In the annals of American Jewish history, synagogue financial records have been largely overlooked. But as Daniel Judson shows in his examination of synagogue ledgers from 1728 to the present, these records provide an array of new insights into the development of American synagogues and the values of the Jews who worshipped in them. Looking at the history of American synagogues through an economic lens, Judson examines how synagogues raised funds, financed buildings, and paid clergy. By "following the money," he reveals the priorities of the Jewish community at a given time.
Throughout the book, Judson traces the history of capital campaigns and expenditures for buildings. He also explores synagogue competition and debates over previously sold seats, what to do about wealthy widows, the breaking down of gender norms, the hazan "bubble" (which saw dozens of overpaid cantors come to the United States from Europe), the successful move to outlaw "mushroom synagogues," and the nascent synagogue-sharing economy of the twenty-first century. Judson shows as well the ongoing relationship of synagogue and church financing as well as the ways in which the American embrace of the free market in all things meant that the basic rules of supply and demand ultimately prevailed in the religious as well as the commercial realm.
Publisher: University Press of New England
Number of pages: 256
Weight: 376 g
Dimensions: 225 x 152 x 18 mm
"Synagogue financing has hitherto rarely been studied, and never in this depth. Judson demonstrates just how much scholars have missed. By following the money, he reveals a tremendous amount about the relationship of the American Jewish community to classical Jewish ideologies and structures and to American religious values and practices. . . . Highly recommended."-- "Choice"
"This is a thoughtful contribution to American economic and religious history that draws on original archival research to shed light on a little-studied aspect of American Jewish history."-- "Publishers Weekly"
"Though Judson is a masterful storyteller who can make long-ago synagogue presidents come alive, he is perhaps most impressive when showing how synagogue finances parallel trends and movements in the American Jewish story."-- "Jewish Book Council"