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Book traces 150 years of Jewish life in Michigan

Sept. 1, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A unique window to the religious, social and communal structures created by Jews in the wildly turbulent age of industrialization is presented in a new book co-written by a Western Michigan University history professor.

"Jewish Life in the Industrial Promised Land, 1855-2005," co-written by Dr. Nora Faires, WMU associate professor of history, traces a Jewish community made up of multiple strands of migrants, from those fleeing persecution in Southern and Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century to those arriving from the former Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century. Examining life in Flint, Mich., it sees the Jewish experience there as part of the global Diaspora spanning decades of tumult, destruction and international realignment. The book traces the evolution of a small ethnic and religious community, combining that information with an analysis of the dramatic rise and decline of an industrial boomtown.

As the book shows, even during Flint's "golden age" of postwar industrialization, Jews took part in the good life of consumer abundance, but remained outside its major industry of auto manufacturing and absent from its most important corridors of power. Jewish families worked as storekeepers, entrepreneurs and professionals, but like their autoworker customers and clients, had little control over events on which their economic fortunes depended. When General Motors slashed jobs in the 1970s, Jewish families suffered along with the rest of the community.

The book was co-written with Nancy Hanflik, who earned a master's degree in American Culture from the University of Michigan-Flint. Her thesis became the foundation of the exhibit, "A Century of Jewish Life in Flint," which she co-curated at the Alfred P. Sloan Museum in Flint. She is also past president of the Flint Jewish Federation.

The book is available by visiting the Michigan State University Press at www.msupress.msu.edu.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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