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From "WVU Grad Wins National Prize for Book on Jewish Immigrants in Appalachia"
West Virginia University Press Release, November 28, 2007
Weiners book was selected by the
Southern Jewish Historical Society for the top prize from among 11 books published during
2003-06 throughout the nation. She was recognized at the historical societys annual
conference this month in Washington, D.C. ... Deborah Weiners exemplary study
of Jewish life in Appalachia presents a carefully researched examination of the texture of
Jewish experience within the varied settings that defined the different coalfield
communities in which Appalachian Jews found their homes, said Karla Goldman, chair
of the societys book prize subcommittee.
Sterba, in American Historical Review, October 2007
A well-written and engaging history.... Weiners main goal is to unsettle
commonly held views of both Appalachia and the American Jewish experience. The book
succeeds on both counts.... Like the best community studies, it informs several historical
fields. This book should be required reading for any student of Appalachian and American
in West Virginia History, Fall 2007
Coalfield Jews addresses larger questions of identity that have embroiled both
southern and Jewish historians.... That Weiner has been able to speak to all these
audiences attests to both her scholarly credentials and narrative skills.
Dwight Billings, in American
Jewish History, June 2007
Coalfield Jews is a fine example of scholarship that effectively blends comparative
and historical analysis, skillful exposition, thick description, graceful and evocative
writing, and rich insight. It adds to our understanding of the complexity of Jewish life
in small-town America by looking at a distinct industrializing setting, and it sheds
considerable light on a much misunderstood American region.
From "Haven in the
Hollows," a review by Glenn C. Altschuler
January 5, 2007
If not always a veritable haven, Appalachia was home to hundreds of Jews
between the 1880s and 1930s. In Coalfield Jews, Deborah Weiner, research
historian and family history coordinator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, tells their
story meticulously and movingly ... It is a ... narrative of upward mobility along a bumpy
path, Orthodox religious observance giving way to Reform and the struggle to assimilate
while maintaining Jewish identity. Contrary to the image of the region as isolated, inward
and hostile to strangers, Weiner shows that the boomtowns of Appalachia were receptive to
Jews. And as they accommodated themselves to a Southern, Christian society, Jews managed
to maintain close-knit communities for several generations.
From "Who Knew? W. VA. Coaltowns Rivaled NY For Jews," a review
by Paul J. Nyden
The Charleston Gazette,
December 24, 2006
Coalfield Jews is a fascinating, previously untold story about the unique role
immigrant Jews played in Central Appalachian coal towns and county seats between the 1870s
and the 1950s ... Weiner adds a revealing portrait of the critical role of a unique
people who seemed to have escaped notice until
this new book.
Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. &
Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University
Unique and engaging, Coalfield Jews is the definitive treatment of its subject.
The book is full of surprises as it opens up a hitherto unexplored area of study of Jewish
life in the central Appalachian coalfields. Of particular importance is its focus on
Jewish economic life and its exploration of Jews as a 'middleman minority' in the area.
John C. Inscoe, University of
Deborah Weiner breaks significant new ground in her ambitious study of Jewish immigrants
to the Appalachian coalfields and the ways in which they adapted to the region as a whole
and to individual communities throughout it. Her meticulous and multifaceted re-creation
of so many lives and experiences is as much a contribution to business and labor history,
immigration and ethnic history, and social history as it is to Appalachian history, and
deserves serious attention from scholars in all of these fields.