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Walkers in the City: Jewish Street Photographers of Midcentury New York, with Deborah Dash Moore

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In the middle of the twentieth century, good cameras became smaller and lighter, enabling street photographers to roam alleyways, ride elevated trains and subways, and stroll beaches in summertime to capture daily life with urgency and intimacy. Deborah Dash Moore’s Walkers in the City, which received the 2023 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies, showcases the distinctive urban vision that working-class Jewish photographers produced with these new cameras on New York City’s streets and in public spaces.

Drawing on the experiences of and photographs by a generation of young Jewish photographers who belonged to the New York Photo League, Moore offers a new perspective on New York as seen through their eyes—a cityscape of working-class people and democratizing public transit. With their cameras, they pictured Gotham’s abrasive social milieu and its evanescent textures and light, creating an archive of vernacular images of city life and a distinctive tradition of street photography that would be widely imitated. These roving, imaginative New Yorkers transformed everyday sights into rousing, joyous, and poignant moments of time, creating visual poetry out of the fabric of social life.

Deborah Dash Moore is Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of History and Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. From 2005 to 2015, she served as Director of the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies. An historian of American Jews, she specializes in twentieth century urban history. Her books include At Home in America: Second Generation New York Jews; To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L.A.; GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation; Urban Origins of American Judaism; and Jewish New York: The Remarkable Story of a People and a City. The books she has edited or co-edited include the three-volume City of Promises: A History of New York Jews. Currently she serves as editor in chief of the ten-volume Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization.

This program is the Marsha Rivkind Raleigh Memorial Lecture, named for a beloved Library patron and supporter. It is co-presented by the Workers Circle / Arbeter Ring of Northern California.


Sunday, June 09, 2024


Pacific Time
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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Virtual via Zoom