In this provocative and accessible urban history, Lila Corwin Berman considers the role that Detroit’s Jews played in the city’s well-known narrative of migration and decline. Taking its cue from social critics and historians who have long looked toward Detroit to understand twentieth-century urban transformations, Metropolitan Jews tells the story of Jews leaving the city while retaining a deep connection to it. Berman argues convincingly that though most Jews moved to the suburbs, urban abandonment, disinvestment, and an embrace of conservatism did not invariably accompany their moves. Instead, the Jewish postwar migration was marked by an enduring commitment to a newly fashioned urbanism with a vision of self, community, and society that persisted well beyond city limits.
Complex and subtle, Metropolitan Jews pushes urban scholarship beyond the tenacious black/white, urban/suburban dichotomy. It demands a more nuanced understanding of the process and politics of suburbanization and will reframe how we think about the American urban experiment and modern Jewish history.