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Diner, Hasia R. (1946–) - History of Jewish and Irish Peoples in the United States

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Born October 7, 1946, in Wisconsin of Jewish ancestry, Hasia Diner attended public elementary and high schools in Milwaukee. Her mother died when Hasia was only two years old, and her father remarried a Holocaust survivor who, like Diner’s mother, came from a religious family and was unusually highly educated. Diner has her mother’s diploma, which she earned in 1919 as one of the first Jewish women to graduate from the Kharkov (Russia) Women’s Gymnasium. Diner’s father, a Hebrew teacher and rabbi, was an important influence on her early life, as was her participation in Habonim, a Zionist youth movement.

Diner attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1968. Because of a long-standing interest in her parents’ experiences as immigrants, a love for history, and an intense family commitment to Judaism and progressive politics, she decided to become a historian. She was also influenced in that direction by the civil rights movement and her own activism while a college student.

Following her graduation from college, Diner attended the University of Chicago, where she earned a master’s degree in 1970. In 1975 she completed the Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. Diner taught as a lecturer at the University of the District of Columbia and at the University of Maryland, then obtained two one-year visiting assistant professor positions at George Washington University and Goucher College. From 1978 to 1980 Diner was a research associate at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. After a year at Georgetown University and a year at the American University, Diner took a position as assistant professor of American studies at the University of Maryland at College Park. There from 1984 to 1996, Diner was promoted to associate professor in 1987 and professor in 1990. She also served as department chair. In the fall of 1996 Hasia Diner accepted a position as the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Chair in American Jewish History at New York University. This is a joint appointment in History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies.

Author or editor of four books, eleven book chapters, and five articles, Diner is best known for her work on Jewish and Irish immigrants to the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the Almost Promised Land , issued in paperback in 1995, explores the positive relationships that developed between blacks and Jews in the early twentieth century. The book, according to a review in Labor History , “should be a model for others writing ethnic history.” Diner has also written the second volume of a five-volume history of Jews in the United States from the colonial period to the 1980s. “Her argument will undoubtedly encourage debate,” wrote one reviewer, “and perhaps even alter the direction of American-Jewish historiography.” Diner is currently working on another book, Not by Bread Alone: Immigrant Adaptation to America and Creation of Ethnic Cuisine .

Diner has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maryland Humanities Council, the American Philosophical Society, and the Ford Foundation. She has been a Fulbright Lecturer in Haifa, Israel, and was awarded a Distinguished Faculty Research Fellowship from the University of Maryland. She has served as a consultant for three films about Jewish and Irish immigrants in the United States and has been a scholar in residence for the Michigan State University Jewish Studies Program and a consultant for the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution. Diner is currently an invited member of the Working Group on Black-Jewish Relations at Harvard University, book review editor for American Jewish History , consultant for three films about Jews and Irish in the United States, and an invited member of the Library of Congress’s Advisory Committee on Copyright, Registration and Deposit.

Hasia Diner is married to Steve Diner, and they have three children. When asked about her significant accomplishments aside from her professional publications, Diner refers immediately to her family. She is also interested in reading, politics, travel, and participation in the Jewish community.

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