Problematizing “Poor Physique”: American Jews Contest the Constraints of the American Body Politic

New York Public Library
April 19, 2024

Dr. Hannah Zaves-Greene, a New York Public Library research fellow funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, uses the Library’s primary source archives to reanimate a decades-long debate between American Jewish attorney Max Kohler and Ellis Island immigration commissioner William Williams, who fought to define American citizenship as either inclusive or exclusive of disability. This question more deeply probes a key idea in Hannah’s book project, which breaks new ground by broadening the already mercurial concept of disability to include a wider set of “disabling factors” that the United States used to limit immigration, including gender, age, poverty, race and ethnicity, and sexuality, alongside physical and mental disabilities.

Hannah’s NEH Long-Term Fellowship at The New York Public Library is funded in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.