How the 1950 Census Results Might Contribute to Understanding American Jewish History

April 8 2022

On April 1, the National Archives made the data from the 1950 U.S. census available online to the public. Andrew Silverstein explains the sorts of information historians of American Jewry, and genealogists, hope to find therein:

This census is of special interest to American Jews, showing life in the years after the Holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel. It captures recently arrived Jewish refugees from Europe’s displaced-persons camps settling into their new country, while upwardly mobile Jews were moving to the suburbs and populating new Jewish centers in places like California and Florida.

Unlike other genealogical records like birth and death certificates and immigration documents, the census shows people in their everyday lives—except for Jewish Americans in 1950 because that year’s census started on Passover. When mid-century Jewish Americans opened the door to let in the prophet Elijah during their seder, they may have been greeted by a census taker with pen and paper in hand.

Still, many Jewish households would have been tallied during the week following Passover. Answers to the census question “How many hours did he work last week?” could reveal if the respondent took days off for Passover, which could give insight into the irreligious observance and economic position.

Read more at Forward

More about: American Jewish History, Demography, Passover


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy