Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Coenen Snyder
University of South Carolina
Website URL
Modern Jewish History, Architectural History, Holocaust, Nineteenth-Century Europe, Urban History, Material Culture
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

I’m an Associate Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of South Carolina and focus primarily on the 19th and 20th centuries.

My first book, a comparative study of synagogue building and synagogue architecture in Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Berlin explored how Jewish religious edifices became central to the public face of Judaism in urban environments. Building a Public Judaism: Synagogues and Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century Europe, published by Harvard University Press in 2013, aimed to cross the conceptual boundaries of history, architecture, and urban studies.

I’ve also written book chapters on European Jewish history in the edited volumes City Limits: Interdisciplinary Essays on the Historical European City (McGill-Queen University Press, 2011), Jewish and Non-Jewish Spaces in the Urban Context (Neofelis Verlag, 2015), and Re-examining the Jews of Modern France: Images and Identities (Brill 2016). Several journal articles have appeared in Jewish History (2012), Studies in Contemporary Jewry (Volume 30, 2018), and, most recently, in Jewish Social Studies (“’As Long As It Sparkles!’ The Diamond Industry in Nineteenth-Century Amsterdam,” vol. 22:2 (Winter 2017).

My current book project, tentatively titled Diasporic Gems: Diamonds, Jews, and Nineteenth-Century Global Commerce, examines the role of Jewish merchants, diamantairs, cutters and polishers in the late-nineteenth century transatlantic diamond trade. After the 1869 discovery of vast diamond deposits in South Africa, the international market in precious stones soared. These discoveries, in conjunction with the growth of bourgeois consumer markets, technological innovations, and effective advertising, drove the international diamond trade to new heights. In the book, which is transatlantic in its approach, I follow the rough stone from the moment of extraction in the South-African diamond mines to the manufacturing process in Amsterdam; from the centralized London Diamond Syndicate to the lapels and décolletés of the nouveau riches eager to flaunt their new affluence. This study is simultaneously global and local, and investigates how a precious stone reached across lines of class, culture, politics, and ethnicity. With the support of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Award, the Memorial Foundation of Jewish Culture Research Grant (New York), and USC’s Advanced Support for Innovative Research Excellence (ASPIRE) and Humanities grants, I’ve been able to collect materials from archives in Amsterdam and Cape Town to help tell this fascinating story.

I’m currently a Fellow-in-Residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Amsterdam.

Recent Publications


Building a Public Judaism: Synagogues and Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Harvard University Press, 2013).

Diasporic Gems: Diamonds, Jews, and Nineteenth-Century Global Commerce (in progress)



“’Wrap Them Up and Get Out’: Child Rescue in Nazi-Occupied Amsterdam,” Holocaust Remembered: Children of the Holocaust. A Special Supplement From the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission, Vol. 4 (April 9, 2018), 12-13.

“An Urban Semiotics of War: Signs and Sounds in Nazi-Occupied Amsterdam,” Studies in Contemporary Jewry (Volume 30, 2018), 56-77.

“’As long As It Sparkles!’: The Diamond Industry in Nineteenth-Century Amsterdam,” Jewish Social Studies 22:2 (2017): 38-73

“Not as simple as ‘Bonjour’: Synagogue Building in Nineteenth-Century Paris,” in Zvi Jonathan Kaplan and Nadia Malinovich (eds), Re-examining the Jews of Modern France: Images and Identities (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2016), 286-301


“Space for Reflection: Synagogue Building in Nineteenth-Century Urban Landscapes,” in Jewish and Non-Jewish Spaces in the Urban Context (Berlin: Neofelis Verlag, 2015), 165-182

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Netherlands, Germany, England, France, South Africa, U.S.
Expertise by Geography
England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Western Europe
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, Modern, 20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
Art & Architectural History, Holocaust & Nazi Persecution, Material Culture, Urban History, World War II