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Showing 1-10 of 22 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 109 reviews
on October 31, 2004
No, it's not "good journalism," it's biased and even angering as the previous reviewers have stated. The author doesn't speak to as many Hassidic sources as he does to townspeople. Part of the way through the book, he takes a side completely and stops speaking to the Hassidim entirely. He doesn't break down many myths about either side but particularly he doesn't understand how the Hassidim treat women, which is disappointing given his natural position as potential ambassador between the two groups. It's clear that he does not practice what he preaches (that is, remaining objective and having two sources back up each fact that he uses). So, the first 200 pages of "analysis" are a little bit disappointing and predictable, speaking in vague terms about mild anti-semitism.

What makes this book truly worth reading is what happens about 200 pages in. Bloom stops reporting on the situation and starts reporting more correctly on several specific topics, namely: the business practices of the Hassidim in Postville, certain incidents in the local area, and - most fascinatingly - about the criminal actions of and obstruction of justice by a small handful of Hassidim in Northeast Iowa.

It's absolutely worth reading Bloom's tepid analysis for 200 pages to get to these 130 pages of rather engrossing stories.
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VINE VOICEon January 21, 2010
This book was about the culture clash in the small town of Postville, IA (population 1500) between the white, Christian locals and the Hasidic Jews who moved in the late 80s and turned an old slaughterhouse into a kosher slaughterhouse. The author is a Reform Jew so he brought an interesting perspective to the conflict as someone sort of in the middle of the two extremes living in Postville.

I really liked this book, it reads like a novel. The only thing that bothered me was the author throwing in Yiddish or Hebrew words without telling me what they meant. The plant in Postville was raided in May 2008 and almost 400 undocumented immigrants, mostly from Somalia and Latin America were removed and the NYT reported that the plant is defaulting on a $35M loan. A sequel may be in order.
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on August 10, 2013
I truly thought this could be a dry anthropologic treatment of the clash of cultures, but instead the journalist-narrative really strives to bring humanity dripping with details and candor in every page. It made me want to stay up late reading more about his journey into the partly-closed-off hasidic community and interviewing with friendly locals who eye the jews with a mixture of curiosity, racism, acceptance, and gratitude for rejuvenating the local economy. Highly recommended!
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on August 14, 2015
Great historical drama with insight into the world of ultra conservative Jewish people in Iowa. Going to visit Postville in September.
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on January 4, 2013
This Jewish author is so very even-handed. You will go with this side and then with the other side and then switch again and again. Things are not completely as they seem and you go on a journey of immersion in 2 cultures, only one prevailing. Years after the book, one of the main participants was involved in a huge federal scam and made national papers for years afterwards. Fascinating and well-written book.
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on November 25, 2015
Descriptive and informative, but a bit snarky toward ordinary Iowans.
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on July 16, 2008
Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America
This book describes the author's family move from the sophistication of life in San Francisco to Iowa in 1993. The author's acceptance of a position as professor of journalism at the University of Iowa necessitated not only a change of location, but also of world view and life style, as witnessed by his shock in reading a newspaper review of the better sea food retaurants in the Cedar Rapids area and finding Red Lobster and Long John Silver listed.

I purchased the book because like so many, I was horrified at the multi-million dollar raid performed by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at the Postville Agriprocessor's meat packing plant in May 2008. The raid netted some 400 workers, principally of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, working at the plant that day. I wanted to know the history of the town and the plant that brought these people to this small Iowa town, to a factory operated by Hasidic (ultra-orthodox) Jews. At the time of the raid, the plant provided nearly 60% of the kosher beef, lamb and poultry in the US.

In an often humorous, but always serious and evenhanded way, Bloom tells the tale of the dying town that was ressurected by the opening of the kosher operations at the abandoned meat packing plant there. The creation of more than 400 jobs, even though the jobs did not attract workers from Iowa, was still an economic miracle for Postville, but as Bloom explains, the blessing was also a curse, as it meant the the Hasidic Jews had accomlished that which the town and state had not. It also meant that the Jews were the wealthy people in town who effectively called the shots on much of town life. Finally, there were the cultural and religious differences that had never quite been over come.

Bloom's tells this story of culture clash from several perspectives, and the people, real people (although some are re-named from their actual names) are living, breathing people, not stereotypes. One one level, Bloomn's book is a history of ecomic and culture clash in a small, rural town. On another level, possibly not intended, the book is a tale of globalization, and the shifting role of the US in a global economy. The tensions and clashes in the book seem to parallel or foretell the rise of globalism and and its clashes with rising nationalism and nativism.

The book is a valuable and comfortable read on its own. As we learn more and more of the social and economic paralysis now besetting Postville (not to mention the cost to tax payers for the raid itself), I believe Bloom's book will be a valuable tool in defining a basline and illuminaitng the very intangible sociological elements of the town's existence.
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on October 26, 2013
Very thought provoking. It is easy to jump to conclusions and condemn one side or the other in this dispute based simply upon stereotypes, but after reading the book one gains insights into the thinking and culture of both sides. I was lead to conclude that the issues here were neither black nor white, but varying shades of gray.
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on April 18, 2013
Interesting read though I suspect it took both cultures out of context. There are good and bad in both. I am not sure if the author was seeking an answer to questions about his own beliefs about himself or developed a bias of his own. Whatever, it prompted me to think and do further research. It was worth the time to read it.
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on December 13, 2015
A shame this novel had never been a documentary would have been very interesting to see.
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