Advance Praise for Most Fortunate Unfortunates

Most Fortunate Unfortunates is that rarest of scholarly achievements: an incredibly detailed and impressively researched institutional history that reads with ease, gaining and keeping the reacher’s interest with its flawless writing style and numerous humanizing vignettes. . . . With narrative empathy and scholarly rigor, Trestman gives readers insight into not only one specific orphanage, but into the larger challenges, triumphs, and dilemmas of an American Jewish community determined to care for its children.”

–Kim van Alkemade, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan #8

“Attentive to race and gender, and contextualized within general and Jewish history as well as the history of child care, Most Fortunate Unfortunates sets a new standard as a well-researched, well-written, warts-and-all history of the Jewish Orphans’ Home of New Orleans.”

–Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University

“In this comprehensive and engaging study of a pioneering Jewish orphanage in the United States, Trestman highlights distinctive features of the institution’s history — yellow fever, founders who enslaved, and leaders who fled rather than pledge allegiance to the Union — arising from its location in New Orleans.”

–Reena Sigman Friedman, Ph.D., author of These Are Our Children: Jewish Orphanages in the United States, 1880-1925

“Marlene Trestman’s Most Fortunate Unfortunates provides a well-scoped, well-written, carefully documented and extensively researched window into institutional childcare in America over nearly a hundred years, with emphasis on Jewish services. The focus is a renowned New Orleans institution, originally called the Home for Jewish Widows and Orphans.”

–Peter M. Wolf, author of The Sugar King: Leon Godchaux, A New Orleans Legend, His Creole Slave, and His Jewish Roots

“This well-documented, nuanced, and highly readable account of the Jewish Orphans’ Home is much more than the story of a single institution. It provides a fascinating window onto New Orleans history, while also offering a revealing look at issues of race, class, gender, and the Jewish experience from before the Civil War to after World War II.”

–Deborah R. Weiner, co-author of On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore

Most Fortunate Unfortunates Book Cover

“What’s remarkable about Marlene Trestman’s Most Fortunate Unfortunates is its ability to shift scope, from the intricate details of local institutional history–complete with names, faces, personalities, and incidents hitherto forgotten–up to regional, national, and even international contexts. Marvelous research, amazing story–or rather stories–with broader significance, all emanating from New Orleans.”

Prof. Richard Campanella, historical geographer and author, Tulane University

“Marlene Trestman beautifully molds her extensive research into an outstanding history of the Jewish Orphans’ Home of New Orleans. Changing institutional policies come alive through the children’s stories. Most Fortunate Unfortunates belongs on the reading list of everyone interested in childcare and education, and Southern and American Jewish and general history. This fine volume earns my highest recommendation.”

–Mark K. Bauman, Editor, Southern Jewish History

“Marlene Trestman is a meticulous researcher and engaging storyteller who spins narratives about youngsters who benefited from their years at the Jewish Orphans’ Home, often following their lives from the day each became a “Home kid” until graduating into the wide world beyond. More than 140 interviews and oral histories augment this enlightening institutional history that follows the emergence of professional social workers and explores still-evolving childcare standards.”

–Hollace Ava Weiner, editor of Lone Stars of David: The Jews of Texas and author of Jewish Stars in Texas: Rabbis and Their Work

“Marlene Trestman has written an outstanding study of the Home for Jewish Widows and Orphans, located in New Orleans. Aptly entitled ‘Most Fortunate Unfortunates,’ this book successfully navigates the perils of tedious institutional history and, on the other hand, unfettered personal accounts. What emerges is a readable history that adds to our understanding of Jewish practices and philanthropy, the city of New Orleans, and changing views on insitutional child care. Additionally, given her exhaustive research into the Home, Trestman gives readers a sense of what it was like to one of the ‘fortunate unfortunates.'”

--Jean Harvey Baker, distinguished American historian, professor emerita at Goucher College, and acclaimed writer of historical biographies