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on May 18, 2003
The Rest of Us isn't really about the 'rest of us', it's mostly about the American Jewish experience through the lives of those Russian immigrants who became famous in America. This emphasis can be forgiven, because the famous are the people that most of us want to read about and identify with. You get a peek at the turn of the century Lower East Side community, and gain an understanding of how very reformed Jewish traditions and entrepreneurial opportunity for Jewish immigrants got a jump start in a free country. I would have liked to have heard the author debunk the myth that all Jewish immigrant families wind up rich in this country, however. Enjoyed the insights regarding the clash bewtween German and Russian Jewish comminities and influences.
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on April 16, 2014
The Rest of Us is the wonderful finale to Stephen Birmingham's impressive triptych of the histories of American Jewry.

This three part work doesn't simply account for the overlooked facets of the American Jewish experience (or American history) but takes us back to homeland(s) in the Old World from time to time and connects many dots that create a captivating picture of people and places.

It is also a brilliant piece of writing where the personal and the private waltz with the public to provide a comprehensive tableaux that was previously unavailable.

Even though I am a great fan of "the Grandees" and "Our Crowd", "The Rest of Us" is very special to me as my family hails from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

A wonderful read overall, and not only for researchers or Jews.
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on December 8, 2009
I originally got this book from the library, and enjoyed it so much I wanted my own copy . - It is a fascinating history of the immigration of Eastern European Jews to the U.S. Has many facts which are unique and I've never read or heard anywhere else. Well written and very readable. A valuable part of my own library.
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on April 4, 2010
Stephen Birmingham is a very thorough writer/historian, writing in a way that leaves the reader with the distinct impression that he was there, while this history unfolded. The Eastern European Jewish community in America have a dynamic history, filled with scores of individuals that paved their way in the so-called New World. Any one interested in this subject will not be disappointed.

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on May 22, 2012
If you've read OUR CROWD and enjoyed it THE REST OF US will please you as well. It's history but it reads like a novel. The chapters on the era of Prohibition starring Bronfman and Lansky are worth the price of admission.
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on October 3, 2013
I enjoyed this book immensely, particularly the part about Hollywood. Written in an engaging manner, the history grabs you and there is not one dry page. If you are interested in Jewish history in the United States, this is a must read. When one considers bigotry, one often considers other races and religions, but this book shows there are no boundaries. If you always hear how "Jews" control Hollywood, this explains why so many Jews did get involved in the movie business. This is a book I'll re-read a few years down the road. Mr. Birmingham tells history as a fascinating story .
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on January 7, 2012
The Steven Birmingham book was outstanding reading, depicting an easy reading of Eastern European Jewry which was a sequel to "Our Crowd", stories of the history of German Jewry coming to the US to make their way. It includes "The Guggenheims and The Strauses who perished on The Titanic plus many other fascinating families. Birmingham also authored "The Grandees", an outstanding history of Sephardic Jewry and centered around stories of Sephardic New York families.
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This is a very readable history of the huge immigration wave of Jews into the US between 1880 and 1914. The book starts with the story of Julia Richman, who became a reformer and educator, perhaps, to put some of the story in a more intimate context, but the real value of the book is in the explanation of the situation in Eastern Europe, especially Russia, that led to the mass migration. The various czars had changing laws that often restricted the livelihood of Jews and required mandatory, twenty-five year conscription of young men from the age of about thirteen to fifteen that usually resulted in death or at least, a permanent loss to their family. My own grandfather was one such escapee--running from Latvia to Sweden by boat, shipping out as a sailor rather than being kidnapped and turned over to the Army.

When the immigrants landed in New York, life was chaotic, but it was at least free of the murderous aspects of life in Europe, where rape and murder by mercenaries of the Czar was common (my grandmother told me a few stories of hiding under tables to escape the swords.) The tenements were crowded and unsanitary but many men and women escaped the poverty to become highly successful. The story of Samuel Goldwyn and David Sarnoff were particularly interesting.

The schism between the better educated and more liberal German Jews and the culturally different Eastern Europeans was fascinating. Intermarriage could be a problem--diverse groups didn't understand each other, and even their Yiddish was accented beyond recognition sometimes.

I've read various histories, but this book is highly engaging and puts a different light on the way Jews arrived in the US and made it their home. Highly recommended historical reading
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on February 28, 2016
Stephen Birmingham has a delightful way of explaining American history. The Sephardic Jews got to America first, and looked down at the German Jewish peddlers then bankers who came next, who, in turn, frowned up the unwashed masses from Poland and Russia who followed. Needless to say, the Eastern European Jews--this book is about them--soon pulled themselves out of the ghetto and found some other group about which to disapprove. Birmingham is particularly good about the history of the many Jewish gangsters who grew up on the Lower East Side, including Meyer Lansky, who taught their pals in the Mafia that crime does indeed pay. if you know how to do it right.
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on January 30, 2016
An interesting and readable story of the upper movement and integration/adaptation of Eastern Jewish immigrants using famously successful individuals and their family/ descendants as examples. Quite entertaining for many parts and contains some less known facts, but most of the prominent folks described are probably familiar to many readers. At times the book tends to be repetitive may be because it is told by passing years and therefore each of the individual character had to be reintroduced some how in separate chapters. It may read a lot better if each family is followed chronologically. Overall, not a bad book.
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