Aware of their increasing social acceptance in the United States, Jewish congregations celebrated their costly new cemeteries as secure and long-lasting roots that they could lay down in American soil. They also strategically chose to border Protestant counterparts, taking great pains to establish physical distance from contemporary Catholic cemeteries. Each move played a key role in Jewish New Yorkers’ reception as white Americans of European descent. In the United States, this came at a time when racial hierarchies proved all the more important to constructions of citizenship and the nation. For Jewish friends and family who remained overseas, lengthy processes of civic emancipation and an emerging racial conception of Jewishness would challenge their access to European society on pseudo-scientific grounds. Within that larger context, this paper casts these local New York cemeteries as sites to explore the interplay of ethnicity, race, and religion in the construction of mid-nineteenth-century American identity. At the same time, it comments on the fluidity of each of those categories in conceiving of the nation.
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