A Cookbook Helps Americanize Jews

  • Religion
  • 1900

While working as a truant officer in Milwaukee in the 1890s, Lizzie Kander discovered that the home conditions of Russian immigrant families were “deplorable…threatening the moral and physical health of the people.” Believing that women were the keys to household success and acculturation, she devoted herself to a variety of self-funded initiatives to teach cleanliness, child education, good nutrition, household skills, and economically useful trades like sewing to Russian women. By 1900 she was deeply involved in running a settlement house that assimilated Jewish immigrants using funds donated by Milwaukee businessmen. When additional money was needed, Kander compiled a 174-page cookbook-cum-housekeeping-guide to sell as a fundraiser. The board of directors would not pay the $18 needed to print the book, so she paid for production by selling ads. It became known as the Settlement Cook Book and eventually sold two million copies—thereby funding the mainstreaming of Jewish immigrants in the upper Midwest, and many other charitable causes, for 75 years.

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