12 2016

The History of Jews in Small Town New England

11:00AM - 2:00PM  

Sandisfield Arts Center Route 57 and Hammertown Road

Michael Hoberman, professor of American literature at Fitchburg State University and the author of three books and several scholarly articles on New England folklore and early Jewish American history, will speak on the history of Jews in small-town New England on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 11 a.m. at the Sandisfield Arts Center.

The talk will be based in large part on the oral history research for Hoberman’s book How Strange It Seems (UMASS Press, 2008). He will discuss the history of Jewish families who came to little towns throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, western Massachusetts, and Connecticut—their work as traveling peddlers, their agricultural endeavors, and their participation in Jewish religious and cultural life. 

Hoberman plans to give specific attention to what he learned in the course of researching Jewish farming communities that were centered around Sandisfield.  He will also devote some attention to his more recent book, New Israel/New England: Jews and Puritans in Early America (UMASS Press, 2011), which explores the relationship between Jews and Puritans in the colonial and Revolutionary War period.

Michael Hoberman has published articles in Early American Studies, Studies in American Jewish Literature, American Jewish History, and several other scholarly journals.  He was Fulbright Senior Scholar in American Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in 2010 and was a recipient of the Sid and Ruth Lapidus Fellowship at the American Jewish Historical Society in 2014–2015. He is currently working on a book entitled A Hundred Acres of America: The Geography of Jewish American Literary History, which will be published by Rutgers University Press.

The group recording the history of the Jewish community in Sandisfield between the late 1800s and late 1900s was formed following the farming articles in the April/May 2016 Berkshire Jewish Voice, which served as the catalyst and inspiration needed to form a committee to work on the book with a working title of A Century of Jewish Life in Sandisfield.  The Sandisfield Arts Center is located at Route 57 and Hammertown Road and was originally built by a Baptist congregation in 1839. Seventy-nine years later, the Sons of Abraham arrived and reconstituted the edifice as an orthodox Jewish synagogue. In 1995, following major renovations to the structure (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), it re-opened as a nonprofit Arts Center offering a vibrant program of events.

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