Musical Stereotyping American Jewry in Early Twentieth-Century Mass Media


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project explores how music tied to early twentieth-century American Jewry was cultivated and shaped by the evolving mass-media industries: vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood. The various entertainment branches developed a largely unified sound of the music of Jews portrayed in popular music, cinema, and (as a result) across mass culture in America, transforming music that had had historical links with Jewish themes into little more than cultural clichés. By the time the sound era arrived in Hollywood films—ushered in by the most famous Jewish assimilation film ever, “The Jazz Singer” (1927)—the sound of American Jewry had gone from cliché to stereotype. This research concludes by showing how this music continues to shape notions of Jewry in mass culture today.