Jewish History, Jewish Stories in Milwaukee
John Gurda, Michael Corenthal’s intriguing new books
Alongside his career as a dealer in used books and records, Corenthal built an eclectic catalog as a publisher since the 1980s. One of his early books, Cohen on the Telephone, explored Jewish comedy recordings from the early 20th century. In recent years, he turned his hand to fiction. Jewish Stories is a sometimes serious, mostly humorous body of tales written within a challenging framework: Each story is no more than a single page in length. Former Milwaukee Journal artist Kendall Baer illustrated JewishStories. Full disclosure: I wrote the book’s introduction.
The reception for Jewish Stories will serve as a fund-raiser for the planned Corenthal Jewish Cultural Center at the Lubavitch House on Milwaukee’s East Side. The Center, which Corenthal hopes to open next year, will be built around his collection of thousands of Jewish books and sound recordings. “I would like to hold concerts there, art exhibitions, anything to encourage musicians, artists and writers on Jewish themes,” Corenthal says. The reception will be held 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Uncle Trotsky’s (1604 Franklin Place). The $50 admission includes a copy of Jewish Stories and, in a whimsical touch, a 45 R.P.M. recording by “Milwaukee’s singing mayor,” Henry Maier.
With The Making of Milwaukee, adapted into an Emmy-winning series by Milwaukee Public Television in 2006, John Gurda cemented his standing as our city’s historian. But for years he had already been the go-to guy for Milwaukee’s past with books on everything from the local Greek community to studies of specific neighborhoods.
In One People, Many Paths, Gurda excels at the complicated task of writing a fair-minded narrative about a community united in diversity. Milwaukee’s first Jews were mostly enterprising businessmen who came with the great German immigration after 1848. The community changed with the arrival of Jews from Eastern Europe with distinctly different customs. Gurda discusses religion and secularism, socialism and Zionism and the various movements with Judaism in the overall context of Milwaukee history and the situation of Jews worldwide. One People, Many Paths also shows how the entrepreneurial, intellectual and cultural contributions by the city’s Jewish residents over the past have made Milwaukee a richer place.
Gurda will sign copies of One People, Many Paths 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, 1360 N. Prospect Ave. Admission is free. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.