The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001

Book Reviews

Jewish Stars in Texas: Rabbis and Their Work. By Hollace Ava Weiner. (College
Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999. Pp. xxi+289. Illustrations, fore-
word, preface, acknowledgments, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-89096-
900-0. $24.95, cloth.)
In Jewzsh Stars zn Texas, Hollace Ava Weiner uses a biographical approach to
examine a century of "Texas history through the eyes of its rabbis" (p. xiv). She
profiles eleven Jewish religious leaders who made an impact that extended far
beyond their congregations. Chronologically they range from Heinrich Schwarz,
Texas's first ordained rabbi (arriving in Hempstead in i873), to civil rights
activist Rabbi Levi Olan, who served Dallas's Temple Emanu-El from 1949 to
1970. Included is information on each rabbi's religious background, his personal
life, the city involved, the temple served, and contributions made. A few promi-
nent rebbitsins (rabbis' wives) are also given recognition.
Weiner explains that Texas with its small Jewish population was not particularly
attractive to rabbis. Some accepted pulpits in the Bible Belt state only because
they had no better offers or were rebelling against traditional religious practices.
These eleven "mavericks"-not all of whom were ordained-helped to shape the
Jewish experience in Texas. As "mixers" and "motivators," they not only became
leaders in philanthropic and cultural endeavors but also took strong moral
stances on issues such as the Ku Klux Klan (p. xiv).
While stressing the achievements of Texas's rabbis, the author also recognizes
their human failings and their striking differences. For example, Galveston's Henry
Cohen helped to resettle thousands ofJewish refugees, but Rabbi G. George Fox of
Fort Worth was unsympathetic toward Jewish immigrants. Weiner also recounts
conflicts within the Jewish community, particularly on the subject of Zionism.
Hollace Weiner's ten years as a journalist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
serve her well. She succeeds in her goal of writing for a broad audience. The
author carefully defines Judaic terms and also places events within their histori-
cal contexts. Her prose particularly shines when she is recounting human-inter-
est anecdotes, which are sprinkled throughout the narrative. Jewish Stars in Texas
is both informative and entertaining, though coverage is at times sketchy. A
weakness in Weiner's book is the occasional failure to provide citations where
needed. The illustrations, on the other hand, enhance the volume.
The extensive bibliography reflects the six years that the author spent on this
project. She utilized primary sources in repositories as varied as the Jewish
Archives in Cincinnati and the Center for American Studies in Austin. Weiner
also conducted numerous oral interviews.
Jewish Stars in Texas is a welcome addition to the limited published literature
on the history of Jews in Texas, such as Deep in the Heart, by Ruthe Winegarten
(199o), and Natalie Ornish's Pioneer Jewish Texans (1989). By presenting Texas
history from a new perspective, Weiner's book "gives us insight that might oth-
erwise be lost" (p. xii). It also points the way to the need for further study on
the historical contributions of rabbis to Texas and other parts of the nation.

University of Texas at Brownsville

2000

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Harriett Denise Joseph

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/. Accessed July 28, 2014.