Book Chronicles History of Jews in Northampton
year 2004 is not only the 350th anniversary of the founding
of Northampton. It’s also the 350th anniversary of Jews
So it’s fitting that a new book by Myron Peretz Glazer,
the Barbara Richmond Professor in the Social Sciences, and
his wife, Penina Migdal Glazer, the Marilyn Levin Professor
of History at Hampshire College, ties together the simultaneous
anniversaries with an engaging description of the history
of Jewish settlers in the city.
The Jews of Paradise: Creating a Vibrant Community in
Northampton, Massachusetts, documents the first arrival
of Jews in Northampton, about 150 years ago, and follows the
Jewish community’s expansion in town. The book was commissioned
by the Northampton 350th anniversary celebration committee.
Throughout the 19th century, the local Jewish community steadily
expanded, write the Glazers. By the 1930s, Jews owned clothing
and shoe stores, and were operating hardware stores, groceries
and butcher shops.
Smith College figures prominently in this history, the Glazers
emphasize. From the earliest days when Jewish students joined
the predominantly Protestant student body and attempted to
make a place for themselves, to the more recent rich history
of Jewish studies and the Jewish role in an active multicultural
setting, Smith has played a central role in the history of
the local Jewish community.
Several Smith people have played prominent roles in that history,
including President William Allan Neilson, who led a mass
rally in Northampton, along with Otto Kraushaar, professor
of education, following the Kristallnacht attacks in Germany,
in 1938. Neilson brought many Jewish refugee scholars and
students to Smith during his tenure. Others, including Burns
Chalmers, professor of religion and the first chaplain at
Smith, made significant contributions in fighting against
The Jews of Paradise combines Smith’s history
with that of the larger local Jewish community in the 20th
century, highlighting a variety of events in which the college
and townspeople joined to address the persecution of Soviet
Jews. More recently, the book points out, several faculty
members have played key roles in the local Jewish community.
Among them are Martha Ackelsberg, professor of government,
David Cohen, professor of math, Justin Cammy, assistant professor
of Jewish studies, Lois Dubin, associate professor of religion,
and Robert Dorit, associate professor of biological sciences.
The Glazers have combined efforts on several other books,
including The Whistleblowers: Exposing Corruption in Government
and Industry and The Environmental Cursaders: Confronting
Disaster and Organizing Community. The Glazers are longstanding
members of Congregation B’nai Israel.
The Jews Of Paradise is available for purchase at
Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main St. Northampton; the Smith College
Museum of Art book store; Grécourt Bookshop in the
Campus Center; and at Forbes Library, West Street.