By Dawn’s Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War


Exhibition chronicling Jewish culture in America will be on view from February 13 through June 12, 2016​

PRINCETON, NJ---The Princeton University Library announces the opening of the exhibition By Dawn’s Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War, on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition continues through June 12, 2016 and is open to the public free of charge.

By Dawn’s Early Light showcases a rich variety of Jewish voices and imagery from the first decades of the American Republic. Among the more than 170 objects displayed are some of the earliest novels, poems, religious works, paintings, photographs, newspapers and scientific treatises produced by Jews in the United States.

In response to the challenges of liberty, Jewish men and women adapted American and Jewish intellectual and artistic idioms to express themselves in new ways, for diverse patrons and audiences. Many Jews who achieved renown in this age of experimentation wrote, published and painted for the broader American public. Others harnessed the written word to reach the nation’s growing—and widely dispersed—Jewish population.

Based on gifts and loans to the Princeton University Library by Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953, the exhibition also features loans from nearly two dozen museums, synagogues and private collections around the country. Together, they provide a window into an era of cultural vitality and change, illuminating the extraordinary creativity of American Jews in the new republic and the birth of American Jewish culture.

To celebrate the opening, there will be a panel discussion on Sunday, February 14, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. with Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Chair of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, Brandeis University; Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Congregation Shearith Israel; and Esther Schor, Professor of English, Princeton University; with exhibition curator Adam Mendelsohn as moderator. The panel discussion will be followed by a lecture given by Sean Wilentz, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Princeton University, at 4:00 p.m. in 10 McCosh Hall and a reception in the Art Museum. Tickets are not required, but an RSVP is requested to 609.258.9508 or

Chief organizing curator for the exhibition is Prof. Adam D. Mendelsohn, Director of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town, South Africa; Co-curator is Dr. Dale Rosengarten, Curator of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston Library in Charleston, South Carolina, and Director of the College’s Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture.

By Dawn's Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War has been organized by the Princeton University Library.  The exhibition has been made possible by gifts from Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953.

A wide variety of images are available on request. For more information, contact Erin Firestone, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for the Princeton University Art Museum at 609.258.3767 or


A 345-page catalogue, with 12 scholarly essays and 73 full-color illustrations, accompanies By Dawn’s Early Light and will be available for purchase at the Art Museum Store.

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About the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library

The Princeton University Library is one of the world’s leading research libraries, serving a diverse community of 5,200 undergraduates, 2,700 graduate students, 1,200 faculty members and many visiting scholars. Its holdings include more than 8 million printed volumes, 5 million manuscripts, 2 million non-print items and extensive collections of digital text, data and images. The Library employs a dedicated and knowledgeable staff of more than 300 professional and support staff working in a large central library, 9 specialized branches, and 3 storage facilities.

About the Princeton University Art Museum

With a collecting history that extends back to the 1750s, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include over 92,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.

Please direct image requests to Erin Firestone, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations, Princeton University Art Museum, at (609) 258-3767 or