Americas Jews

Americas Jews

Chaim I. Waxman
Copyright Date: 1983
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Americas Jews
    Book Description:

    The book is a social history and sociology of American Jewry. It provides an up-to-date analysis of the contemporary American Jewish community, an analysis that includes educational, occupational, income, and political patterns of American Jews; the American Jewish family; anti-semitism; the relationship between American Jews and Israel; and the recent immigration of Soviet, Israeli, and Iranian Jews to the USA.

    In synthesizing a vast array of empirical studies, the author argues that while American Jews have been successful in their quest to integrate into the American social system, recent developments both in the American social and cultural system, at large, and within the Jewish community, in particular, indicate that this ethno-religious group is confronting the challenge to its continuity and its manifesting survivalist strengths which were not readily apparent in earlier generations.

    America's Jews in Transitionshould interest students in a wide range of fields, among them sociology, ethnic studies, Jewish studies, American studies, and religious studies. Because of its breadth and the freshness of its material, the book should also appeal to the general reader.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0621-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-2)

    One of the most serious weaknesses of many writings in American Jewish history and sociology is that they often study what was and is happening to American Jewry in a vacuum, that is, as if American Jews were ʺa people apart,ʺ completely isolated from and unaffected by what was and is happening to and within American society as a whole. On the other hand, there is an opposite weakness in which Heineʹs famous proverb, ʺWie es sich christelt, so judelt es sichʺ (ʺAs Christianity goes, so goes Judaismʺ)* is accepted so unqualifiedly that one is blinded to the unique history...

  5. 1. The Formative Period, 1654–1880
    (pp. 3-28)

    The American Jewish community may be said to have originated with the arrival in New Amsterdam on September 7, 1654, of twenty-three Jewish refugees from Brazil. Although individual Jews had arrived earlier, this was the first group to come. How their forebears got to Brazil and why they were now fleeing from the country are interesting and pertinent questions. To answer them, we have to go further back into history. Already by the early medieval period, two major centers of Jewish life had developed in Europe, one in Germany and Western Europe and the other in Spain. Each of these...

  6. 2. The Eastern European Immigration
    (pp. 29-61)

    The years 1881–1923 constitute one of the most fascinating eras in American history in general, and in the American Jewish experience in particular. It was an era during which approximately twenty-five million immigrants, primarily from Eastern and Southern Europe, arrived in this country. Of the many groups that came, Jews were second only to the Italians in number. In 1880 the Jewish population in the United States was approximately 250,000 individuals, most of whom were immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Central Europe (Glazer, 1972, p. 60). Before 1869, very few Jewish immigrants arrived from Russia, but between 1869...

  7. 3. The Acculturation of the Second Generation
    (pp. 62-80)

    Having achieved some economic security during the course of the first—the immigrant—generation, the second generation set out to take full advantage of the opportunities that American society presented to them. If their parents had not already done so, they moved out of the immigrant neighborhoods to the more modern, middle-class neighborhoods of the large cities in which they lived. In New York City, for example, there was a mass movement of Jews from Manhattan to these neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx during the 1920s and 1930s (Moore, 1981a). They went to particular areas, such as Eastern Parkway...

  8. 4. Religion without Religiosity: The Third-Generation Community
    (pp. 81-103)

    If the second generation was the era during which American Jews were largely acculturated but remained structurally isolated, the third generation was one of increasing acculturation and decreasing structural isolation imposed from outside; yet they remained a people apart. At the same time, the self-definition of the group underwent acculturation; American Jews in the third-generation community increasingly defined themselves as a religious group, rather than an ethnic one.

    In an intensive study of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in the city of Detroit, Lenski found the religious associations of Jews became greatly weakened while their communal bonds remained stronger than for...

  9. 5. The Pendulum Shifts, 1965–1975
    (pp. 104-134)

    American Jews were rather comfortable with themselves and their position in American society during the latter half of the 1950s and the early 1960s. Whatever misgivings individual American Jews may have entertained about the decline in the quality and intensity of Judaism in the third-generation community, the group and its constituent organizations appeared convinced that the adoption and internalization of American norms and values and the removal of all barriers to structural assimilation were the keys to guaranteeing the continued well-being of Americaʹs Jews. Perceiving that they had successfully integrated into the ʺtriple melting potʺ (Kennedy, 1944, 1952; Herberg, 1960),...

  10. 6. Taking Stock: Contemporary Americaʹs Jews
    (pp. 135-158)

    Reliable data on the American Jewish population are very difficult to obtain. The doctrine of separation of church and state has been interpreted to preclude questions concerning religious affiliation in surveys conducted by the United States Bureau of the Census. In the mid-1950s the Bureau of the Census did conduct a survey of about 35,000 households in which respondents were given the opportunity to respond to a question concerning religious affiliation, and a brief report of that survey was subsequently issued (U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1958). This report and two later studies derived from data in the report...

  11. 7. The Contemporary American Jewish Family
    (pp. 159-183)

    One major social issue which was widely debated during the 1970s was the future of the family in modern society. The issue was probed from a variety of perspectives and involved spokespersons from such fields as sociology, social welfare, social history, religion, and politics; indeed, Sussman (1978) has suggested that the 1970s may well come to be known as the decade of ʺThe Great Family Debate.ʺ The sources of that debate and an evaluation of the various prognoses will not be discussed here. For the purposes of this chapter it is sufficient to point out that within the American Jewish...

  12. 8. Denominational Patterns, Jewish Education, and Immigration
    (pp. 184-202)

    In the era of the second-generation community, as discussed in Chapter 3, social class and time of arrival in the United States were highly significant variables in the denominational structure of American Jewry. The general pattern was for those of upper-class status and longest length of time in the country to be associated with Reform Judaism, middle-class Jews with Conservative Judaism, and working-class and lower-class Jews and those in the country for the shortest amount of time with Orthodox Judaism. Thus in the third generation, Conservative Judaism was the largest, Reform second, and Orthodox the smallest of the three major...

  13. 9. Leadership, Decision Making, and the Struggles for Change
    (pp. 203-224)

    American Jews as an ethno-religious group in American society are a voluntary group with no specific legal stature. In addition, while this groupʹs organizational structure is very complex, its precise communal structure is somewhat amorphous. As we have seen, a variety of organizations operate in a variety of different spheres. Daniel Elazar has pointed to four basic categories of institutions within the American Jewish community, the relationships among which have developed by the accepted rules and principles determining their boundaries and spheres of activity. The two basic spheres are the religious and secular on the one hand and the public...

  14. 10. Conclusion: Diversification without Disintegration
    (pp. 225-236)

    This work began as a challenge to one of the major perspectives in the sociological study of ethnicity which Neil Sandberg has appropriately termed ʺstraight-lineʺ theory (Sandberg, 1974, p. 67). The underlying assumption of the theorists who adhere to that perspective is that ethnic behavior and consciousness decline with each generation and that, inevitably, ethnic groups will disappear into the larger American culture and society. This work also set out to challenge secularization theory within the sociology of religion, according to which the forces of modernity inevitably result in the secularization of consciousness and social structure culminating in the virtual...

  15. References
    (pp. 237-260)
  16. Index
    (pp. 261-272)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)