By Dawn’s Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War is a new book based on exhibit currently installed at Princeton University’s library by Dr. Dale Rosengarten, Curator of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston Library and Director of the College’s Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture and Professor Adam D. Mendelsohn, Director of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. By Dawn’s Early Light showcases a rich variety of Jewish voices and imagery from the first decades of the American Republic. The book represents objects displayed in the exhibit including some of the earliest novels, poems, religious works, paintings, photographs, newspapers and scientific treatises produced by Jews in the United States.
In response to the challenges of liberty, Jewish men and women adapted American intellectual and artistic idioms to express themselves in new ways for diverse patrons and audiences. Many Jews who achieved renown in this age of experimentation wrote, published and painted for the broader American public. Others turned to the written word to reach the nation’s growing—and widely dispersed—Jewish population. The themes of post-Revolutionary birth of a new, distinctly American Jewish culture, and the sometimes violent ideological divisions sparked by that development resonate throughout the exhibit and resulting scholarship. The exhibit at Princeton University will be on view through June 12. An article published in Forward magazine includes a review of the exhibit as well as interview with both Rosengarten and Mendelsohn.