Skip to main content Skip to search

YU News

YU News

135 Years of Jewish History in the American Press: The Ronald and Miriam Rubin Collection

Professor Ronald Rubin donated an illuminating and extensive collective of American newspapers to the Mendel Gottesman Library. The papers date from 1734 to 1869, thus covering the Colonial era, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. The collection is unique in its area of focus: each of the 350 newspapers includes information on the Jewish experience in America during this early time period in the development of the Jewish community in the United States. The Library is most grateful to Professor Rubin for this treasured gift.

The Jewish Synagogue, Clinton Street
Illustrated News, May 14, 1853
Professor Ronald and Miriam Rubin Judaica Americana Collection

During this time period, newspapers rarely included illustrations in their pages, let alone pictures relating to the Jewish community. One exception was the Illustrated News which printed an image of the interior of a synagogue (Congregation Rodeph Sholom) on Clinton Street on the Lower East Side, on May 14, 1853. A curious observation in the accompanying article, “The New Synagogue” states: “The principal portion of their [the Hebrews] service is chanted – one of the essential qualifications of a leader being a thorough knowledge of music, which art is probably more cultivated among the Jews than among any other race in the world.”

This magnificent, historic, building still exists today and houses Congregation Chasam Sopher. 

An event celebrating Professor Ronald Rubin’s extraordinary, novel gift, a form of time travel for the story of Jews in the United States, was held on December 11, 2022, in the Mendel Gottesman Library.

Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger