In his book The Salome Ensemble, Board of Visitors member Alan Ginsberg connects the four Eastern European immigrant Jewish women who inspired, created, wrote, and embodied Salome of the Tenements, a 1922 novel and later screenplay. This week the book was named a finalist for the 2016 National Jewish Book Award.
Ginsberg's book follows the lives of Rose Pastor Stokes, Anzia Yezeierska, Sonya Levien, and Jetta Goudal in a historical and literary examination of early 20th Century American immigrant culture.
Salome of the Tenemenets, written by Anzia Yezeirska, tells the story of Sonya Verusky, a poor female reporter for a Jewish newspaper in New York's Lower East Side tasked with interviewing a millionaire Protestant philanthropist. Yezeireska modeled her protagonist on the Jewish reporter Rose Pastor Stokes, who interviewed and later married James Graham Phelps Stokes, a wealthy Christian from an old New England family. Pastor Stokes's socialist, internationalist, and later communist convictions led to the deterioration of the marriage in 1925. Sonya Levien, editor of Metropolitan magazine wrote the novel's screenplay, and Jetta Goudal played the part in the 1924 film.
Ginsberg's book uses the four women's stories to explore divergent yet interconnected approaches to confronting assimilation, gender inequality, social class, and race in early 20th Century America.