At the beginning of the 1970s, the Jewish Federation of New York underwent a rapid ideological transition from a politics of assimilation to a politics of ethnic survival. Whereas previous treatments of the survivalist turn have focused on cultural change, this article offers an explanation rooted in the financial dynamics and core institutional imperatives that drove executive decision making by Federation's board of trustees. Over the first half of the twentieth century, recurrent fiscal strain, Jewish class mobility, and the growth of the welfare state propelled the expansion of Federation's organizational infrastructure and geographic reach far beyond the limited vision of its founders. For a time, the imperative to generate new revenue and preempt competition helped stabilize the ideological consensus around assimilationism. But those same structural dynamics gradually empowered new actors—students, rabbis, and militants—who mobilized to put concerted pressure on Federation to adopt a survivalist program just as old models of institutional reproduction began to break down. Questions of Federation's political orientation are thus bound up with the same overarching process of institutional adaptation that engendered its sprawling contemporary architecture and communal preeminence.
Jewish Social Studies plays an important role in advancing the understanding of Jewish life and the Jewish past. Key themes are issues of identity and peoplehood, the vistas opened by the integration of gender as a primary category in the study of history, and the multiplicities inherent in the evolution of Jewish societies and cultures around the world and over time. Regular features include work in anthropology, politics, sociology, religion, and literature, as well as case studies and theoretical discussions, all of which serve to rechart the boundaries of Jewish historical scholarship.
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