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Resources for Teachers

Readings on the Religious Diversity of New York City

The texts on this page will give you a sense of the religious diversity of New York City, through the work of anthropologists, historians, photographers, and journalists who have explored the religious lives of New Yorkers. This is not a comprehensive bibliography -- please let us know if we left something out! -- but these texts will introduce you to at least some of the religious worlds of New York.

For up-to-the-minute, journalistic looks at New York's religious life, you might also want to check out the articles, blog posts, and photos on the Journey Through NYC Religions website; the brief documentary videos on the Faith in the Five Boroughs website; and the "United by Faith" category of religion reporting on the Feet in 2 Worlds web magazine.

And for more web-based resources, you might want to check out the Hinduism Here, Religions of Harlem, and Faiths and Freedom websites, all of which feature field research projects by local undergraduate college students.

 

 

Zain Abdullah, Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Explores the racial and religious identities of New York’s fastest-growing, but often overlooked, Muslim community.

 

 

Vivek Bald, Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America, Harvard, 2013.

Explores the lives and identities of Bengali Muslim migrants in Harlem, from the late 19th through mid-20th century.

 

Courtney Bender, Heaven's Kitchen: Living Religion at God's Love We Deliver, University Of Chicago Press, 2003.

Traces the everyday religious lives of volunteers and others at a non-profit organization preparing meals for people with AIDS.

 

 

Jonathan Boyarin, Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower   East Side, Fordham University Press, 2011.

Explores the intimate life of the Stanton Street Shul, one of the last remaining Jewish congregations on New York’s historic Lower East Side.

 

Howard Brotz, The Black Jews of Harlem: Negro Nationalism and the Dilemmas of Negro Leadership, Free Press, 1964.

Classic analysis of the Commandment Keepers, the leading Black Hebrew Israelite synagogue of the mid-twentieth century.

 

 

Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn, University of California Press, 2001.

Intimate portrait of a Haitian-American Vodou priestess, her family, and community.  Debunks popular stereotypes of this Afro-Caribbean religious tradition.

 

 

Richard Cimino (ed.), Ecologies of Faith in New York City: The Evolution of Religious Institutions, Indiana University Press, 2012.

This collection of essays explores how New York City’s many religious communities and their representative institutions interact with one another.

 

Tony Carnes and Anna Karpathakis (eds.), New York Glory: Religions in the City, New York University Press, 2001.

Brief essays on a wide range of New York’s religious communities, and some of the social issues confronting them.

 

Hasia Diner, Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place in America, Princeton University Press, 2002.

Explores present-day memories of the Jewish community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the turn of the twentieth century.

 

Jerrilynn Dodds and Edward Grazda, New York Masjid: The Mosques of New York City, PowerHouse Books, 2002.

Beautiful photographs and insightful text, exploring some of the many Muslim houses of worship in the city.

 

 

Ayala Fader, Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, Princeton University Press, 2009.

Discussion of the Hasidic communities of Boro Park, focusing on the social, religious, and moral lives of young girls.

 

 

Samuel Freedman, Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, Harper Perennial, 1994.

Moving portrait of Saint Paul Community Baptist Church in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York, and the ministry of its then senior pastor, Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood.

 

 

Alyshia Galvez, Guadalupe in New York: Devotion and the Struggle for Citizenship Rights among Mexican Immigrants, New York University Press, 2009.

Examines Mexican-American New Yorkers’ devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe as a set of religious practices, a way to create community, and a mode of engagement in civic life.

 

 

Henry Goldschmidt, Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights, Rutgers University Press, 2006.

An analysis of Black-Jewish difference in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights -- looking past the August 1991 conflict between the Lubavitch Hasidim and their neighbors to explore everyday percep­tions of racial and religious difference.

 

 

Terry Golway (ed.), Catholics in New York: Society, Culture, and Politics, 1808-1946, Fordham University Press and the Museum of the City of New York, 2008.

A wide range of essays on New York’s diverse Catholic communities, focusing on the period of large-scale Catholic immigration in the mid- to late-nineteenth century.

 

 

Mark Gornik, Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011.

Drawing on ten years of field research into three very different African immigrant churches, Gornik sheds light on the social and spiritual dynamics of this transnational Christian movement.

 

Steven Gregory, Santeria in New York City: A Study in Cultural Resistance, Garland Publishing, 1999.

An analysis of this widely misunderstood Afro-Caribbean religious tradition, focusing in part on the relationships between Cuban and African-American orisha devotees.

 

 

Kenneth Guest, God in Chinatown: Religion and Survival in New York's Evolving Immigrant Community, New York University Press, 2003.

A discussion of the religious life of recent Fuzhounese immigrants, focusing in large part on Fuzhounese Protestant churches.

 

 

R. Scott Hanson, City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens, Fordham University Press, 2016.

An exploration American religious pluralism, through the social history of a diverse Queens neighborhood from the colonial period to the aftermath of 9/11.

 

 

Madhulika Khandelwal, Becoming American, Being Indian: An Immigrant Community in New York City, Cornell University Press, 2002.

An analysis of the internally diverse South Asian immigrant communities of Queens, with some discussion of Hinduism and other South Asian religious traditions.

 

 

Michael Lloyd, Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan, Asphodel Press, 2012.

By chronicling the life of a prominent New York Wiccan priest and gay rights activist, this book explores the contributions of LGBTQ men and women to the neo-pagan community.

 

Jerome Mintz, Hasidic People: A Place in the New World, Harvard University Press, 1998.

Overview of the diverse Hasidic communities thriving in Brooklyn, Rockland County, and elsewhere in the New York area.

 

 

Amminah Mohammad-Arif, Salaam America: South Asian Muslims in New York, Anthem Press, 2002.

Discussion of New York’s large and growing Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi Muslim communities.

 

 

Deborah Dash Moore (series editor), City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York, New York University Press, 2012.

An illustrated three volume history of Jewish life in New York City.  In Haven of Liberty, Howard Rock discusses the role of Jews in New Amsterdam and early New York.  In Emerging Metropolis, Annie Polland and Daniel Soyer focus on the physical spaces that made New York a Jewish city.  And in Jews in Gotham, Jeffery Gurock highlights the vitality of Jewish neighborhood life.

 

Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, Yale University Press, 1985.

Detailed and moving social history of Italian-American devotion to the Madonna of Mount Carmel, and the role of her shrine in defining the mid-twentieth century community of “cara Harlem.”

 

 

Robert Orsi (ed.), Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape, Indiana University Press, 1999.

A path-breaking collection of essays on urban religion, including discussions of Italian and Puerto Rican Catholics, practitioners of Haitian Vodou and Cuban Santeria, South Bronx Jews, and other New York communities.

 

 

Peter Paris, et al., The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York, New York University Press, 2004.

A collection of essays exploring the social history of one of America’s preeminent liberal Protestant congregations.

 

 

Larry Racioppo, The Word on the Street: The Photographs of Larry Racioppo, Mobia, 2008.

Quirky and moving street-level views of the religious life of the city -- from shrines and altars to tattoos and graffiti.

 

Moses Rischin, The Promised City: New York's Jews, 1870-1914, Harvard University Press, 1977.

Classic analysis of the Jewish community on Manhattan’s Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century – a seminal text in social history and ethnic studies.

 

 

Bettina Schmidt, Caribbean Diaspora in the USA: Diversity of Caribbean Religions in New York City, Ashgate Publishing Company, 2008

Investigates New York City’s diverse Afro-Caribbean religious communities in order to construct a dynamic theory of diasporic religion and culture.

 

Joseph Sciorra, Built in Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City, U. of Tennessee Press, 2015

Explores the significance of the devoational art and architecture of Italian American Catholic communities in New York City.

 

Moshe Shokeid, A Gay Synagogue in New York, University of  Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Detailed ethnographic analysis of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the influential LGBT synagogue in the West Village.

 

 

Clarence Taylor, The Black Churches of Brooklyn, Columbia University Press, 1996.

Social history of Brooklyn’s leading African-American and Afro-Caribbean churches, with a focus on their role in community building and political life.

 

 

R. Stephen Warner and Judith Wittner (eds.), Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration, Temple University Press, 1998

A collection of essays on the religious lives of immigrant communities since the 1965 reform of American immigration law, including discussions of Haitian Catholics, Jamaican Rastafarians, Yemeni Muslims, and other New York communities.

 

 

Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story, University of California Press, 1995.

A fascinating history of Father Divine’s innovative mid-twentieth century “Peace Mission” movement, and the broader landscape of new religious movements in Harlem and other African-American commun­ities.