Adam D. Mendelsohn is Director of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies & Research and Associate Professor of History at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of The Rag Race: How Jews Sewed Their Way to Success in America and the British Empire (New York University Press, 2014) and co-editor of Jews and the Civil War: A Reader (with Jonathan D. Sarna, New York University Press, 2010) and Transnational Traditions: New Perspectives on American Jewish History (with Ava Kahn, Wayne State University Press, 2014). He was Chief Historian of the exhibition The First Jewish Americans at the New-York Historical Society, and co-curator of By Dawn’s Early Light at the Princeton University Museum of Art. He is co-editor of the journal American Jewish History.
Much of his work focuses on the relationship between Jews in America and the British Empire prior to mass eastern European migration, a time when these fledgling communities were beginning to grapple with the challenges of living in liberal societies. While the time-period that he focuses on has remained consistent – the mid-nineteenth century – the themes he has explored have been more varied: economic mobility, cultural production, and religious innovation. His latest project draws on “big data” – a large database of Jewish soldiers who served in the Civil War – to reconsider the experience of Jews during this period.