The Child is Father to the Man: The Formation of Aaron Sapiro’s Jewish Identity in California, 1884-1920
Posted: 6 Apr 2010
Date Written: April 2, 2010
During the Progressive Era, Aaron Sapiro (1884-1959) helped to build California agriculture into an industrial juggernaut. As the attorney for hundreds of agricultural cooperatives during the 1910s and 1920s, Sapiro rose to national prominence in agricultural policy circles, promoting the “California school” of cooperative marketing. He sued Henry Ford for libel in 1927 and gained only a fleeting vindication; thereafter, Sapiro returned to California, but never reengaged with the field that won him his reputation and fame. This article examines Sapiro’s California roots, recovering the blighted childhood that formed his adult personality, and explains Sapiro’s disappearance from the agricultural field as a result, in part, of an inability to sustain professional relationships, a conscious choice to abandon the cause that made him famous, and a deliberate, private rejection of his faith. At the same time, he proudly embraced his Jewishness as a racial identity, mirroring a process of acculturations that many Jewish Americans underwent during the first third of the 20th century.
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