CONSTRUCTION

CONSTRUCTION
Jewish activity in this industry was restricted in the Diaspora and was narrowed down to the construction and repair of synagogues and houses for the community. Apparently Jews worked in the building crafts, such as carpentry, masonry, and bricklaying, throughout the Middle Ages and early modern times. The trade was organized on traditional lines, with established terms and conditions such as provisions for the meals of the masters. Where moneylending became the main Jewish occupation, the number of Jewish artisans in the building trade declined along with those in other crafts. In Christian countries Jews were excluded from guild membership, but were still occasionally found in building occupations. In countries where Jewish artisans were more common, as in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, this representation was correspondingly larger. It can thus not be generally assumed that all houses, or even synagogues, in the Jewish communities were built by Jewish contractors and workers. On the other hand the scanty mention of this profession in the sources is no conclusive evidence of its complete decline. Such mention is of great geographical variety. An account of building operations carried out in 1040 at the synagogue of the Ereẓ Israel community in Fostat (Old Cairo), Egypt, describes a Jewish master mason with his helpers, a carpenter and his "boy," and their working conditions. Jewish masons, layers of floor tiles, workers in clay, stucco workers, and their "boys," as well as their working terms, in Egypt are mentioned in Jewish sources. In Hebron, it is recorded that the whole community took part in pulling down a synagogue and erecting a new one. In the summer of 1045 seven masons in succession worked on a building. The 13th-century Sefer Ḥasidim castigates a Jewish householder, whose house was built by Jewish and Christian workmen, for not releasing his Jewish employees on Sabbath eve (Wistinetzky ed., no. 1499, p. 361). A contemporary Czech chronicle mentions a Jew, Podivi, who built the town of Podivin. In 1451 a Jew who won acclaim for building the royal palace in Palermo was made a master of the local Jewish carpenters' guild. However, it was in Eastern Europe, from the 19th century on, that significant numbers of Jews first engaged in building. Visitors to backward Romania in the mid-19th century noted that the building trades, carpentry, masonry, plumbing, etc., were all exclusively represented by Jews, who built synagogues as well. Whereas no Jews engaged in the building profession in Poland before the 18th century, there were, in Congress Poland, excluding Warsaw, in 1856, 1,973 Jewish masons, 2,591 glaziers, 1,259 plumbers, and 1,289 locksmiths. In the eastern regions Jews were even more numerous in these trades, particularly for work on high buildings, steeples, and roofs, where Christian workmen were reluctant to go. Synagogues, which from the 18th century had often been embellished and decorated by wandering Jewish artisans, were now also built by them. With the rise of the court jews , and the increasing numbers of Jewish army purveyors and bankers, numerous large-scale construction projects – palaces, fortresses, roads, and railroads – were organized and financed by Jews. In Poland in 1931, 23,745 Jews were engaged in the building and construction industry, about 10% of the total number, which approximated the proportion of Jews in the general population. Of these, 4,585 were glaziers (80% of the total in this occupation) and 8,034 house painters and decorators (30%); 17.7.% of independent employers in these trades were Jews, representing a much lower proportion than in others, such as clothing, textiles, and foodstuffs. Within the Russian pale of settlement the proportion of Jews in the industry was even higher: 28.5% in Vitebsk government (province) in 1897, and 30.4% in Mogilev government (province), although these were employed mainly on repairs and building maintenance. This trend was manifested in countries to which these Jews immigrated. Thus, in Germany, the proportion was high, the majority being glaziers, painters, and decorators in small family firms. The Haberland family (Solomon Georg (1861–1933) and Kurt), a prominent exception, built parts of Berlin before World War I, and rebuilt cities in East Prussia after the war. Julius Berger founded the internationally known firm bearing his name which constructed tunnels and bridges. The Jewish mass emigration from Eastern Europe coincided with the New York building boom around the beginning of the 20th century, and large numbers of Jews entered the trade. harry fischel encouraged Jews to enter the building trades by enabling the keeping of the Sabbath and offering half-pay for those who did not work on that day. Many left the trade again, however, either because of a chance to better themselves or because of discrimination. The unions, in particular, in effect barred Jews from the better-paid types of   construction work and forced them to become house painters, plumbers, or decorators, and to concentrate on repairs and remodeling. In 1890 there were nearly 900 Jewish house painters and carpenters on the Lower East Side, and associations of Jewish immigrants in these trades were to be found in many U.S. cities. As a result of the general upward mobility of the American Jewish population, however, few young Jews entered these occupations by mid-20th century. Similarly, in the East End of London, many Jews from Eastern Europe took up these trades around the beginning of the 20th century. Although many Jews in Britain were prominent in the development of housing schemes after World War II, they were mainly occupied in acquiring sites and developing new housing estates and modern blocks of offices. The actual construction was carried out by non-Jewish firms, but there was one large construction company, one of the foremost of its kind, "Bovis" founded by Sir samuel joseph . Their managerial and financial abilities and experience also led Jews in the 20th century to enter the mass-construction industry in America through real estate brokerage, and Jews were especially prominent in the New York, Chicago, and Miami building booms of the 1920s. In New York City, the major part of the Bronx and the Borough Park and Bensonhurst neighborhoods of Brooklyn were built by Jewish contractors. louis j. horowitz became president and general manager of the Thompson-Starrett Construction Company, builder of many skyscrapers in New York and other cities. Real-estate investors and developers who played a prominent role in reshaping the face of 20th-century America's cities and their environs include William Zeckendorf, benjamin swig , Percy and Harold uris , William levitt , and samuel lefrak . The latter two in particular, the first in the suburbs and the latter in the central city, pioneered new approaches to mass-scale, low-cost housing that have permanently altered the American urban landscape. Builders of office space in major cities were involved in significant projects that also shaped the city skylines. And other major builders made their marks in other parts of the country, including Eli Brod on the West Coast, who built vast housing projects. In the 19th and 20th centuries Jews developed real estate on an increasing scale. The large number of Jews who took up engineering and architecture had a place in the planning and supervision of construction projects (see architecture , engineering , etc.). In Ereẓ Israel building became an important Jewish enterprise. The building concern solel boneh developed into a big construction and industrial combine. It and Rassco built agricultural villages and housing estates designed for middle class settlement. Both these firms as well as a number of private ones have built roads, bridges, and public buildings in Asian and African countries. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Cohen, The Jews in the Making of America (1924), 127ff.; S.D. Goitein, Mediterranean Society, 1 (1967), S.V. carpenters, masons, stonecutters; L. Rosenberg, Canada's Jews (1939), 202ff.; M.U. Schappes, The Jews in the U.S. (1958), 197; B. Brutzkus, in: Zeitschrift fuer Demographie und statistik der Juden, 4 (1908), 84; M. Rischin, The Promised City (1962), 27, 59f., 188f.; S. Kaznelson (ed.), Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich (1959), 84–86; R. Mahler, Yehudei Polin bein Shetei Milḥamot Olam (1969), 76f., 102f.; H. Kahn, Die juedischen Handwerke in Deutschland (1936). (Henry Wasserman)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • construction — [ kɔ̃stryksjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1130; lat. constructio, de construere → construire 1 ♦ Action de construire. ⇒ assemblage, édification, érection. La construction d une maison, d un mur. Un immeuble en construction, en train d être construit (⇒ chantier) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • construction — con·struc·tion /kən strək shən/ n: the act or result of construing, interpreting, or explaining meaning or effect (as of a statute or contract) the construction placed upon an agreement J. D. Calamari and J. M. Perillo Merriam Webster’s… …   Law dictionary

  • construction — con‧struc‧tion [kənˈstrʌkʆn] noun 1. [uncountable] PROPERTY the activity of building houses, apartments, offices, factories, roads etc: • Share prices of construction, building materials and property investment companies were particularly hard… …   Financial and business terms

  • construction — CONSTRUCTION. s. f. Action de construire. On a interrompu la construction de ce bâtiment. f♛/b] Il signifie aussi l Arrangement, la disposition des parties d un bâtiment. La construction de ce Palais est parfaitement belle et solide. Cet homme là …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Construction — Con*struc tion, n. [L. constructio: cf. F. construction.] 1. The process or art of constructing; the act of building; erection; the act of devising and forming; fabrication; composition. [1913 Webster] 2. The form or manner of building or putting …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • construction — Construction. s. f. Arrangement, disposition des parties d un bastiment. La construction de ce palais est parfaitement belle & solide. cet homme là entend bien la construction des vaisseaux. Construction fig. & en termes de grammaire signifie, L… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • construction — [kən struk′shən] n. [ME construccioun < OFr construction < L constructio] 1. the act or process of constructing 2. the way in which something is constructed; manner or method of building 3. something constructed; structure; building 4. an… …   English World dictionary

  • construction — (n.) late 14c., from O.Fr. construction or directly from L. constructionem (nom. constructio), from construct , pp. stem of construere pile up together, accumulate; build, make, erect, from com together (see COM (Cf. com )) + struere to pile up… …   Etymology dictionary

  • construction — [n1] creation, building architecture, arrangement, assembly, build, cast, composition, conception, constitution, contour, cut, development, disposition, edifice, elevation, erecting, erection, fabric, fabricating, fabrication, figuration, figure …   New thesaurus

  • Construction — (v. lat.), 1) Zusammenstellung, Zusammensetzung eines Ganzen aus einzelnen Theilen; 2) organische Bildung, in Rücksicht auf ihre zweck u. gesetzmäßige Form; 3) (Gramm.), Zusammenfügung der Wörter zu einem Satze u. der einzelnen Satztheile zu… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Construction — Construction, lat., geordnete Zusammenfügung, Bau; in der Grammatik die Verbindung der Worte zu Sätzen und der Sätze zu Perioden; in der Mathematik die Darstellung der Lehrsätze durch Figuren; in der Philosophie die Entwickelung der Folgesätze… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

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