The Damascus Blood Libel & the Mortara Affair

When anti-Semitism struck in Damascus and Italy the Jewish community was galvanized and unified.

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Although the board merged in 1878 with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, at the time of its creation it was the first centralized organization to speak for American Jews. Together with such fraternal organizations as B'nai B'rith, it marked the emergence of a secular leadership in the Jewish community, which had formerly been dominated by the synagogue.

Soon other organizations, social and philanthropic, would arise to represent the diverse needs of a growing Jewish population. Like their Christian neighbors, most Jews continued to identify with their religion. But with traditional dietary and dress customs falling by the wayside, they adapted their lives to fit an American lifestyle.

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Norman H. Finkelstein

Norman H. Finkelstein is a writer, editor and teacher. A former school librarian in the Brookline, Massachusetts Public Schools, he has been teaching children's literature and history courses at Hebrew College for over twenty-five years. He is the series editor for the JPS Guides series published by the Jewish Publication Society.