Hertzberg situates his work within the growing emphasis on ethnicity in academic studies but notes that local history has not kept pace with the developments of “the new social history”; he is also writing at a time when social history was still sweeping the profession and had not become fully rooted. He begins his study only two years after Atlanta was first incorporated (1845); his avowed aim is to bring to light that period between Lee’s surrender and WWI, which he says has been very neglected. He also uses census records, tax digests, etc. with computer technology to perform quantitative analyses; partly with an aim to examine economic mobility in the Atlanta Jewish community and the socioeconomic structure, partly to provide some representation of the “masses” beyond the most prominent elites. “On a more subtle level, Atlanta changed from a crude and materialistic overgrown town into a sophisticated and cosmopolitan metropolis with a respected art museum, an accomplished symphony orchestra, a futuristic skyline, and even a black mayor.”
Atlanta Jewry assisted in the transformation of the city into a more tolerant, integrated and cosmopolitan city as they moved from a collection of ethnically and economically divided groups into a unified community. Hertzberg singled out the economic levelling of the Depression and cultural solidarity inspired by the Holocaust and the creation of Israel as major factors in creating the new unity among Atlanta’s Jews.