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People Walk on Their Heads: Jews and Judaism New York

Moses Weinberger, translated from the Hebrew and with an introduction by Jonathan D. Sarna
People Walk on Their Heads: Jews and Judaism New York
ISBN: 978-0-8419-0731-7
1981/137 pages/LC: 81006907
Distributed for Holmes & Meier Publishers
"Written in scholarly Hebrew in 1887, this is the first English translation of a document that is an immigrant classic.... This book is the best portrait we have of traditional Judaism in late nineteenth-century America."—Association for Jewish Libraries Newsletter

"The best single source for [an understanding of] Orthodox Jewish life among early East European immigrants to New York."—from Jonathan Sarna's Foreword


In 1880 a young Hungarian rabbi named Moses Weinberger arrived in New York City. Seven years later, he described—and deplored—a world turned upside down, where "people walk on their heads." In what has become a classic example of Jewish immigrant protest literature, Weinberger urges American Jews to defend their faith more forthrightly.

Jonathan Sarna's translation beautifully captures the essence of Weinberger's lively, often bitingly satiric prose; and his introduction provides context for the work, outlining the process that transformed immigrant Orthodoxy into Orthodoxy with an American flavor.


Moses Weinberger (1854-1940) arrived in New York from Hungary in 1880, a twenty-six-year-old, staunchly Orthodox, newly trained rabbi. His frustration during his first years in his new home was the inspiration for his remarkable book. Jonathan D. Sarna is Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History. He is author or editor of more than twenty books, including the acclaimed American Judaism: A History.


  • Editor's Introduction—J.D. Sarna.
  • Publisher's Preface (May 1987).
  • Synagogues.
  • "Kosher" Meat.
  • Education.
  • Work.
  • Hebrew Culture.
  • Periodicals and Their Religious Articles.
  • Mohalim and Marriage Officiators.
  • Beggars and Charity.
  • Chazanim.
  • Solutions.
  • Appendix: A Letter of Friendship.