Newberry Seminar on Religion and Culture in the Americas - February 2, 2018

Aerial view of the Newberry Library and Washington Square Park.
Image courtesy of the Newberry Library.

The Newberry Library's Religion and Culture in the Americas Seminar explores topics in religion and culture broadly and from interdisciplinary perspectives including social history, biography, cultural studies, visual and material culture, urban studies, and the history of ideas. It examines how religious belief has affected society, rather than creedal- or theological-focused studies.

The Seminar provides an opportunity for scholars to share works-in-progress, and encourages papers that use new methods, unveil archival discoveries, or need feedback in preparation for book and journal article publication.

The February Seminar focuses on a paper presented by Daniel J. Gorman of the University of Rochester. The paper, “Sarah Fenster’s Neighborhood: Demography, Community, and One Child’s Life in 1900 Jewish Philadelphia" focuses on recreating this urban neighborhood.

The paper blends quantitative and qualitative methods to tell the story of the Russian Fenster family, their daughter Sarah, and one block of Philadelphia’s Jewish Quarter in the summer of 1900. What sorts of people, places, and cultural forces shaped Jewish Philadelphia? How did children perceive the Quarter’s impoverished living conditions, vibrant culture, and diverse inhabitants? Using the 1900 census, death records, benevolent society archives, city atlases, and city directories, Gorman recreates Sarah’s life cycle and shows that her neighborhood was not a mere slum, but rather a vibrant refuge, reflecting the United States in miniature.

Respondent: Tony Michels, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Friday, February 2, 2018
Center for American History and Culture Programs 
Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Attendance is free and open to all interested parties. Newberry Scholarly Seminars are pre-circulated. For a copy of the paper, email