The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902





For an early example of activism and the power of women in New York City, look no further than the kosher meat strike of 1902 — a mostly forgotten incident that tore the Lower East Side apart. “This is an early example of consumer activism,” says Scott D. Seligman, author of the new book... MORE

Reed Tucker

New York Post

The two weeks of urban unrest...spreading across New York and as far away as Boston, is chronicled in Seligman’s new book. It’s the first full-length treatment of a consumer uprising and Jew-vs.-Jew conflict that in its time would inspire a generation of farbrente Yidishe meydlekh – fiery Jewish women – who would stand up for social justice in the early 20th century... MORE

Andrew Silow-Carroll

New York Jewish Week

Relying on primary source materials, Seligman has created a highly readable and enjoyable account of this little-known episode in American history. Highly recommended, especially for those interested in American history and Jewish history, as well as gender and labor studies. MORE

Jacqueline Parascandola, University of Pennsylvania
Library Journal

The great kosher meat war became a model of how ordinary people could accomplish extraordinary things through organizing. The victories of the Civil Rights Movement, the women’s movement, and the triumphs of progressives throughout the 20th century find their origin in the housewives of the Lower East Side and the battle for affordable kosher meat. MORE

Roger Abrams
New York Journal of Books

This is an excellent analysis of why meat prices jumped. Enter the “Meat Trust,” a virtual gang of providers in gross violation of the recently-enacted Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Price fixing was only part of their operation...As meat prices rose, the first to suffer was the housewife who could no longer afford to buy meat for a stew or for cholent...So, Jewish women started a boycott...The book details how protest morphed into violence, destruction of property, arrests, and eager coverage by local newspapers in Jewish and popular, Yiddish and English, religious and secular, all looking for an attention-grabbing story... MORE

Jay Levinson

London Jewish Tribune

In his new book, master storyteller Scott D. Seligman weaves together the disparate narratives of New York’s 1902 kosher meat boycott, America’s first and only chief rabbi, and the notorious Meat Trust. Deeply researched, engagingly written, The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902 takes its delighted readers back in time to the teeming streets of the Lower East Side and the rough-and-tumble world of its immigrant Jews.

Pamela S. Nadell, Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History,
American University and
America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today
The first blow-by-blow account of the kosher meat boycott of 1902 and the Jewish immigrant women who devised and promoted it. Anticipating both the Consumer Movement and contemporary Jewish women’s activism, The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902 shows how commerce, labor, food and gender explosively combined at a tempestuous moment in the history of New York City.
Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish history, Brandeis University, and Author, American Judaism: A History.
Scott D. Seligman has performed a bit of a miracle in letting the immigrant Jewish women who led the Great Meat Boycott of 1902 find their voice today. Seligman shows how and why women publicly organized America's first consumer boycott. Launched from New York’s Lower East Side to fight precipitous Chicago Meat Trust price hikes, their action spread to other cities, providing a powerful model for future activism.
Elissa Sampson, Visiting Scholar and Lecturer, Cornell University
Why would a strike led by immigrant women in 1902 be important today? In this carefully crafted book, Scott D. Seligman drew from original zaftik (juicy) Yiddish news sources to bring to life the women brave enough to strike against their butchers. At the intersection of religion and politics, their cause gave rise to a mass movement not unlike those of today that pit human values against crass commercial interests.
Miriam Isaacs, Professor of Yiddish Language and Culture Emerita, University of Maryland
Copyright 2020 by Scott D. Seligman. All Rights Reserved.