A Bald Eagle on the Ketubah
Jewish Marriage in Nineteenth Century America
Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm
Speaker: Laura Shaw Frank, doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland
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From its birth in 1776, America has been a nation that embedded political, cultural, and social ideals into its marriage laws and customs. Whether it was trumpeting the ideal of spousal choice over arranged marriage in a nation where people had the ability to choose their government, or cracking down on divorce after the Civil War, when the nation itself went through an unhappy divorce, marriage has always been a locus for the display of American values and beliefs.
As Central and Eastern European Jews immigrated to America throughout the nineteenth century, marriage naturally became a forum through which they adapted to American culture and pushed for acceptance in American society. Through an examination of how Jews found spouses, how rabbis became marriage officiants, and how Jewish wedding ceremonies adapted to new American norms, we will discuss how nineteenth-century immigrant Jews used the institution of marriage to prove themselves American, fundamentally reshaping America as they did.
Laura Shaw Frank is a doctoral candidate in modern Jewish history at the University of Maryland. Her research deals with the history of Jewish marriage in nineteenth century America. Laura serves as the Director of Recruitment, Placement and Alumnae Support at Yeshivat Maharat. She is also the Director of Israel Guidance and is on the history faculty at SAR High School in Riverdale. Laura is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School. She lives in Riverdale with her family.