Between the 1820s and 1920s some 3 million Jews migrated from Europe to the United States, giving rise to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. Although restrictive legislation drastically reduced the number of Jews (and others) who could settle in the U.S. after 1924, immigrants continued to come, at times illegally.
Among these multitudes was Harry Houdini; he was four years old when he arrived in Appleton in 1878 and bore the name Erik Weisz. He was a testament to the “American Dream,” but also felt the imperative to claim American birth, saying often in interviews that he was born in Wisconsin.
Why did Jews like the Weisz family come to the U.S. in such large numbers? What kinds of challenges and barriers confronted them? How did America shape the Jews and how did they change the society around them? This lecture explores the odyssey of American Jews including the Weisz family through the immigrant experience.
Thursday, November 14, 7:00 – 8:30 PM
Museum Members $5 | Nonmembers $7
Program admission includes admission into the Museum.
About Tony Michels
Tony Michels is the Director of the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches American Jewish History. He is author of A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York, among other publications, and co-editor of the Cambridge History of Judaism: The Modern World, 1815-2000, as well as the scholarly journal Jewish Social Studies.
Offered in connection with Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, an exhibit on display at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, September 27, 2019 – January 5, 2020.
Image: Harry Houdini with his wife Beatrice and his mother Cecilia Steiner Weiss, ca. 1907. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division Washington D.C., McManus-Young Collection