Works by Scott D. Seligman

   


To pre-order the book, click here!

The Chief Rabbi's Funeral: The Untold Story of America's Largest Antisemitic Riot

Scott D. Seligman                        

Potomac Books

University of Nebraska Press

 

Forthcoming in November, 2024

 

On July 30, 1902, tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of New York’s Lower East Side to bid farewell to the city’s one and only Chief Rabbi, Jacob Joseph, the eminent Talmudist who had arrived from Europe to great fanfare 14 years earlier. The neighborhood had never seen anything like it. A cortège of 500 yeshiva boys chanting psalms and several hundred carriages carrying dignitaries were followed by some 30,000 mourners as they snaked through the narrow streets, stopping briefly at the entrances to six synagogues for prayers and eulogies.


All went well until the procession reached Grand and Sheriff Streets, where the huge R. Hoe and Co. printing press factory towered over the intersection. Its workers had a history of harassing Jewish passers-by. Without warning, scraps of cotton waste, blocks of steel and wood, iron bolts, bottles and bricks and torrents of hot water began raining down on the entourage from the building’s upper stories. These were accompanied by insults and racial slurs from workers high above. Confusion morphed into fury as mourners retrieved the missiles and hurled them back up at their attackers.


By the time the police appeared, the violence had subsided. But under orders from the inspector in charge to “club the life” out of the crowd anyway, officers pulled out their billy clubs and began beating up Jews. By the time it was all over, men with heads bleeding from the projectiles hurled from above and blows from the police nightsticks were lying prostrate in the street, as were women and children struck or trampled in the commotion. Many dozens were injured, several people seriously.


To the Yiddish-language daily Forverts (Forward), the sordid event was nothing less than a pogrom. But this was America, not Russia, and Jews were now present in sufficient numbers, and possessed sufficient political clout, to fight back. By unifying, organizing and building alliances, the Jewish community deftly used its newfound influence to hold government accountable for taking to task those who had done it harm.

This book tells three related stories: that of the life of New York City’s first and only Chief Rabbi; that of the single largest antisemitic incident the United States has ever seen, measured in terms of numbers attacked and injured; and that of how the Jewish community used its political influence to pursue justice for the victims, setting a pattern for the future.

When people speak of antisemitism, or of racism in general, it is often accompanied by a wringing of hands. It has always been with us, and perhaps always will be. But even if eradicating it entirely is a Sisyphean task, imposing a cost on it when it morphs into violent expression is not.

 

In 1902, New York's Jewish community showed us how.

 

Other Books

Murder in Manchuria: The True Story of a Jewish Virtuoso, Russian Fascists, a French Diplomat, and a Japanese Spy in Occupied China

A Second Reckoning: Race, Injustice and the Last Hanging in Annapolis

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots that Shook New York City

The Third Degree: The Triple Murder that Shook Washington and Changed American Criminal Justice

Tong Wars: The Untold Story of Vice, Money and Murder in New York's Chinatown

The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo

The Cultural Revolution Cookbook

Chinese Business Etiquette

Mandarin Chinese At a Glance

Articles
 

Justice for the Dead

The Franklin Prophecy

When Jewish Wives Beefed With Butchers and Changed the World

He Was the Father of Anti-Semitic Publishing in America

The Triple Homicide in D.C. That Laid the Groundwork for Americans’ Right to Remain Silent

The Nasty, Little-Known Turf Wars of Chinatown, NYC

Joseph Thoms: Defending America's Chinese

Rediscovered: An Eloquent Chinese Voice Against Exclusion

Everything But Rats and Puppies

Echoes of the Chinese Exclusion Act in Immigration Debate

The Forgotten Story of the First Chinese American

The Hoosier Mandarin

The Night New York's Chinese Went Out for Jews