest forays into temperance politics coincided with the end of the Ulysses S. Grant administration, in which he held a minor bureaucratic position. Hoping to keep his job through the next administration, Wolf wrote a letter to Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican Party's candidate for the 1876 election. He advised Hayes that German-American newspapers "charge you with being a strict temperance man," and that this would hurt Hayes with ethnic German voters. He stumped for Hayes as well, traveling to New York City to meet with over a thousand potential supporters, whom he described as, "merchants [and] bankers, ... mostly Israelites and Germans." Unfortunately for Wolf, Lucy Hayes, the candidate's wife, was an admirer of the Women's Crusade. Once in office, President Hayes asked Wolf for his resignation, a move Wolf suspected was the direct result of the first lady's protemperance politics. (38)

The "Abuse" of Religion: Jews, Temperance, and the Constitution

If some Jewish critics of the anti-alcohol movement shared Wolf's sense of solidarity with German Americans, most did not see this alliance as a basis for political activism. Rather, they asserted their identity as Americans, insisting that their interpretation of American political values was more accurate, and more beneficial to the nation, than that of temperance activists. Wise intended his newspaper, the American Israelite, to serve in the defense of a liberal vision of American democracy in which individual rights were protected against the encroachments of government power. The Israelite always couched its discussion of Jewish rights, and citizens' rights in general, within a defense of the Constitution and the freedom of individual belief it promised, championing the First Amendment's prohibition against the establishment of a state religion. As one of Wise's biographers has written, "the Israelite was vigilant and let no opportunity slip by to affirm the wisdom of the separation of church and state and to oppose any infringement of it." (39)

Temperance legislation was just the sort of imposition of religion on politics that Wise abhorred. Temperance victories represented in concrete terms the growing activist presence of Protestantism in secular life. Wise bristled at all attempts by Christian political movements to influence legislation. He described the temperance movement as the nation's first step toward theocratic rule, warning that Jews would not be the only, or even the first, group oppressed by such a government. "If religion and prayer are abused to wage war on liquor today," he wrote in 1880, "they may be abused tomorrow, on the same principle precisely, to persecute ... Freemasons, Catholics, foreigners, infidels, or anyone who ... does not conform to vulgar prejudices." When religious passions of the moment can "override and defy the law and the Constitution," he went on, "we stand at the brink of lawless despotism." (40)

Wise's accusation that the anti-alcohol movement "abused" religion reflected a shift in American Jewish political rhetoric. Antebellum Jews had not felt that religious liberty required a secular government; they embraced the idea of the United States as a "religious" nation and accepted Christianity as the faith of the majority, as long as the government's religious commitments remained nonsectarian. After the Civil War, however, new political organizations lobbied for legislation that would promote, and even enforce, standards of behavior that aligned with evangelical interpretations of the Bible. Beginning in the 1870s and with greater force in the decades to come, rabbis and other communal leaders expressed concern about these organizations, accusing them of eroding the wall between church and state. Increasingly, American Jewish leaders insisted that only a secular state could guarantee equal treatment for its religious minorities. (41)

Wise's hostility toward attempts at temperance legislation hinged upon the moral absolutism he saw in such efforts. He agreed that excessive alcohol consumption was a national problem, and that drunkenness was "an evil against which all good men should work," as he wrote in 1868. (42) But temperance activists defined the evils of alcohol in spiritual terms, and insisted that the government should be empowered to eradicate sinful behavior. As we have already seen, Wise and his fellow rabbis viewed alcohol as a morally neutral substance--an agent of conviviality and sanctification, or of degradation and vice, depending upon the habits of the individual consumer. Ultimately, Wise viewed the anti-alcohol movement as merely a single battle within a larger culture war, the outcome of which would have tremendous consequences. On one side stood those who sought to force all Americans, regardless of creed or belief, to conform to a socially conservative Christian vision of morality. On the other side stood the U.S. Constitution, a document of tolerance and liberalism, a product of the Age of Enlightenment. For Wise this was a war between religious tyrants and defenders of liberty. If the tyrants won, he suggested, the fundamental rights of Jews could be in danger.

Jastrow also criticized the temperance movement on constitutional grounds. A decade and a half after he had scolded the ladies of his congregation and referred to the Women's Crusade as "equal to TYRRANICAL PRESSURE," he took up the anti-temperance cudgel once again. In an 1889 sermon the Philadelphia rabbi pointed out the deleterious effects of anti-alcohol legislation upon American property rights. Prohibition of the production and purveyance of alcohol, he insisted, was akin to "confiscation of property and proscription of persons," since hundreds of thousands of working Americans would be driven out of their livelihoods, and millions of dollars of property "reduced almost to worthlessness." Economic oppression of just this sort, Jastrow insisted, had driven the colonists to proclaim independence from Great Britain. "At some future day," Jastrow warned, "that many-headed tyrant may confiscate all your property.... This is a question of liberty as against tyranny, a question of the unwritten human rights as against the usurpation of power." (43) For Jastrow, mandatory temperance law was akin to despotism. In his estimation, the temperance movement sought to enact unconstitutional intrusions of state power that would weaken Americans' fundamental protection from governmental property confiscation.

Jastrow's sermon underscored how debates over the alcohol trade, both before and after the Civil War, were a product of wider-ranging concerns over the nature of American capitalism and the competing demands of individual rights and communal interests in a flee-market society. Was the alcohol industry to be valued as a force of capitalist dynamism and a source of economic growth? Was its presence in American cities and its popularity among many immigrant groups a benign symptom of cultural diversity? Were its potentially troubling effects on society tolerable and manageable? Anti-alcohol activists declared no, on all counts. By their assessment, alcohol debased everything it touched, bringing nothing but economic exploitation of the poor, violence against women, political corruption, and moral decay. When it came to alcohol, these activists insisted, the needs of the community required that the market be strictly regulated. (44)

During the late nineteenth century, American Jews were among those whose disagreement with the anti-alcohol movement included a defense of the constitutional rights of the individual to accumulate and dispense with property as he saw fit. Wise and Jastrow evoked the nation's struggle at its founding to throw off England's restrictions upon its colonists civil liberties, which included, in their interpretation, the right to enjoy the fruits of their labor without undue government interference. In doing so, they and entrepreneurially minded American Jews of the Gilded Age joined other Americans who made their livings in the business sector in extolling the virtues of the free market.

This was not merely a matter of economic self-interest. Jews' memories of socioeconomic life in central Europe also affected their political and economic ideologies. Before political emancipation, European Jews had long been restricted from owning land and from participating in a wide range of occupations. Those who had witnessed and benefited from the progressive removal of political disabilities from central European Jewry in the nineteenth century, or who had emigrated to the United States to escape socioeconomic discrimination, regarded economic liberalism and open markets as inextricably intertwined with social and political tolerance. Any possible constrictions of economic and commercial markets, especially those championed by conservative and potentially exclusionary cultural forces, frightened Jews, who regarded the American socioeconomic environment as more meritocratic than any they had yet encountered. By defending unrestricted markets, which they saw as guaranteed by the liberal philosophies upon which the nation was founded, Jews were able to protect their own interests by wielding unequivocally "American" political arguments. An ideological defense of the alcohol trade thus spoke to the needs of Jewish businessmen and consumers, while allowing them to avoid presenting what might have been perceived as a "Jewish agenda." (45)

Jews and the Political Economy of Temperance

The temperance movement posed a threat not only to Jews' religious rituals, gender practices, and political status. It also imperiled their ability to make a living, since Jews participated widely in the American alcohol trade. Thus, economic self-interest also played a decisive role in American Jews' rejection of the temperance movement.

Throughout the nineteenth century, American Jews found the production and purveyance of liquor, beer, and wine to be an economically reliable and socially acceptable entrepreneurial niche. Jewish immigrants were attracted to the American alcohol trade in part for historical reasons. Central European Jews had been involved in alcohol commerce since the Middle Ages, especially in the production and distribution of wine. They had experience as tavern- and innkeepers in central Europe, where itinerant Jewish peddlers needed a safe place to eat and sleep along trade routes. Beer brewing or liquor distillation also was a logical and attractive endeavor for importers and middlemen who dealt in quantities of grains or sugar, as many European Jews did in the medieval and early modern periods. (46)

It stands to reason that Jewish immigrants would seek some continuity between their pre- and postmigration entrepreneurial choices. However, premigration socioeconomic practices would have mattered far less had the American alcohol trade not been as dynamic as it was in the late nineteenth century. Beer and hard liquor production in the United States underwent vigorous expansion between 1870 and 1900, when total value of production in the American beer industry ballooned from $21 million to $237 million, and from nearly $35 million to almost $97 million in the distilling industry. The number of saloons and liquor stores also increased, allowing retail sales to keep pace with production. Despite the temperance movement's best efforts, this was an excellent time to be in the alcohol business. (47)

As distillers and rectifiers of liquor, brewers of beer, vintners, saloonkeepers, liquor store owners, wholesalers, and employees of alcohol-related businesses, Jews joined other Americans in this busy and, for many, highly lucrative sector of the American economy. While evangelical Protestant taboos regarding alcohol opened the vocation to Jews, Catholics, German Lutherans, and others who did not share an antipathy toward drinking, the alcohol trade attracted entrepreneurs and employees of diverse ethnic extractions and religious faiths, including native-born white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, the ethnoreligious group most likely to support temperance reform.

Though they did not anywhere comprise the majority of alcohol entrepreneurs, Jews were present and sometimes heavily represented in local alcohol industries all over the country throughout the last third of the nineteenth century. Observers of New York City's Jewish economic activity often commented upon their presence in the local wholesale wine and liquor trade. (48) In several midwestern cities where whiskey production played an important role in the local economy, the Jewish presence in the liquor industry was far greater proportionately than in the general population. For example, in turn-of-the-century Cincinnati, where Jews constituted approximately five percent of the local population, around twenty percent of the city's whiskey producers and wholesalers were Jewish. In Louisville, Kentucky, during the same time period, twenty-five percent of local whiskey producers and wholesalers were Jews, though the city's Jewish population was a mere two or three percent of the whole. (49) In these and other locations where a substantial element of the local Jewish community made their living in the alcohol trade, Jews' hostility toward temperance activists is thoroughly understandable. (50)

If Jews played a disproportionate role in local alcohol industries, Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs loomed even larger in the affairs of their Jewish communities than their numbers might indicate. Many took on leadership roles in local and national Jewish organizations. The most successful among them gained social standing in the Jewish community, and their contributions to synagogues and other communal institutions raised their status further among their coreligionists. In 1873, at the foundational meeting of the UAHC, for example, distiller Julius Freiberg, then president of that city's Congregation Bene Israel, addressed the delegates with words of welcome. He later became president of of the UAHC, as did his son and business partner, J. Walter Freiberg. (51) Louisville's Jewish distillers Samuel Grabfelder and Nathan Block served as directors of Congregation Adas Israel and the local Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA), respectively. Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, arguably the leader among Louisville's Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs, not only headed the local YMHA, but also funded the construction of the organization's building. (52) The Jewish distillers of Peoria, Illinois, a city that produced more whiskey than the entire state of Kentucky at the end of the nineteenth century, could also be found in leadership roles in local Jewish institutions. Samuel Woolner, a Hungarian immigrant whose family founded one of the city's largest distilleries, for years held the presidency of Peoria's Congregation Anshai Emeth; liquor wholesaler David Ullman served as his vice president. (53)

One might reasonably expect this phenomenon in cities where the alcohol industry was central to the local economy, and where alcohol entrepreneurs were both relatively numerous and accorded especially high status. When Louisville's Adas Israel sent a dozen delegates to the 1892 convention of the UAHC, for example, at least six of these men made and sold alcohol for a living. (54) Yet even in Atlanta, which had a very small Jewish population (1,500--or two percent of the total--in 1890), and never generated a significant alcohol industry, Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs gained prominence in their ethnic institutions. In 1892, seven of the fourteen officers of the city's Hebrew Benevolent Congregation were either currently involved in the local alcohol trade or had previously participated in it as employees or proprietors. (55)

All of the above-named Jewish organizations, while varying in purpose and geographic reach, shared a common mission, and one that reveals something important about the worldview of these Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs. These businessmen almost uniformly gravitated toward communal institutions that encouraged and facilitated acculturation, many of which were aligning themselves during these years with the still-emerging Reform movement in Judaism. Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs' attraction to progressive, reformist visions of American Jewish identity during the late nineteenth century was, in part, indicative of more sweeping shifts in central European Jewish immigrants' religious and cultural practices during these years. Many endorsed an acculturated mode of Jewishness that did not require segregation from one's neighbors, economically or socially.

Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs would have found this philosophy particularly useful, since they worked in an industry that was predominantly non-Jewish. Their experience was unlike that of Jews in dry goods, secondhand retail, and the garment trade, all fields in which Jewish employees and entrepreneurs were heavily concentrated, and where strong ethnic networks allowed Jews at all levels of the business to work together with less reliance on non-Jewish participation. By contrast, work in the alcohol business put Jewish owners and employees in constant contact with industry agents and entrepreneurs outside Jewish circles. The 1871 credit report on Jewish liquor wholesalers Simon and Joseph Silverman of Pomeroy, Ohio, in which the assessors of R. G. Dun described them as "very well liked here by Jew & Gentile," indicated that they operated comfortably in both Jewish and non-Jewish commercial networks. (56)

The alcohol trade was not only an avenue to economic mobility and Jewish communal leadership. It was also a force for cultural and economic integration into the larger culture. Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs joined local and national nonsectarian organizations, whenever and wherever Jews were welcomed into their fold. Of course, alcohol entrepreneurs were not the only Jewish businessmen who acted as both formal and informal community liaisons during the nineteenth century. The frequency with which Jewish alcohol purveyors took up such roles, however, points to their relative comfort among non-Jews, as well as their interest in creating and nurturing social networks that connected them to their non-Jewish colleagues.

Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs held local political positions, as well. In the 1880s, for example, Jewish liquor dealer and wholesale grocer Isaac Lowenberg was elected mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, and Jewish saloonkeeper Cassius Tillman served as the town sheriff. (57) During the same decade, Benjamin Dreyfus, a Bavarian immigrant and vintner in Anaheim, California, served on the city council and then held that town's mayoral office. (58) Cincinnatian Charles Fleischmann, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant whose manufacturing concerns included both distilled liquor and compressed baking yeast, was elected to the Ohio state senate several times before his death in 1898, and his son and business partner was their city's mayor from 1900 until 1906. (59)

Despite the threat posed to them by the temperance movement, Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs--the Jews most directly affected by temperance activism--rarely spoke against it in any public venue. In fact, this was true of alcohol producers and wholesalers of all ethnic backgrounds. When the men of the liquor, beer, and wine businesses did organize to defend their industry from prohibition laws and from onerous economic burdens intended to slow production, such as high license fees and increased taxes, they preferred indirect, behind-the-scenes methods. They formed trade protection organizations that promoted free-market economic policies, sent lobbyists to confer with politicians, contributed generously to political campaigns, exercised influence on the press, and sought to educate voting customers before elections. These strategies of these industrial interest collectives infuriated temperance activists and inspired accusations that the liquor traffic was a mercenary and corrosive force in American politics, but they proved tremendously effective for Gilded Age business interests of all kinds. (60)

Jewish distillers, wholesalers, and brewers were active leaders and members of these collectives. Beer manufacturer Samuel Liebmann of Brooklyn, for instance, helped found the United States Brewing Association (USBA) in 1862, and several family members served on the organization's executive board. Julius Barkhouse, a member of a prominent Louisville distilling family, helped to organize an association "devoted to the special interests of Kentucky distillation" and served as its secretary. (61) Several of Cincinnati's Jewish whiskeymen held leadership positions in the Ohio Wine & Spirit Association and the National Wholesale Liquor Dealers Association; Isaac Wolfe Bernheim served as the latter organization's president for several years, and Samuel Woolner Jr. of Peoria was its vice president. (62) By taking part in these groups, Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs intensified their cooperative relationships with non-Jewish colleagues. In addition, active participation in industry lobbying organizations enabled them to look after group interests while avoiding accusations that Jewish political and economic concerns differed from those of other Americans. (63)

Nineteenth-century Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs thus played an important dual role. They served not only as leaders within their Jewish communities but also as representatives of those communities to the larger local gentile population. For Jews who hoped to become acculturated and accepted citizens of their cities and towns (as the majority of central European Jewish immigrants did), these businessmen were in the vanguard, helping to forge a path toward admission into American society. By threatening the livelihoods of some of American Jewry's most active leaders and benefactors, the temperance movement imperiled the institutional health of those Jewish communities where alcohol entrepreneurs were prominent. Further, its success would diminish the presence of these men in the larger culture, depriving American Jews of some of their most prestigious cultural emissaries.

To what extent was the antiprohibition stance of American rabbis directly influenced by Jewish involvement in the American alcohol trade? There is no record of communications between Jewish clergymen and Jewish alcohol producers specifically on the topic of temperance. Still, it stands to reason that the antiprohibition stances of rabbinic leaders must certainly have been strengthened by their connections to congregants and supporters who made their living in the alcohol industry. Many of the institutions founded by Isaac Mayer Wise, for example, benefited from the generosity and cultural status of Jewish alcohol entrepreneurs. Bernheim funded the construction of the original library at Hebrew Union College, a building that today houses the American Jewish Archives and still bears his name. Members of the Freiberg family were among many Jewish alcohol businessmen who played important roles as laypersons in the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which Wise created to unify American Jews and to standardize their religious practices. Wise's presence in Cincinnati, where a significant number of his congregants were in alcohol-related businesses, surely played some part in his anti-temperance politics.

What is more likely, though, is that Wise and his colleagues were giving voice to an American Jewish consensus, in which they themselves shared. For all of the reasons already mentioned, there was little to attract most postbellum American Jews to the "dry" side of the wet/dry debate. The importance of the alcohol trade in Jewish life undoubtedly contributed to the development of Jews' antitemperance politics. But Jews' relationship to alcohol consumption and production, which predated the temperance movement by centuries, was far more determinative. In the final analysis, the possibility that politics, commerce, or any other aspect of secular society might come under the control of a religious movement such as the WCTU, and thereby jeopardize Jews' civil liberties, was a development of great concern and worth fighting against.

From Pride to Insecurity

American Jews were not alone in speaking out against the nineteenth-century temperance movement. They did employ some arguments that grew out of their unique historical and cultural perspective, but when they invoked the Constitution or traditional gender roles, they articulated points of view that they shared with millions of other Americans. In other words, the ideas Jews espoused about the place of alcohol in American society fit within the contemporary spectrum of debate on the subject. Antitemperance rhetoric provided American Jews with an opportunity to create alliances with other Americans, as well as to offer themselves as a model for others to admire and follow.

These opportunities would not last long. Though most American Jews continued to defend the right to consume and produce alcohol, native-born, white Protestant Americans increasingly came to agree with absolutist anti-alcohol ideologies. The enthusiasm with which American Jews had defended alcohol consumption and participated in alcohol commerce became a source of unease for Jews in the early twentieth century, as the philosophy of total prohibition gained traction, followers, and political power. When alcohol became a widely despised--and then illegal--substance, the political stance and entrepreneurial niche Jews had embraced for decades was transformed into an obstacle to acculturation. Hostility toward American Jews' longstanding relationship to the alcohol trade was given its most extreme expression, not surprisingly, by industrialist, prohibition advocate, and antisemitic propagandist Henry Ford. In 1921, a year after national Prohibition became law, Ford's newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, accused Jews of always having been "on the side of liquor." (64)

American Jewish responses to antisemitic sentiment within the anti-alcohol movement showed that they were alert to this shift. Lawyer and Jewish community leader Louis Marshall, for example, either misrepresented or misremembered his earlier position on the matter. In 1904 Marshall had defended the alcohol trade, insisting that there was "nothing immoral in the sale of liquor." Two decades later, however, his defense of alcohol commerce was far more equivocal. "I have no doubt," he wrote in 1925, "that on examination it will be found that a very large percentage of wholesale liquor dealers ... were Jews" in the years before national Prohibition. "The business of that time was at least lawful, though I always regretted that Jews were engaged in that business to as great an extent as they apparently were." (65)

This shift in attitude serves as a reminder that Jews' trajectory of Americanization has not been a perfectly linear and progressive one. Historians of the American Jewish experience often describe their subjects as having arrived in the United States with cultural habits and worldviews that contradicted "American" conventions and attitudes. As Jews acculturated, according to this narrative, they dropped or modified their "alien" ways of being and came to share the political and cultural perspectives of their gentile neighbors. In this view, Jews in the United States became more American over time and came into conflict with other Americans less frequently.

The opposite was true with respect to attitudes toward alcohol. Jewish immigrants to the United States during the nineteenth century arrived with views on selling and consuming alcohol that were both acceptable and commonplace among other Americans. But American legal systems and cultural values shifted so radically that by 1921, Jews found themselves not just outside the mainstream on the alcohol issue, but in a position where their participation in and defense of activities now regarded as illegal and immoral had become a liability. American Jews thus came to regard with ambivalence (and in some cases regret) a political position that they had previously expressed without fear.

* Many thanks to those who read this essay in all of its incarnations and offered helpful feedback: Eric L. Goldstein, Jonathan Prude, Mary Odem, Amy Louise Wood, Emily Satterwhite, Jennifer Meares, Molly McGehee, Jonathan D. Sarna, Jack S. Blocker Jr., David Sehat, and the anonymous reviewers for this journal.

(1.) Sarah F. Ward, The White Ribbon Story: 125 Years of Service to Humanity (Evanston, IL: Signal Press, 1999), 10.

(2.) American Jewess z (Nov. 1895): 101. See also New York Times, Oct. 24, 1895, 15. Sonneschein did, however, publish an extremely affectionate obituary of Willard. See American Jewess 6 (Feb. 1898): 251-52.

(3.) American Jewess 2 (Nov. 1895): 101.

(4.) Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Domesticating Drink: Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 21.

(5.) Gaines M. Foster, Moral Reconstruction: Christian Lobbyists and the Federal Legislation of Morality, 1865-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 40-46; Jonathan D. Sarna, "Christian America or Secular America? The Church-State Dilemma of American Jews" in Jews in Unsecular America, ed. Richard John Neuhaus (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 8-19.

(6.) Quoted in Marcus Jastrow, A Lecture on Temperance (New York: Hebrew Orphan Asylum Printing Establishment, 1874), 1.

(7.) Murdock, Domesticating Drink, 16-18

(8.) Jack S. Blocker, "Give to the Winds Thy Fears": The Women's Temperance Crusade, 1873-1874 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985); Barbara Leslie Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1981), 93; Murdock, Domesticating Drink, 18-25; Thomas R. Pegram, Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998), 58-65.

(9.) Faith Rogow, Gone to Another Meeting: The National Council of Jewish Women, 1893-1993 (Tuscsaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993), 31-32; William Toll, "A Quiet Revolution: Jewish Women's Clubs and the Widening Female Sphere, 1870-1920," American Jewish Archives 41 (Spring/Summer 1989): 7-26.

(10.) Jastrow, A Lecture on Temperance, 4, 6.

(11.) Moshe Davis has written that "Jastrow considered Wise flippant," which suggests their differences were personal as well as theological. Jastrow was one of the leaders of the "Historical School" of American Judaism, which was a precursor of the Conservative movement. See Moshe Davis, The Emergence of Conservative Judaism: The Historical School in 19th-Century America (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1963), 138-46, 342-44; and Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 184.

(12.) This number was ascertained by a survey of the American Israelite from z865 to 1899, with the assistance of the card index of subjects available at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.

(13.) American Israelite, Mar. 13, 1874, 4.

(14.) New York Times, Feb. 14, 1874, 5.

(15.) Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr. 1, 1874, 4. Freudenthal, who arrived in the United States in x865 from Germany, held a doctorate in addition to rabbinical ordination. In 1886, after serving congregations in Pennsylvania for nineteen years, he became the superintendent of the Hebrew Orphans Asylum in Baltimore. See Nurith Zmona, Orphanages Reconsidered: Child Care Institutions in Progressive Era Baltimore (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 25-26.

(16.) Jewish South (Atlanta), Apr. 19, 1878, 4.

(17.) Jastrow, A Lecture on Temperance, 6.

(18.) Kant argued in his Anthropologie (1798) that Jews were moderate drinkers because "their civic position is weak and they need to be reserved." As members of a self-segregated community, as they were in Europe, Jews were under particularly stringent scrutiny. "Through their eccentricity and alleged chosenness," he wrote, Jews were subjected to "the attention and criticism of the [larger] community and thus cannot relax in their self-control." Quoted in Nathan Glazer, "Why Jews Stay Sober," Commentary 13 (Feb. 1952): 184. In 1959, pop sociologist Vance Packard revived this explanation for Jews' lack of interest in alcohol as a social lubricant: "Jews see alcohol as a threat to self-control. Historically, Jews, as a persecuted group, have had to be alert constantly to threats to their family and their life. Drunkenness has seemed to make about as much sense for them as it would for an antelope in lion country." See Packard, The Status Seekers (New York: David McKay, 1959), 145-46.

(19.) Life, Jan. 7, 1886, 30; Christian Advocate, Oct. 24, 1889, 685; Richard Wheatley, "The Jews of New York," Century Magazine 43 (Jan. 1892): 323-42 (quote on 328); and (Feb. 1892): 512-32.

(20.) Jastrow, A Lecture on Temperance, 10-11.

(21.) "Sermon on Jewish People," n.d., E. B. M. Browne Collection, MS 639, box 1, folder 18, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati (the American Jewish Archives is hereafter cited as AJA); Janice O. Rothschild, As But a Day: The First Hundred Years, 1867-1967 (Atlanta: Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, 1967), 11-19.

(22.) Jonathan D. Sarna, "Passover Raisin Wine, The American Temperance Movement, and Mordecai Noah," Hebrew Union College Annual 59 (1988): 269-88.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) American Israelite, Jun. 17, 1881, 396; May 19, 1882, 372.

(25.) Ibid., May 24, 1872, 8.

(26.) Ibid., Apr. 20, 1888, 4.

(27.) Gustav Gottheil, "Judaism and Temperance," in Sermons by American Rabbis (Chicago: Central Conference Publication Committee, 1896), 176-79.

(28.) Joseph Krauskopf, Does Prohibition Prohibit? (Cincinnati: Bloch Publishing Co., 1889), 19, 21. Italics in original.

(29.) Esther J. Ruskay, Hearth and Home Essays (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1902), 92-96.

(30.) Ibid.

(31.) Ibid.

(32.) Eric L. Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 22-23. This idealization of gender roles and the circumscription of the public and private spheres was by no means unique to the middle-class American Jewish experience. American Jews adopted Victorian-era ideas about the proper place of women, which they reconfigured for their own religious and cultural purposes. On the creation of the female sphere in nineteenth-century America, and shifting gender ideologies during the expansion of the market economy, see Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).

(33.) Wheatley, "The Jews of New York," 327, 332, 513,515.

(34.) Blocker, Give to the Winds Thy Fears, 62-64; Pegram, Battling Demon Rum, 77-78; Carl Wittke, The German-Language Press in America (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1957), 162-63.

(35.) Naomi W. Cohen, Encounter with Emancipation: The German Jews in the United States, 1830-1914 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1984), 58-61; Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820-1880 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 162-65.

(36.) For more on the "Germanness" of central European Jews in the United States, see Avraham Barkai, Branching Out. German Jewish Immigration to the United States, 1820-1914 (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1994), 184-88; Rudolf Glanz, Jews in Relation to the Cultural Milieu of the Germans in America up to the Eighteen Eighties (New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 1947); Michael A. Meyer, "German-Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century America," in Toward Modernity: The European Jewish Model, ed. Jacob Katz (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987), 247-67; Stanley Nadel, "Jewish Race and German Soul in Nineteenth-Century America," American Jewish History 77 (Sep. 1987): 6-z6; Catherine Singer, "The Sense of Identity and Community of the German Jews in Milwaukee, 1875-1925" (senior thesis, Hampshire College, 1977).

(37.) Wolf continued his political efforts on behalf of German American antiprohibition organizations until the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. Then, as chair of the executive committee of the UAHC, he helped facilitate communication between that organization and the government officials writing the new federal prohibition law. The result of these communications was Section Six of the Volstead Act, which allowed for the manufacture, transportation, and sale of wine for use in religious ritual. See Charles Thomas Johnson, Culture at Twilight: The National German American Alliance, 1901-1918 (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999), 84-85; Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Brewing and Liquor Interests and German and Bolshevik Propaganda, 66th Cong., 1st sess., 1919, S. Doc. 62, 1:901-16; Simon Wolf to George Zepin, Mar. 6 and Mar. 17, 1919, Union of American Hebrew Congregations Collection, MS 72, box 44, AJA.

(38.) Esther L. Panitz, Simon Wolf: Private Conscience and Public Image (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987), 56-57, 70.

(39.) Israel Knox, Rabbi in America: The Story of Isaac M. Wise (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1957), 86. See also James G. Heller, Isaac M. Wise: His Life, Work and Thought (New York: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1965), 269-70, 665.

(40.) Issac M. Wise, An Essay on the Temperance Question (Cincinnati: Bloch Publishing Co., 1880).

(41.) Foster, Moral Reconstruction, 2,-25; Jonathan D. Sarna and David G. Dalin, Religion and the State in the American Jewish Experience (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 1-16, 167-79.

(42.) American Israelite, Mar. 6, 1868, 4.

(43.) Jewish Exponent (Philadelphia), Apr. 12, 1889, 5. This issue also includes a short summary of a sermon by Italian-born rabbi Sabato Morals of Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia. Morals was an ally of Jastrow's in efforts to maintain a traditionalist practice in American Judaism, as well as a cofounder of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1886. Although he did not seem to share Jastrow's antiprohibition fervor, he agreed with Jastrow--and with Wise and Gottheil, with whom he disagreed on other matters--that temperance Christians' claim that the ancient Israelites drank unfermented wine in their rituals was incorrect.

(44.) Foster, Moral Reconstruction, 80-81; John J. Rumbarger, Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1880-1930 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), 57-8, 66-8.

(45.) Cohen, Encounter with Emancipation, 130; Diner, A Time for Gathering, 144-47.

(46.) Salo W. Baron and Arcadius Kahan, Economic History of the Jews (New York: Schocken Books, 1975), 132-33; Werner J. Cahnman, German Jewry. Its History and Sociology (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1989), 44-45; Jacob Katz, Tradition and Crisis: Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages (New York: New York University Press, 1993), 18-19; Werner E. Mosse, Jews in the German Economy: The German-Jewish Economic Elite, 1820-1935 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 385n6. Jews in eastern Europe were involved in alcohol production and commerce to an even greater extent than were those in central Europe. Jewish merchants were granted local monopolies on the distillation and sale of vodka throughout the Pale of Settlement. Taverns thus came to provide a livelihood for thousands of Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, and Romanian Jews. See Baron and Kahan, Economic History of the Jews, 133-38; Simon Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland from the Earliest Times until the Present Day, trans. I. Friedlaender (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1918), 1:67; Patricia Herlihy, "Revenue and Revelry on Tap: The Russian Tavern," in Alcohol: A Social and Cultural History, ed. Mack P. Holt (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2006), 192; Michael Stanislawski, Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews: The Transformation of Jewish Society in Russia, 1825-1855 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983), 171.

(47.) U. S. Bureau of the Census, Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, vol. 3, Wealth and Industry (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1872), 450-51; Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900, vol. 7, Manufactures, Part I (Washington, DC: United States Census Office, 1902), 278-85. Though the number of retail alcohol dealers increased in absolute terms between 1870 and 1900, there were a few downturns in the trade during the period. For example, the total number of retail dealers registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue fell from 197,000 in 1886 to fewer than 135,000 in 1891. By 1900, however, there were more than 201,000 retailers registered. Despite downswings in retail outlets, the amount of alcohol consumed continued to rise fairly steadily, which suggests that retailers were, on average, dispensing larger quantities of alcohol at the end of the century than they had previously. See Jack S. Blocker, "Consumption and Availability of Alcoholic Beverages in the United States, 1863-1920," Contemporary Drug Problems 21 (Winter 1994): 631-66. For more on American alcohol commerce in the nineteenth century, see Gerald Carlson, The Social History of Bourbon: An Unhurried Account of Our Star-Spangled American Drink (Louisville: University Press of Kentucky, 1963); William L. Downard, Dictionary of the History of the American Brewing and Distilling Industries (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980); Perry R. Duis, The Saloon: Public Drinking in Chicago and Boston, 1880-1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983); Amy Helaine Mittleman, "The Politics of Alcohol Production: The Liquor Industry and the Federal Government, 1862-1900," (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1986); Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2006); W. J. Rorabaugh, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 61-122.

(48.) "Hebrew Advancement in American Business." Phrenological Journal and Science of Health 81 (Sep. 1885): 140; Wheatley, "The Jews of New York," 328.

(49.) For Jewish population statistics for these cities, see Jacob Rader Marcus, To Count a People: American Jewish Population Data, 1585-1984 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990); Jonathan D. Sarna and Nancy H. Klein, The Jews of Cincinnati (Cincinnati: Center for the Study of the American Jewish Experience, 1989), 6, 100. Estimates of Jewish representation in the liquor trade in these cities were made on the basis of entries in local city directories, records of Jewish organizations and congregations, cemetery records, credit reporters' ledgers in the R. G. Dun & Co. Collection (Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Cambridge, MA), and other sources. The percentages mentioned here refer only to proprietors of businesses that distilled, rectified, and/or wholesaled hard liquors, most often but not exclusively whiskey. These numbers include neither employees of such establishments, nor proprietors or employees of breweries, wineries, saloons, or liquor stores. For further details, see Marni Davis, "'On the Side of Liquor': American Jews and the Politics of Alcohol, 1870-1936" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 2006), chap. 1 and appendix.

(50.) There is evidence to suggest that the hostility of central European Jewish immigrants toward the temperance movement also extended toward the movement for women's suffrage, which was linked by Frances Willard to the temperance cause during her stewardship of the WCTU. According to Iphigene Molony Bettman, the granddaughter of Isaac Mayer Wise, the middle-class Jews of Cincinnati steered clear of the suffrage movement because they "were mostly liquor dealers, and they were afraid women would vote [for] Prohibition." See the interview with Bettman, recorded on May 13, 1964, AJA.

(51.) Universal Jewish Encylcopedia, s.v., "Freiberg."

(52.) Courier-Journal (Louisville), Jan. 1, 1896; A History of the Jews of Louisville, Kentucky (New Orleans: Jewish Historical Society, 1900), 20, 33-35.

(53.) Downard, Dictionary, 219; James Montgomery Rice, Peoria City and County, a Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress, and Achievement (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), 167-68.

(54.) Nathan F. Block to Simon A. Dreifus, Nov. 21, 1892, made available to the author by Marcia Hertzman at The Temple, Louisville.

(55.) Atlanta Constitution, Jan. 4, 1892, 6; U.S. census returns for Atlanta, 1880 and 1900; Atlanta city directories for 1870, 1880, 1890, and 1892; Steven Hertzberg, Strangers within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978), 146. I am grateful to Ann Abrams for sharing her genealogical research on Isaac Guthman and Aaron Haas. On Isaac Guthman as purveyor of "excellent cider," see Atlanta Constitution, Feb. 8, 1876, 3.

(56.) Entry for Frank, Silverman & Co., Ohio, vol. 85, 144, R. G. Dun & Co. Collection.

(57.) Jack E. Davis, Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez Since 1930 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001), 110; Todd Ashley Herring, "Saloons and Drinking in Mississippi from the Colonial Era to Prohibition" (M.A. thesis, Mississippi State University, 1991), 64.

(58.) Norton B. Stern and William M. Kramer, "The Wine Tycoon of Anaheim," Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 9 (1977): 272.

(59.) James K. Mercer and C. N. Vallandigham. Representative Men of Ohio, 1896-97 (Columbus, OH: Mercer and Vallandigham, 1896), 87; Charles Frederic Goss, Cincinnati: The Queen City (Chicago and Cincinnati: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), 3:199.

(60.) Downard, Dictionary, 213-14; Pegram, Battling Demon Rum, 46-47--Not until the founding of the Anti-Saloon League in 1893 did temperance activists begin to use the single-issue organizing model. See K. Austin Kerr, Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985); James H. Timberlake, Prohibition and the Progressive Movement, 1900-1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 125-48.

(61.) Bonfort's Wine and Spirit Circular (New York), Jun. 25, 1880, 53.

(62.) Goss, Cincinnati: The Queen City, 3:818, 865; 4:224, 321, 439, 493,717.

(63.) Cohen, Encounter with Emancipation, 130-31.

(64.) "How Jews Gained American Liquor Control," The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, vol. 4, Aspects of Jewish Power in the United States (Dearborn, MA: The Dearborn Independent, 1922), 7-18. See also, "Gigantic Jewish Liquor Trust and Its Career" and "The Jewish Element in Bootlegging Evil," both in Aspects of Jewish Power, 19-40. These three articles originally appeared in Ford's Dearborn Independent on Dec. 17, 24, and 31, 1921.

(65.) Louis Marshall to William Travers Jerome, Jan. 7, 1904, box 1573; and Marshall to Sieg Natenberg, Nov. 9, 1925, box 1597, both in Louis Marshall Collection, AJA.
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Author:Davis, Marni
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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