1. Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family
Once We Were Slaves uses family heirlooms to unlock the genealogical mystery of the missing ancestors of a reclusive Jewish heiress. An obsessive genealogist and descendent of one of the most prominent Jewish families since the American Revolution, Blanche Moses firmly believed her grandmother Sarah Brandon’s family were Sephardic grandees. Yet Blanche found herself at a dead end when it came to Sarah’s maternal line. Even the most famous genealogists of the day were likewise stumped. When Blanche died in 1946, the family papers and heirlooms became part of the collection at American Jewish Historical Society, and the mystery remained unsolved. Once We Were Slaves overturns Blanche’s assumptions about her past by showing how Blanche’s grandmother and great-uncle actually began their lives as poor Christian slaves in Barbados. Once We Were Slaves traces the extraordinary journey of Sarah and Isaac Brandon as they traveled around the Atlantic World, and in the process changed their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and—at times—white.
2. The Art of the Jewish Family: Material Culture in Early New York
Between 1750 and 1850, New York went from being one of many small Jewish communities on the Atlantic seaboard to the largest Jewish community in the Americas, a community whose size rivaled or surpassed many of the historic Western European Jewish centers. The population surge was only one part of the story: over the course of the century, the community shifted from Sephardic- to Ashkenazi-centered, and family structure metamorphosed as Jews adapted their marriage patterns to American life. The Art of the Jewish Family looks how Jews of early New York mediated the radical changes in their lives through material culture, particularly objects associated with displaying and maintaining the family.
Image at Left: J.L. Riker, "Portret van het echtpaar Johannes Ellis en Maria Louisa de Hart" (Daguerreotype from Suriname, ca. 1846). Copyright Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.