Preface to 3rd Edition | First American Jewish Families
A high school enthusiasm for royal genealogy inoculated me
with a virus which became an all-absorbing hobby. After tracing
thirteen generations of descendants of Charlemagne, I was
well launched on a career of wholesale genealogy.
A maturer outgrowth of the hobby arose from a search for
a doctoral dissertation in the field of American Jewish History.
In June of 1950, I approached the dean of American Jewish
historians, my beloved teacher, Professor Jacob Rader Marcus,
with a request for a thesis topic. By then Dr. Marcus had
created the American Jewish Archives on the Cincinnati campus
of Hebrew Union College, and had begun collecting the data
on America's Jews. Among his early acquisitions was the large
collection of typescript genealogies of Americans of Jewish
descent compiled by the late Dr. Walter Max Kraus, and presented
to the Archives by his spouse, Marian Nathan Kraus Sandor.
Dr. Marcus made this material available to me, and I spent
the succeeding eight years revising, correcting, and quadrupling
the data in the Kraus-Sandor material. The result was my Americans
of Jewish Descent published by Dr. Marcus at the Hebrew
Union College Press in 1960.
This pioneer compendium of American Jewish genealogy announced
to the reader: "While every effort has been made to secure
accurate data, the very nature and magnitude of the compilation
make either completeness or total accuracy impossible of achievement.
Additions and corrections will be welcomed..." In the
intervening years, many have responded to this invitation.
New data has appeared in print. And my own researches in archives,
court houses, historical societies, congregational records,
and cemetery epitaphs, have been on-going.
In 1978, resultant accumulation of data was published jointly
by the American Jewish Archives and the American Jewish Historical
Society as a contribution to the American Bicentennial under
the title: First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies,
The genealogist's task is never complete, for new generations
are born daily. The growth of interest in family history, made
accessible to individuals by the newer technologies of photocopying,
microforms, and computers, has brought about this updated edition.
My goal over more than forty years has been to try to compile
the genealogies of Jewish families established in the United
States and Canada prior to 1840, tracing their descendants
wherever possible to the present. The year 1840 was chosen
because an estimated 10,000 Jews had settled in America by
then. Within the succeeding twenty years, more than 200,000
additional Jews were to immigrate, creating an insurmountable
task for one genealogist working alone.
Although the vast majority of today's American Jews descend
from later immigrants, I am proud that my work has inspired
many who have consulted it to pursue their own roots, to create
the growing network of Jewish genealogical societies around
the world, to sponsor and conduct seminars, and to produce
an ever-increasing bibliography of finding aids. Echoing the
words of an ancient rabbinic sage, I can honestly say, "From
all my disciples have I learned."
This work makes evident the assimilative power of mixed marriage
between Jew and non-Jew. Increasingly, I am consulted by non-Jewish
descendants of these pioneers, who take delight in discovering
Jewish forebears. Until the beginning of this twentieth century,
Jews constituted less than one percent of the American population;
consequently many Jews were lost to Judaism through intermarriage.
However, this volume clearly shows that many of these families
contain individuals still loyal to their ancestral faith. A
recent Jewish bride in South Carolina could trace ten generations
of her ancestors in this book, all of whom were Jews. That
is the miracle!
Malcolm H. Stern
New York, N.Y., 1991
Dedication and acknowledgements
from the 3rd Edition
Foreword to the 3rd Edition by
Jacob Rader Marcus
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