Weissbach, Lee Shai 1947–
Weissbach, Lee Shai 1947–
Born April 14, 1947 in Haifa, Israel. Education: University of Cincinnati, B.A. (with highest honors), 1969; Harvard University, A.M., 1970, Ph.D., 1975.
Home—Louisville, KY. Office—Department of History, University of Louisville, 103C Gottschalk Hall, Louisville, KY 40292. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, historian, and educator. Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, lecturer, 1975-76; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, research associate, 1976-78; Regis College, Weston, MA, lecturer, 1977-78; University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, assistant professor, 1978-84, associate professor, 1984-90, professor of history, 1990—, chair, department of history, 1992-95, associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences, 2000-03. Harvard University, Center for European Studies, visiting scholar, 1985-86.
American Jewish Historical Society, Filson Historical Society, Association for Jewish Studies, Society for French Historical Studies (vice president, 1996-97), Southern Jewish Historical Society (trustee, 1990-92, 1994-96).
Rapoport fellow, 1990-91; grant, Kentucky Humanities Council, 1990-91; grant, Southern Jewish Historical Society, 1994; National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Senior Scholar fellow, 1995-96; grant, University of Louisville, 1990-93 and 1995-97; grant, Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, 1995-98; Loewenstein-Wiener fellow, 2002-03.
Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France: Assuring the Future Harvest, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1989.
The Synagogues of Kentucky: Architecture and History, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1995.
Jewish Life in Small-Town America: A History, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2005.
Contributor to books, including Patterns of Migration, edited by Aubrey Newman and Stephen W. Massil, Jewish Historical Society of England (London, England), 1996; Religious/Freedom, Southern Style: A Collection of Essays from the Spring 2001 Symposium, Held at the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan College, edited by Catharine Cookson, Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan College (Norfolk, VA), 2002; Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality, Volume 2, edited by Jack Wertheimer, Jewish Theological Seminary (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of essays and articles to periodicals, including the Journal of Social History, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Association for Jewish Studies Review, American Jewish History, and Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.
Lee Shai Weissbach, born April 14, 1947, in Haifa, Israel, received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1969 before attending Harvard University. He earned his A.M. in 1970 and his Ph.D. in 1975, both from Harvard's department of history, and later returned as a visiting scholar for the Center for European Studies during the 1985-86 academic year. Weissbach has served as assistant professor, associate professor, and professor of history at the University of Louisville where he has also held administrative posts as departmental chair and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the Filson Historical Society, the Southern Jewish Historical Society, and the Association for Jewish Studies.
Weissbach's Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France: Assuring the Future Harvest, published by the Louisiana State University Press in 1989, uses the 1841 and 1874 child labor laws in France as the background for his study of labor practices and working conditions among French youth. He also provides information regarding cultural reactions which motivated government reforms and the growing concern for child welfare in a nation with a burgeoning middle class. Leonard N. Rosenband, in an article for the Business History Review, described Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France as "a solid, persuasive study of the movement to reform child labor practices in nineteenth-century France" and an "impressive work." Rosenband also remarked that the "book is a sure guide through the intricate debates and ideologies that produced the child labor laws" in France. Weissbach's narrative perspective centers on the polity rather than the personal as he explains the effectiveness of these social reforms turned into law, and he observes the evolution of social responsibility as France developed into an industrialized nation-state.
In a departure from nationalistic to regional examinations, Weissbach presents an account of Jewish synagogues, and their function in Jewish culture, specifically within the state of Kentucky, in his 1995 book publication titled The Synagogues of Kentucky: Architecture and History. The text contains detailed assessments of Kentucky's synagogues, which includes financial, construction design, and congregational information, coupled with photographic evidence. Posted on the University Press of Kentucky Web site is a synopsis of the book: "This pictorial record documents the variety, distinctiveness, and significance of these buildings" within Kentucky's "architectural, cultural, and religious" history. Moreover, Weissbach provides an insight into Jewish societies in an area with political, geographical, and social ties to both the northern and southern United States. In The Synagogues of Kentucky, Weissbach illustrates the representative nature of the structure as a manifestation of not only the religious institution but also the culture of its people.
Weissbach's Jewish Life in Small-Town America: A History, a 2005 Yale University Press publication, is an ethnographic history detailing Jewish settlement efforts in small American towns and cities between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Using a multitude of comparisons between Jews in more urban areas and those settling in smaller population densities, Weissbach details the economic, social, and intellectual aspects of immigrant Jewish culture and explains the effects these elements had upon the initial populaces. Weekly Standard contributor Mark Bauman reported that Weissbach provides "strong arguments against distinctions based on region" and that Jewish Life in Small-Town America "is a masterful, nuanced work that offers a standard for future histories of individual communities, and fascinating insights into the variety of both American Jewish experiences and small-town American cultures." Bauman expressly noted the breadth of the subject matter and stated, "Regardless of distinctions based on adaptation to local environments, it emphasizes the strength of old-world religion and culture in assisting immigrant Jews to find a home in America, even while maintaining group identity and culture."
In departing from the more traditional examinations of metropolitan Jewish communities, Weissbach details the behaviors that made these small-town immigrants distinct from their urban counterparts. Reviewer Amy Hill Shevitz, in an essay for American Jewish History, noted Weissbach's use of "three areas of fundamental difference between the small-town Jewish experience and the urban: occupation, community-building, and Jewish self-definition" through his application of "a substantive methodological appendix, bibliographic essay, and tables of population data." Likewise, in a Journal of Southern History review, Stuart Rockoff commented, "Weissbach presents his findings as a series of economic, cultural, and religious patterns that unite small-town Jews around the country." Rockoff explained, "Weissbach shows how small-town Jewish communities shared several characteristics, whether they were located in Jackson, Michigan, or Jackson, Mississippi, asserting that demography had much greater impact than region." Through the tracing of these combined issues, Weissbach illustrates how Jewish immigrants experienced similar circumstances in their relocations and integrations that were independent of their chosen area, and Jewish Life in Small-Town America catalogues the experiences and development of these settlers amid many hardships and prejudices that often served as impediments. Rockoff concluded that the work "is an important contribution to the debate over southern exceptionalism."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February 1, 1991, Elinor Accampo, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France: Assuring the Future Harvest, p. 179.
American Jewish History, September 1, 2004, Amy Hill Shevitz, review of Jewish Life in Small-Town America: A History, p. 396.
Business History Review, September 22, 1989, Leonard N. Rosenband, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 702.
Choice, March 1, 2006, B. Krault, review of Jewish Life in Small-Town America, p. 1291.
European History Quarterly, July 1, 1992, Sian Reynolds, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 447.
Historian, March 22, 1991, Michael P. Hanagan, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 572.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, February 1, 1991, Irene Collins, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 154.
Journal of Economic History, September 1, 1990, Carolyn Tuttle, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 737.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, September 22, 1990, Paul Spagnoli, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 329.
Journal of Modern History, December 1, 1994, James F. McMillan, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 755.
Journal of Social History, March 22, 1991, Kathleen Alaimo, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 591.
Journal of Southern History, November 1, 1996, review of The Synagogues of Kentucky: Architecture and History, p. 848; November 1, 2006, Stuart Rockoff, review of Jewish Life in Small-Town America, p. 980.
Labor History, March 22, 1994, Christopher H. Johnson, review of Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 306.
Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, June 1, 2006, Jack Glazier, review of Jewish Life in Small-Town America, p. 204.
Weekly Standard, February 6, 2006, Mark Bauman, "Promising Land: There Is Jewish-American History Outside of New York."
University of Louisville Web site,http://louisville.edu/a-s/history/ (May 13, 2008), faculty profile.
University Press of Kentucky Web site,http://www.kentuckypress.com/ (May 13, 2008), author profile.