American Jews are always telling family stories: in literature, in memoir, in film, through family trees, and around the kitchen table. What do these stories mean? What do they reveal, and what do they obscure? How do they help individuals understand their community, their ethnic identity, and their origins? How are these stories different from - and how are they similar to - the stories of other Americans? How has American history affected ordinary individuals' family stories? How have ordinary families' everyday decisions shaped American history?

This exhibit looks at some of the most important - and most interesting - ways that Jewish families in the United States have told stories about themselves: through family trees, through children's books, and through cookbooks. In each of these genres, American Jews have outlined their history and its relationship to their current lives. Jews have told stories about their religion, their culture, and their place in the United States.

Special Collections in the Michigan State University Libraries collects, houses, preserves, and makes accessible rare and unique materials, including notable collections of American cookbooks, textbooks and Sunday School books. Jewish American cookbooks, as well as cookbooks from other American ethnic groups, are actively collected.

As you examine this exhibit, compare these family stories to the ones your family tells about itself. How do families imagine their origins? How do families try to educate their children - and others - about their lives?

The Settlement Cook Book

The history of American families begins with your family story.

Related Resources

Listen to a talk (1 hour 15 minutes) on Small Strangers: Immigrant Children in America, 1880-1925 by Melissa Klapper, Professor of History, Rowan University.

Browse through ethnic cookbooks in the MSU Libraries' Feeding America: Historic American Cookbook Project.

The Telling Family Stories online exhibit grew out of a year-long initiative (2011-2012) by the Jewish Studies Program at Michigan State University. The Telling Family Stories initiative was made possible by the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project, directed by the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Support for the Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project is generously provided by Legacy Heritage Fund Limited.

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