Assimilation and Authenticity: The Problem of the American Jewish Community
Community and Polity: The Organizational Dynamics of American Jewry, Chapter 1
Daniel J. Elazar
The Jewish community as a whole is a unique blend of kinship and consent. This amalgam is apparent as early as the biblical account of the Jewish people's origins: a family of tribes becomes a nation by consenting to the Covenant. It is reflected in subsequent biblical narratives, and postbiblical Jewish history gave the blend new meaning. The fact that Jews are born Jewish places them in a special position to begin with, one that more often than not has forced them together for self-protection. Yet conversion, assimilation, or simple apathy toward Jewish life has almost always been available as options. In the modern era these opportunities to break away from Judaism expanded considerably in every respect. Today they stand at what is probably an all-time high, although counterpressures have begun to emerge once more.
Consequently, the preservation of Jewish life can be understood to be a matter of familial solidarity, but it must also be seen as the product of the active will of many Jews to function as a community. The Jewish community in the largest sense is defined as all those people who were born Jews or who, though born outside the Jewish fold, have consciously and formally embraced Judaism. At the same time Jews can be fully understood only when they are recognized to be members of a covenantal community who are linked by a shared destiny and a common patter of communications, a people whose essential community of interest and purpose is reflected in a very wide range of organizations. In traditional terms Judaism itself is essentially a theopolitical phenomenon, a means of seeking salvation by constructing God's polity, the proverbial "city upon a hill," through which the covenantal community takes on meaning and fulfills its purpose in the divine scheme of things. While American civilization has influenced Jews to the extent that "being Jewish" is no longer an all-embracing way of life for most members of the Jewish community, nevertheless the concept of "being Jewish" and the behavior that it involves remain far broader in scope than the concepts and behavior involved in "being Catholic" or "being Protestant."*
The American Jewish community is built upon an associational base to a far greater extent than any other in Jewish history. In other words, not only is there no external or internal compulsion to affiliate with organized Jewry, but there is no automatic way to become a member of the Jewish community. Nor is there even a clear way to affiliate with the community as a whole. To participate in any organized Jewish life in America one must make a voluntary association with some particular organization or institution, whether in the form of synagogue membership, contribution to the local Federation (which is generally considered to be an act of joining as well as contributing), or affiliation with a B'nai B'rith lodge or Hadassah chapter.1
Because of its covenantal character, the Jewish people have always relied upon associational activities to a greater or lesser degree, but at no point in Jewish history have they become as important as they are today. In the past such activities have always been fitted into the framework of an organic community, one linked to the tradition of the fathers as understood by their descendants, who felt bound -- by that tradition and by their kinship to one another -- to stand together apart from and even against the rest of the world. In the process of modernization these organic ties disappeared for Jews, as they have for other peoples who have gone through the same process, to be replaced by associational ties, at least for people who wished to maintain the ties at all. It is no accident that organized activity -- often philanthropic or political -- has come to be the most common manifestation of Judaism, replacing prayer, study, and the normal private intercourse of kin as a means of being Jewish.
The associational approach is typically American, a reflection of a social order that is based on chosen affiliation rather than heritage. Because Americans do not like to think of themselves as bound to anything by birth, they seek to transform all organic ties into associational ones. Even the family frequently takes on an associational character in American Jewish life -- for example, the development and spread of the "family club," a formal association of relatives, in the 1930s.
Indeed, like their fellow Americans, affiliated Jews usually have memberships in different kinds of organizations, which reinforce one another and create a network of Jewish ties that binds any individual who chooses to become enmeshed in them more firmly to the community. Without that associational base there would be no organized Jewish community at all; with it, the Jewish community attains the social status, and even a certain legal status, that enable it to fit well into the larger society of which it is a part.
While associational activity provides the impetus for the maintenance and continuation of Jewish life, the organic ties persist and tend to be strengthened when the survival of the community seems to be at stake. We have spoken of the fact that Jews -- even very marginal ones -- tend to have that "sixth sense" about threats to their security and survival as Jews. Since the Holocaust, when the Jewish people lost over one-third of their total number, this sense has been sharpened considerably. American Jewry's response to the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and subsequent developments involved a heightened concern with security and survival, almost to the point of reversing the sense of Jewish well-being in America that had flourished since the 1950s. A new sense of unease pervaded the community as a result of the Arab oil embargo, world readiness to legitimize the Arab terrorists, actions by leading members of the world community interpreted to be anti-Semitic, the spreading Arab boycott, and the infamous attacks on Zionism at the United Nations. All this undoubtedly made many Jews, even peripheral ones, perceive their common fate as Jews. Nevertheless, their response was and is only visible through their institutions, as perforce it must be.
The American Jewish community is not only the largest diaspora community but has become the contemporary paradigm for Jewish communal organization by voluntary association and "religious" identification, a pattern that has spread to virtually every part of the world since World War II. An inquiry into the American Jewish experience, then, offers an important starting point for the study of contemporary diaspora Jewry
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Viewed from the perspective of Jewish history and the Jewish people as a whole, some central questions about American Jewish life present themselves at the very outset of our inquiry.
1. How do American Jews live their lives within the framework of the general community? What must they do to conform to its mores and demands? What can they do to be different? How must American Jewry adjust to American life? In what ways can it maintain its own institutions?
2. What is happening to American Jews as a result of their integration into American society, particularly with respect to traditional Jewish values? What have they gained? What have they lost? What is happening to the American Jewish community?
3. What patterns and techniques have American Jews developed to maintain Jewish life under American conditions? To what extent are they unique? To what extent to they provide for the continuity of traditional principles of Jewish community organization?
American Jewish Uniqueness
To answer these questions one must begin by recognizing the uniqueness of the American Jewish community in the annals of Jewish history. This singularity is often proclaimed but rarely explained. Five factors were crucial in creating American uniqueness. U.S. Jewry is entirely a product of the modern epoch, an era dominated by capitalism, science, popular government, secularism, and technological change. The modern epoch may be said to have begun in the middle of the seventeenth century; 1648 is a convenient year to mark its beginning. In that year the English civil war was concluded, the Treaty of Westphalia ended continental Europe's wars of religion, and Eastern European society was shaken to its roots by the great Ukrainian Cossack uprising of Bogdan Chmielnicki.2
The events of that epoch, born out of the seventeenth-century revolution in science, technology, politics, and religion, brought radical changes for world Jewry over the next three centuries. First and foremost, the Jewish community was transformed from an autonomous ghettoized corporation, a "nation within a nation" holding substantial power over its own members, into a voluntary association of emancipated Jews who as individuals had been granted full citizenship in the larger civil societies of which they were a part.3
Modernity also brought a crisis for Judaism, arising from the general de-emphasis of the religious aspect of life in the Western world as a whole and the thrusting of secular science and politics into the forefront of human concern. With the breakdown of the corporate structure of Jewish life, which had sustained Jewish law for over two thousand years, and with the concomitant destruction of the foundations of religious faith that had made the corporate structure reasonable, most Jews ceased to observe the Law, study it, or try to understand its meaning as a vehicle for human fulfillment.
Jews as individuals now had access to the wider opportunities of the modern world, and, utilizing skills developed during centuries of struggle for sheer survival, they rapidly rose to preeminent positions in secular society. Subsequently, however, European society rejected the Jews, turning the welcome of emancipation into anti-Semitism and, in the twentieth century, genocide. Jews began to abandon Europe in search of a better life, initially a voluntary process but later made necessary by the events of two world wars.
World War II and the Holocaust brought the modern epoch to an abrupt and terrible end. However, during the final two generations of that epoch the Jewish people acted to restore their self-conscious existence as a body politic, resettling their ancient land and establishing the State of Israel, while at the same time building a great new Jewish community in the New World. In the process, increasing numbers of Jews sought to make peace with their Jewish heritage and revive it as a way of life.
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The first American Jewish community was founded in 1654, with the arrival in New Amsterdam of twenty-three refugees from the Dutch colony in Brazil, where they had been integrated into the local civil community before they were forced to leave. Despite some early difficulties in gaining acceptance -- all of which were trivial in comparison with the problems of securing equal rights in Europe, even on paper -- the twenty-three fugitives and those who came to British North America after them in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were soon accepted as individuals and potential citizens. Even the difficulties they did encounter were caused less by the fact of their Jewishness than by the principles of religious exclusiveness that animated many of the colonies and were applied indiscriminately to Protestant sectarians and Catholics as well.4 Thus the American Jewish community is a fully postemancipation community -- the first and foremost, by far. Because of the particular character of the United States as a modern society, with no history of segregating Jews in the literal sense, no Jewish communal organization of the traditional kind has ever been able to develop. Its community structure was built by Jews already emancipated as individuals who did not have to struggle for their civil rights and who formed their associations as Jews voluntarily.5
U.S. Jewry, moreover, acquired a special sense of destiny. Since it is the largest Jewish community in the world and the major diaspora community, there are no diaspora communities that it can draw upon for strength or that compete with it for influence. Achieving this status during a period when American power was at its peak, in the "American century," it became the world's most powerful Jewry in the world's most powerful nation. It achieved this status at just that moment in history when it was needed most as a fount of material and political power to assist in establishing and maintaining the State of Israel, and as a source of spiritual and intellectual power needed to replace the destroyed European reservoirs of the Jewish people. Since World War II it has served well in both capacities -- in the first as expected and rather unexpectedly in the second.
U.S. Jewry -- the first diaspora community to function in a fully voluntary milieu that offers its members almost complete freedom of choice "to be or not to be" Jews -- has had to adjust to this climate of freedom in which individual Jews may or may not choose to identify with Jewish life, may choose to drop their Jewish ties altogether and completely assimilate, or may choose to intermarry while remaining Jews and even seeking Jewish affiliation. These choices must be made within a civilization that is not only extraordinarily attractive, but also has basic ideals perceived by its Jews to be more like the best of prophetic Judaism than those of any other host civilization that Jews have ever encountered -- ideals that have been embraced with passion by modern Jews.6 (Even the basic problems of American society are reminiscent of the classic failings of the Jewish people.)
By now, the struggle for Jewish self-acceptance that was a feature of the modern epoch also is largely a thing of the past. Most American Jews of the generations since World War II accept their Jewish birth as a matter of course. Though they accept it, many do not much care about their Jewishness. No longer negative toward Judaism, the reaction of many is best characterized as indifferent.
The character of American society makes assimilation easy for Jews and the general secularization of everyone today includes the Jews. In this respect most of the new Jews are as secular as the most secular elements in American society. Unlike the secularists of a generation or two ago, though, they are not militantly opposed to organized religion. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of today's Jews are nominally affiliated with a synagogue, at least sometime during their adult lives, but they are like their American counterparts among urban upper-middle-class college graduates in the professions and the big organizations, in that religion is tangential to their lives and relatively insignificant as an influence in most of their affairs. Even their Jewish concerns, where they exist, tend to be "tribal" in character, not motivated by any hope for redemption, individual or collective, traditionally associated with the Jews' covenant with God, but by the comforts derived from the association of like with like, or, with renewed importance, fears of safety as Jews.
There are few barriers between Jews and non-Jews -- this is the natural consequence of an open society. The rise of the new religious pluralism -- in which Jews identifying with the Jewish faith have the same status as Catholics identifying with Catholicism or Protestants identifying with recognized Protestant denominations -- has made it possible for American Jews to assimilate even socially. Furthermore, there are few differences in values between Jews and non-Jews, the natural consequence of there being few barriers. So even when Jews segregate themselves, the standards they embrace are not significantly different from the standards of non-Jews of the same socioeconomic class.
It is not an exaggeration to say that American Jewry has been called to a great, even a noble, purpose: that of building a viable and creative Jewish life within an open society, one which involves the preservation of Jewish individual and corporate existence while enabling Jews to participate fully in the fulfillment of the American idea. This is easier said than done, but that in no way diminishes the greatness of the task.
Jews and Religion in a Nonmythic Society
Because America is a demythologized society, it is easier for Jews to assimilate its values. The monotheistic revolution wrought by the Jews at the very beginning of their history as a people initiated a decisive break with the mythic world view that had animated all human societies until then. The mythic world view saw the universe as animate in all its parts -- or at least made no distinction between the animate and inanimate -- investing all natural phenomena with divinity. In the life cycles of the various elements in the universe it saw a cyclical pattern of events that was repeated continually without end, as the gods that inhabited or dominated the universe continued their own internal struggles for power and favor as part of the very nature of things. Although humans were merely tools of the gods in the struggle, they could occasionally manipulate their masters by appropriate magic. Since history was conceived to be cyclical, humanity had no goal other than to try to survive in the face of the malevolent or uncaring forces arrayed against it; hence fertility was a central preoccupation.
The monotheistic revolution introduced more than the notion of one God. It originated the idea of progress in history, of linear development from a beginning toward an end, and the idea of a transcendent Deity who could not be manipulated by magic but required humans to lead a certain kind of life and to build a certain kind of moral order in order to fulfill His wishes. As Yehezkel Kaufmann has pointed out, monotheism is not a matter of arithmetic; the Jews were so transformed by the monotheistic revolution that the mythic view of the world ceased to have any real meaning for them as a people.7
When the rest of the Western world accepted "Jewish" monotheism it did so through a Christianity that represented a compromise with the mythic world view. In those parts of the world that originally converted to Catholicism and have remained Catholic, the mythic world view has remained particularly strong within the framework of Christianity. In those regions of Europe that later became Protestant as a result of the Reformation, an additional transformation moved the adherents of the new movement away from the mythic outlook. This was especially true in Reformed Protestantism, influenced by Zwingli, Bullinger, Calvin, Knox and the Puritans.
The crucial factor in determining if a particular population group would break away from its mythic base or not was whether the group migrated from its original home during the time the transformation took place. In this respect the biblical account of God's instruction to Abraham to leave his family's home and kith and move to a new land and the subsequent Israelite exodus from Egypt to return to that land are paradigms of the effects of migration on the demythologization of a people.
When they converted to Christianity, the communities of southern Europe, who did not migrate, simply adapted their mythic world view to the terminology and basic demands of the Church. They continued to endow the same local features and shrines with divinity, transforming them into points of association with saints. But any mythic basis that survived among northern and West Europeans until the beginning of the modern era was lost by those among them who migrated across the Atlantic to the United States. When they entered this new land that had no mythic associations for them, they became as effectively demythologized as the Jews. One way this can be seen is in local place-names and the meanings attacked to them. Like the ancient Israelites, the Americans borrowed place-names from the original inhabitants of the land; but while those names had explicitly mythological meanings to the Canaanites and the Indians respectively, they had no such meanings to the Israelites and the Americans who borrowed them.
Thus even Christianity was substantially demythologized in the United States. This process was intensified by the fact that most of the early settlers of North America were Calvinists; at the time of the Revolutionary War over half the population of the United States were connected with Calvinist churches of one kind or another. Today the "Christmas problem" reflects this very well. Because Christmas in the United States is a holiday of goodwill more than a celebration of the birth of the Christian messiah, it is more difficult for Jews to resist the pressures to participate in the events surrounding the holiday.
Precisely because religion in America is not a means for perpetuating a mythic understanding of the world, it has served as an engine for social change and has been considered in many quarters as a vehicle for the construction of the American "city upon a hill." This has given religion a crucial position in the fabric of American civilization. Moreover, America's Protestant roots made an individual's religion a matter of his or her personal choice or "calling," thus reaffirming the associational character of the United States as a new society. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:
Anglo-American civilization...is the product...of two perfectly distinct elements which elsewhere have often been at war with one another but which in America it was somehow possible to incorporate into each other, forming a marvelous combination. I mean the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom....Far from harming each other, these two apparently opposed tendencies work in harmony and seem to lend mutual support.
Religion regards civil liberty as a noble exercise of men's faculties, the world of politics being a sphere intended by the Creator for the free play of intelligence. Religion, being free and powerful within its own sphere and content with the position reserved for it, realizes that its sway is all the better established because it relies only on its own powers and rules men's hearts without external support.
Freedom sees religion as the companion of its struggles and triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its rights. Religion is considered as the guardian of mores, and mores are regarded as the guarantee of the laws and pledge for the maintenance of freedom itself.8
Thus American aspirations for social justice have been religiously motivated to a substantial degree, though at times somewhat indirectly. The positive role of religion in American social progress must be appreciated in order to understand American civilization. Religious motivations have been incorporated into the American way of life, even if disavowed from time to time by certain American intellectuals. It is true that many churches have been so conservative during periods of social reform that even the religiously-motivated reformers have had to operate outside of their framework. Nevertheless, the religious impulse of Americans within and outside of the churches has been a powerful factor in every movement for social progress, from the Revolutionary War and the abolition of slavery to the reform of the industrial system and the struggle for civil rights for excluded groups in our time.
This "Jewish" conception of the role of religion has contributed its share to making Jews feel so completely at home in the United States. Individual Jews, including rabbis, have been involved in reform movements with their Christian colleagues from the first, and Jewish religious movements have participated in such efforts at least since the turn of the century.
What is the situation today? On the surface, at least, the picture is confusing. Articulate spokesmen among the intellectual community rarely refer to the religious impulse except in passing, but political leaders do. As for organized religion, it takes its prophetic role seriously. Since they are no longer at the center of American institutional life, even the "establishment" churches no longer feel the need to defend the status quo and are prepared to compete for public attention by being reformist. The major reform movements of the 1950s and 1960s drew much of their impetus from the religious tradition and the churches, so much so that many exceeded the tolerance of their congregants for rapid change in their willingness to support new reformist causes. Subsequently, they had to pull back from the most extreme positions of the 1960s, a clipping of the wings of the social activists, and a reemphasis on the personal aspects of religion. This is reflected in a resurgent fundamentalism, reformist in its own way of seeking to restore the older norms of American life. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that this reflects any fundamental change in the social role religion plays in America; it is, rather, a normal cyclical adjustment.
In the interim, Catholicism in the United States has been transformed into a more "American" (meaning more Protestant-in-style) religious behavior. In the nineteenth century the struggle between English-speaking Catholics, predominantly Irish, and non-English-speaking Catholic immigrants from continental Europe led to the decisive victory of the English language over the ethnic churches that tried to preserve their original languages and were forced by the Irish-dominated Catholic Hierarchy as well as by historical circumstances to abandon their languages for English. Only the Spanish-speaking Catholics have managed to remain more or less exempt from this phenomenon, in great part becauise Spanish-speakers have a powerful tendency toward language preservation.
Then, in the twentieth century, the styles of worship and belief came to resemble Protestantism as the Hierarchy lost its ability to impose either behavior or belief on their congregants. Catholic churches originally organized in a hierarchical manner came increasingly to resemble the more autonomous Protestant congregations in their governance. The United States Conference of Bishops began to operate as an assembly of equals. Perhaps most important, individual Catholics began to make their own doctrinal decisions in matters they considered vital to their own happiness.
As American public schools, which in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were quite Protestant in their orientation, became religiously more neutral, the number of Catholic schools, originally established to provide an education more in keeping with Catholicism, which had proved very costly and were becoming even more so, began to diminish. (Ironically this came at a time when fundamentalist Protestants began to feel the necessity for schools of their own which would be able to resist the trend in the public schools to replace the elements of traditional religion with the new religion of scientism.)
Jewish families have always strongly supported public education as an intidote to the exclusion of Jewish children from state schools in the Old World and have always been numbered among the strongest supporters of the public school system. Moreover, in more recent times, Jews, more secular and not at all Christian, have welcomed the replacement of a non-denominational Protestant religion as part of the public school substructure, with the more neutral scientism that has displaced traditional Christianity.
A Postemancipation Community
As Ben Halpern has pointed out, no ideologies of emancipation, or in response to emancipation, developed in the United States.9 Those that immigrants brought here from abroad continued to exist as transient elements only, and only as long as an immigrant generation dominated American Jewish life. The fate of the leading European Jewish ideologies induced by emancipation is a case in point.
1. Socialism as a solution to the "Jewish problem" served only part of the Jewish immigrant population and was a temporary phenomenon on the American Jewish scene, at that, sponsored and supported by immigrant socialists for barely a generation.
2. Assimilationism never developed as a full-blown ideology -- as it did in Europe, where there were even assimilationist Jewish political parties -- though it was periodically advocated by individuals. Its closest counterpart was the notion, embraced by radical reformers at the turn of the century, that American Christians and Jews should merge into a higher religion of science and the Social Gospel, a notion that was never widespread enough to take on ideological proportions, except among founders of the Ethical Culture Society.
3. Diaspora nationalism never developed in the United States because American Jews never sought autonomous communal rights.
4. Zionism, though at one time powerful organizationally, never took hold as an ideology in the United States, or even as a serious doctrine, as it had in Europe. It was early transformed from a striving for personal self-realization, or at the very least national fulfillment, into a "support the Jews in Israel (or Palestine)" program. Hence the pointlessness and failure of the American Council for Judaism, a small group that vociferously defended emancipation against bogeymen of its own invention -- as if most American Jews could possibly be persuaded to seek lives outside of American society.
To understand the failure of these European ideologies to take root, it is necessary to understand the dissimilar forms that anti-Semitism, emancipation, and nationalism took in Europe and the United States. In Europe emancipation was connected with the revolutionary crises and the new liberalism of the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. (Conventional historical wisdom links Jewish emancipation with the French Revolution as a matter of course.) The counterrevolutionaries ("conservatives" or "reactionaries") were normally anti-Semitic, since they associated Jewish emancipation with the hated revolution and viewed it as a symbol of an undesirable new order. Since the counterrevolutionaries represented a mainstream movement with considerable political power, their anti-Jewish attitudes were crystallized as anti-Semitism, which became a respectable doctrine that carried great weight, particularly, but not exclusively, among those who longer for the ancien regime. Anti-Semitic ideas also came to play a role among those revolutionaries who sought a new homogenization of society and for whom the Jews seemed unhomogenizable.
In the United States there was no organized movement for Jewish emancipation. American ways were very different from European ones, and the changes that gave Jews full civil and political rights took place as part of a normal liberalization of American life that was extended to individuals from all sorts of minority groups. (Contrast this with the emancipation of the Afro-American slaves in the United States, which had to be extended to a group explicitly and only came about through a wrenching crisis -- the Civil War -- and then only in the formal sense.)
In Europe nationalism was based on certain myths about uniform ethnic origins (or "race," in the terminology of the age). Since the Jews were of a different "race," by definition they were excluded from full participation in the new nationalism unless they ceased to be Jews and in some cases not even then. This was true even when the Jews argued otherwise. In the United States nationalism was based on the acceptance of the national vocation to build a new society by any individual who chose to cast his or her lot with the United States. Since Americans were all immigrants originally and stemmed from a wide variety of ethnic and racial groups, there could be no single ethnic (or even racial) basis for an American ethic of nationalism. What bound Americans together were shared values -- the "American way of life" -- which anyone could embrace. Indeed, consenting to those values as the basis of citizenship is a fundamental tenet of American political thought. These shared values, this mystique, became the ethnically neutral basis for American nationalism which Jews could easily share and accept.10
Ask most American Jews and they will argue strenuously that Jews participate in American affairs as individuals and as Americans at that, that there is no corporate Jewish interest in American politics except perhaps the fight against anti-Semitism and support of Israel; as long as they can identify the Jewish state with what they see as the finest aspiration of American public morality. Yet American Jewish liberalism is legendary. Much has been written on the subject. Steven M. Cohen has comprehensively summarized the reality of that liberalism in The Dimensions of American Jewish Liberalism.11 There, in issue after issue, he shows that survey results of all kinds report Jews as the most extreme liberals among major groups in the United States.
So, too, Peter Medding makes a very strong case for the existence of a common set of American Jewish political interests that American Jews seek to foster or defend, and that are well-understood by most of them.12 Medding (correctly in this writer's view) argues that American Jews not only demonstrate a common interest in fighting anti-Semitism or anything that might be considered anti-Semitic discrimination, but in many respects fundamentally define themselves and their status vis-a-vis Christianity, and therefore take an equally strong position on behalf of the separation of church and state. They are highly committed to Israel under the aforementioned conditions, and seek to maintain Jewish survival. Perceived threats of anti-Semitism, or breaches in the wall separating church and state are seen as support for Christianity that could jeopardize Jewish status in the United States. It seems that the more the Jews become accepted and successful in the country, the more they become insecure and feel themselves to be vulnerable. This common belief system translates itself into massive Jewish support for what are denominated liberal values, individual rights, and what is referred to as pluralism, namely the right of groups to voluntarily be different yet equal in American society. The latter is the keystone in the Jews' integration of the Jewish and American political agendas.
The most comprehensive statement of overall American Jewish foreign policy and defense objectives, perhaps the most comprehensive possible in a voluntary community, is the Joint Program Plan of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), issued regularly since NJCRAC was founded. A review of the Joint Program Plan is a chronicle of American Jewish foreign policy and defense issues and responses to the major issues on the American agenda. As a consensus document, it has continued to reflect the strong liberal majority in its organized form in the community's strong commitment to Israel.
All this is manifested in the strong Jewish identification with the Democratic party, apparently no matter what, as voters, activists and contributors. (The accepted estimate is that half of all financial contributions to national Democratic campaigns are from Jews and between two-thirds and four-fifths of all Jewish voters support the Democratic presidential candidate at the polls.)
Yet this is also manifested in AIPAC which has gone from a small Zionist lobby founded in the 1950s by the American Zionist Council as the American Zionist Council on Public Affairs, to becoming a major Washington insider. The change began in 1959 with its name change. After 1967 AIPAC became a favorite cause of the new generation of "hands-on" activists, and now claims a countrywide grassroots membership of 50,000, with a staff of over seventy lobbyists, providers of information, and researchers. It is closely intertwined with Congress, its major lobby object. Several thousand attend the annual AIPAC policy conference, a major public lobbying event usually held in May. Prominent members of the U.S. administration and Congress appear at their plenary sessions and the attending activists meet with their representatives in Congress on an individual basis. Medding reports that in 1987, 307 legislators attended the AIPAC policy conference, including 86 senators and 221 representatives from both parties, though slightly more Democrats than Republicans (at least partly because there were more Democrats than Republicans in Congress). In the 1980s, AIPAC spun off the Washington Institute for Near East Policy to be a Washington-based thinktank with pro-Israel leanings, with considerable success. AIPAC sits with the President's Conference and draws much of its leadership from Jewish federation circles and its community relations organizations.
Strictly speaking, AIPAC is not a PAC (political action committee) of the kind that have come into existence since the reform of the federal campaign finance laws, but Jews have been at the forefront of establishing PACs to protect Jewish interests as well. While many of these PACs are pro-Israel, they also range across the spectrum of perceived Jewish interests. The growing number of Jews in Congress also have an informal Jewish caucus. They have not organized formally as have the blacks and Hispanics because on one hand, they understand the need to function together on Jewish issues; on the other, lingering fears of arousing anti-Semitism prevent them from taking the formal step. They share such a high degree of consensus on Jewish issues that they have less need for a formal framework, maintaining informal consultations instead. Well over a third of the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Middle East Subcommittee are Jewish. All this is enhanced by the fact that identifiable Jewish communities with electoral impact can be found in over 380 congressional districts out of a total of 435. Thus, it is clear to the outside observer that there is a Jewish group expression in American politics.13
These characteristics of American Jewry are not necessarily shared by other New World Jewries, which also are nominally postemancipation communities. Contrast Canadian and Latin American Jewries with Jews in the United States and this becomes apparent. As Moshe Davis has pointed out, in Canada the Jews are an ethno-cultural minority in an ethnically diverse society whose stated aim is cultural pluralism.14 They are "governed" through a communal structure that organizes the entire Canadian Jewish establishment into one overall system. In Latin America the Jews are an ethnic minority in countries whose nationalism is also based on religious and ethnic origins. They are seen as having their own madre patria (mother country) in Israel in addition to their local loyalties. Jews in the United States are a socioreligious community set in a highly fluid society where religious pluralism is considered desirable but cultural or meaningful ethnic separation is frowned on. An individual's religious preference is voluntarily assumed in the United States, which means that it is a legitimate way to maintain differences when organic ways are suspect.
This remains true despite periodic upsurges of interest in ethnicity and ethnic identity. With the exception of certain reactive movements among the black and Hispanic minorities, the "ethnics" are not seeking separate institutions within American society, not even cultural pluralism in the accepted sense. Rather, they are seeking recognition of the worth of their heritage and legitimation of their right to struggle as a bloc to protect their individual members in the larger society. In this respect today's ethnics are reminiscent of the descendants of the Scots, Welsh, Dutch, and some Germans in the late nineteenth century, whose similar efforts represented the last gasp of overt ethnicity among those groups before their full acceptance into the American establishment.
The American Experience and the Jews: Similarities and Differences
The similarities that link the Jewish and American world views have been delineated often. Both civilizations are classically based upon the effort to build the good commonwealth. Both look to their tasks with a sense of chosenness and vocation based on the Bible-rootedness of their founders and subsequent generations. And both have had to adjust their vocation and its demands to the demands of a frontier experience with its dislodgments. Even their corruptions have a similarity born out of their initial vocational perceptions.
At the same time, there are essential differences between American and traditional Jewish ideals. In the first place, American society is basically liberal and individualistic. While liberalism and individualism have certain Jewish roots, since the eighteenth century they have been carried far beyond these roots by Americans -- with some decisive consequences. In its classic form Jewish society is based on transcendent principles that are not always supportive of liberalism and is far more communitarian in its orientation.15
Second, despite the continued influence of classic Jewish and American principles, the great characteristic of the modern epoch, during which the United States was founded, settled, and developed, was the general secularization of society. First there was a massive transference of attention from the other world to this world, though Americans remained generally pious; then, in the twentieth century, this-worldly piety became straightforward worldliness. This shift in forms has affected Jews and Christians alike. In essence, all Americans are living within the framework of degenerated tradition, and especially since the social upheavals of the 1960s (the "Age of Aquarius" syndrome), it is almost as difficult to remain an authentic Christian in American society as it is to remain an authentic Jew.
When Jews first started analyzing their position in the United States, around the turn of the century, their leading intellectual spokesmen formulated the idea of cultural pluralism to describe the kind of society that they envisioned in the New World: each immigrant group would retain some of its cultural identity while its members became fully part of the American scene as individuals.16 But the kind of cultural pluralism envisioned then never developed in the United States. Instead, traditional American religious pluralism was given a broader base to allow late-migrating Catholics and Jews (or their children) full access to the benefits of American society.17
New Americans chose religious affiliation as a vehicle for the preservation of what they wished to preserve of their heritage because they quickly perceived that the United States was a religiously attuned civilization and had been so from the beginning. Consequently, religion became the easiest way to identify with the American way of life while preserving certain customary differences, and to retain an attachment to one's ancestral connections in a socially acceptable manner.
As the price of entry into American life new immigrants had to give up all their overt native habits except those identified with their religions. Because their religions, being within the Judeo-Christian tradition, fit legitimately within the American schema, they could be retained. Religion became the link with the "other way of life," and everything that was to be preserved from that way of life had to be fitted into a religious context.
For several generations, ethnic groups that wished to preserve something of their identities adapted to this situation by making their national churches the basis for subcommunal organization within the framework of American religious pluralism. Obvious examples are the Jews, the Greeks, the Ukrainians, and the various Scandinavian ethnic groups, but this was also done by such groups as the Yankees of New England and the southern whites. One consequence of this was the development of religious communities that include both formal religious associations and less formal interpersonal relationships, which tie people who are not formally affiliated to a particular denomination or congregation-centered group. While the formal membership in the congregation represented the heart of the community, every denomination embraced people who were not formal members but have grown up within the framework of that denomination. Because of family membership ties they ultimately lived out much of their lives as part of the community which the congregation has fostered.18
Thus every religious association became the heart of a larger religious community and took on certain characteristics that had not been considered the province of religion in traditional Protestantism. Gradually this led to a broader definition of religion. American Protestantism, with its strong Puritan and Calvinistic influences, has always tended to see the role of religion as something more than churchgoing, as something like a way of life, and has periodically emphasized its role in promoting social justice. American Jews as a community gained from this broadened definition, because it came closer to the Jewish conception of a religious community.
Jews far more than Christians use their synagogues and religious institutions as social rather than as religious centers in the usual sense of the world.19 The available evidence uniformly reveals that by and large Jews are far less observant than Christians when it comes to participation in worship.20 At the same time it is clear that synagogues and other institutions with a religious aura are doing relatively well within the Jewish community. As Marshall Sklare pointed out in the 1950s, they are doing well precisely because they serve social far more than religious purposes. Even the religious activities that go on within them -- primarily those revolving around the rites of passage that most Jewish families have maintained whatever their level of private observance -- tend to be more social than religious in character, offering families the opportunity to come together to extend their hospitality to friends and business associates. In most cases, the rites of passage do not generally include whole congregations, and the ceremonies themselves are not generally meaningful in a personal sense to any substantial number of the members. Rather, the synagogues function as service centers for member families and their friends.
All of this is still true for that part of the American population affiliated with churches or synagogues. Approximately half of Americans at any one given time are, and among Jews at least, some three-quarters are at one time or another in their lives; but since the 1960s there has been an increasing number of unaffiliated, or unaffiliated for longer periods of time. In the case of the gentiles, most of them seem to have abandoned their extended religious communities. Acculturation, migration and intermarriage have broken down the previously ethnic churches, many of which have even merged with one another to form larger denominations based on creedal considerations as their original ethnic character has diminished. Right after World War II, if not even earlier, among the upwardly mobile, the decision as to which church to join is often a function of secular reference group rather than religious community. Today the old ways are principally sustained by Protestant fundamentalists, for whom churches stand at the center of their lives. In this respect, Jews have probably changed least, since the synagogue remains for them an ethnic church and they still need the ancillary activities that it provides. Nevertheless, the support of the larger society for this pattern of affiliation has been lessened.
In emphasizing the more obvious social aspects of synagogue life in the United States today, people often overlook the fact that they also embrace social behavior that is essentially political in character. To the extent that congregations function as congregations, they are often fulfilling what are in reality political purposes, such as maintaining their organized activities (and by extension the organized life of the Jewish community), educating their young so as to perpetuate that community, supporting Israel, and making other similar responses to problems of the Jewish people as an entity -- all this in a society that severely limits overt corporate political activity by any of its communities. Handling the necessary and persistent tasks of political life in this way is both effective and socially acceptable.
The United States as a Pluralistic Society: Problems, Ironies, and Contradictions
When Judaism became a fully legitimate American religion after World War II, one of the three major faiths that were, and residually still are, the mainstays of the American way of life, it incurred responsibilities as well as benefits. The Jews themselves fostered much of this new climate by their own individual and organized efforts to escape from the segregationist limitations that had been placed upon them as individuals and as a community in the past. Since Judaism was one of the three religious pillars of American society, American demands were placed upon Jews as Jews, many of which gave them added opportunities to participate in American life while preserving their own special interests and identity. However, some of the demands could only weaken traditional aspects of the Jewish way of life.
As full-fledged Americans, Jews were expected to mix with other Americans without reservation, often to the detriment of the observance of the Sabbath and religious festivals and almost certainly, kashruth. For example, as Jews became involved in politics, the arts, and civic life, they found their Saturdays occupied in those general community activities. Increasingly, Jews were expcted to open up their own activities to non-Jews and to expose their internal life to the same scrutiny as any other institution in American society. Moreover, since Americans like to keep tabs on their institutions, a great deal of public, particularly journalistic, attention came to be devoted to probing aspects of Jewish communal life that Jews had never before been interested in sharing with non-Jews.
American society had, in effect, created preserves in the social and economic spheres allocated to one group or another. It is true that the choicest preserves were essentially reserved for the descendants of the original settlers of the United States or those who had migrated to this country before the Civil War. The Jews had their preserves, too, but they were lower in the hierarchy of social and economic influence. Through their "defense" organizations the Jews successfully conducted a massive assault against what they considered to be barriers to their progress toward full equality in American society, but success had its price. As Jews were admitted to executive suites they were expected to emulate the other occupants of those exalted quarters, that is, to become less obviously Jewish.
Despite all the benefits of the open American society, two immediate consequences of the legitimation accorded Jews and Judaism have not been favorable to the Jewish people as an entity. The increased propinquity of Jews and non-Jews in college and after, and the diminution of differences in their life-styles and thought patterns led to the exponential increase in intermarriage.21 Moreover, there is now far greater social assimilation even among those Jews who remain, in their own eyes, fully within the Jewish fold. For example, the differences in divorce rates, drinking and drug-taking habits, and juvenile delinquency that used to prevail between Jews and the general non-Jewish population are rapidly disappearing.22
Then, too, in the 1960s many Americans began to lose interest in their churches and in organized religion generally -- this despite record church efforts to come to grips with social and political problems. It was not that Americans were necessarily becoming less religious, but rather that many of them were looking to other quarters for substitutes for the faith of their fathers. This was particularly true among the young, but it had its repercussions among their elders as well. Interest in Eastern religions, mysticism, and even such phenomena as the belief in spirits and satanism flourished in what seemed to be, on one hand, a breaking away from traditional religion in favor of presumably more modern trends and, on the other, an outbreak of the kind of mythic thinking that has occurred in all monotheistic religions, including Judaism, from time to time.
As the membership rolls of Christian churches declined, so too did those of the synagogues. As religion became less important as a point of identification for the younger generation of American Jews, their ties to the Jewish people, which had been presented to them in their earlier years as being primarily religious in character, were correspondingly weakened. Unequipped to deal with anything like the full range of Jewish civilization, youth, once they began to lose interest in the ritual practices of the synagogue, had nothing left to tie them to the Jewish community.
The impact of this trend would have been much worse had there not been a parallel revival of interest in ethnicity at the same time. Young Jews whose parents had embraced the religious dimension of Jewish life in order to survive as Jews in the 1950s, regardless of how secular they may have felt at heart, now became interested in Jewish ethnicity as their means for securing Jewish survival. For some Jews this brought about serious changes in their lives. For many others their Jewish ethnicity manifested itself in the American way, that is to say, as a matter of family background and perhaps food preferences, but lacking any separate way of life, it simply freed them from the religious shackles that had prevented their parents from intermarrying and, even while feeling positively Jewish, they found non-Jewish partners whom they were reluctant to ask to convert because "everyone had a right to his or her own heritage and, in any case, we are not religious."
Jews were not the originators of this trend, but they soon were to be found among its leading proponents, finding in it a fortuitous means for self-perpetuation. In the last analysis, neither a religious nor an ethnic definition of Jewishness, it would seem, is sufficient in and of itself, and the external pressures for assimilation continue to grow. What seems to persist, however, no matter what form it takes, is the drive for associational links to Jewish life to replace those organic links lost in the process of modernization.
The somewhat ambiguous position of American Jewry is nowhere better illustrated than in the legal status of the American Jewish community and its institutions. Strictly speaking, American Jews have no separate legal status in the United States. American law is based on the premise that all citizens stand before it equally as individuals and are not recognized, a priori, as members of any ethnic, religious, or racial group. Nevertheless, such groups do exist, and people are born into them and must bear the sociological consequences that result from their particular heritage.
When it comes to correcting disabilities that may result from an individual's background, the law can be used as a neutral device to outlaw them. In the last 25 years, however, for the first time in American history, the law has also been used for "affirmative action," considered a means to overcome the disabilities of non-white minorities. This has meant that for the first time in American history American law has made racial and certain ethnic criteria relevant for seemingly positive reasons for what are essentially quotas. Jews, under this situation, are considered simply whites and therefore are disadvantaged by this effort.
Affirmative action has brought a certain confusion to the American Jewish community. On one hand, Jews understand that as a small but excelling minority, all quotas are disadvantageous to them. On the other, their concern for disadvantaged minorities leads many of them to support the idea that something formal be done to make it possible for them to overcome their disadvantages. Thus, the national Jewish community relations organizations have generally endorsed affirmative action, provided it has some cosmetic rejection of the word "quota," much to the disappointment of a good portion of the Jewish community who are willing to face this new reality squarely without trying to fool themselves as to where their own interests lie.
On the other hand, the Jews, as an identified group with its own institutions, do not have any greater legal status. However, they have acquired legal status as a matter of course, especially those who have chosen to affiliate with the community in some way, since legally everybody has to be somewhere. Thus over a period of time there has developed a de facto recognition of group identity in American law, generally based upon a clear affirmation of every American's right to choose to adhere to a particular group or not. Jewish organizations and institutions, for example, are incorporated under the appropriate provisions of state law, and their members can attempt to force them to live up to their legal responsibilities through civil courts. These responsibilities may include maintenance of specific Jewish ritual practices. For example, a synagogue that was established as an Orthodox institution, and has written into its charter or bylaws that it is to maintain Jewish tradition according to the Shulhan Arukh, may be forced by a state court to do so.
In the process, American courts may even be in a position of enforcing Jewish religious law as they interpret it. Some nineteen states have enacted legislation to assure consumers that food labeled kosher truly is. In defining what is kosher they explicitly rely upon Jewish law. In New York both the state and city governments maintain elaborate offices to assure compliance with their kashruth legislation. Challenged in the name of separation of church and state, the courts have ruled that the states are perfectly within their rights to enact and enforce such laws to maintain fair-marketing practices and that the matter has nothing to do with religion per se.
American courts enforce Jewish law in areas other than kashruth. For instance, a Jewish family in Michigan was compelled by a court to pay a pledge it had made for the construction of a synagogue, on the ground that Jewish religious law required the fulfillment of obligations. Many more such cases could be cited.
More recently, as a result of lobbying by organized Jewish Orthodoxy in New York State, the state courts have been empowered by law to require that in a divorce case the man must issue and the woman accept a get (a halakhic bill of divorcement) before their civil divorce is final, much to the dissatisfaction of the national Jewish community relations organizations who see this as a Jewish violation of the principle of separation of church and state.23
In at least one instance, American law literally defines a person's status. Adoption law in most states requires that children born of parents of a specific faith and put out for adoption or foster care must be placed with families of the same faith, whether or not the natural parents require it. Thus in at least that respect the law does recognize an organic Jewish tie. At the same time, the practice of accepted intergroup adoption is becoming more prevalent in many parts of the country.
All these seeming contradictions and ambiguities are quite tolerable in American society, where all Americans live under dual legal systems, state and federal, every day of their lives. In a case-law system, it is possible to make accommodations on the basis of specifics without laying down broad principles beforehand. While it is unlikely that American law will ever explicitly endow the Jews with a clear legal status as Jews, unless the country's constitutional system is radically transformed, their legal status as Jews is becoming increasingly institutionalized simply by virtue of their presence in American society.
The Problem of Peoplehood: The Unanticipated Polity
It is clear that American Jewry is left with a substantial problem: how to maintain itself as a people with a civilization of its own now that it has been reduced to the status of a "religion" or the possessor of an "ethnic heritage" in the public mind and in the minds of most Jews. Emancipation rendered the national status of world Jewry equivocal, with some Jews abandoning Judaism entirely, others ignoring the problem, and still others seeking national revival as the only proper way to achieve true emancipation. Jewish thinkers in the United States who understood that Jews could not take the first route and abandon all aspects of Judaism other than those associated with formal worship, and who certainly did not want to take the latter course (that is, to define themselves out of the American body politic and into a segregated existence), developed the idea of peoplehood. By advocating peoplehood they argued that Jews (and other ethnic groups) did not need to seek the full expression of autonomy implicit in the modern conception of nationalism to maintain their character as something more than a church.
Mordecai M. Kaplan, the great exponent of the concept of peoplehood in America and the person who most influenced the shape of American Jewish life for two generations, from before World War I to the 1960s, defined Judaism as the "evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people," stressing not only its religious character but its civilizational aspects.24 Since his definition emphasized the religious character of Judaism, it was fully consonant with American thought on the subject of religious pluralism; nor did the emphasis on Judaism's civilizational aspects necessarily go counter to American views.
Although Kaplan emphasized the necessity for Jews to live in two civilizations simultaneously, in practice most Jews did not want to do so. They were quite happy to be part of a religious group within American civilization and did not want to develop the civilizational aspects of Judaism in the United States. Thus the peoplehood of American Jewry became truncated, as Jews acculturated rapidly and began to confine the Jewish aspects of their lives to the same niches as did their Christian compatriots.
Jewish peoplehood was truncated but not eliminated, simply because the world around them did not let American Jews forget that they were connected to their fellow Jews in other parts of the world in ways that have relatively little to do with what Americans define as religion. First the tragedy of East European Jewry during World War I, then the Holocaust, and finally the rise of the State of Israel and its successive crises have awakened and activated feelings of Jewishness that greatly transcend the narrow definition of Judaism as a religion, thereby leaving American Jewry with a tremendous ambivalence as to the nature of Jewishness and their own relationship to it. The fact the some young American Jews today seem vitally concerned with Israel -- even to the point of taking up arms to defend its existence -- yet at the same time would not hesitate to marry outside the Jewish community, is only an extreme manifestation of this ambivalence.
In response, almost without knowing it and certainly without consciously planning it, the American Jewish community has organized itself politically to handle the tasks of survival and participation in the life of the world Jewish community. It has done so in ways that are unprecedented in Jewish history, utilizing devices that the leaders themselves do not recognize for what they are. In the process American Jews have created an unanticipated polity fully within the framework of American society, as Jewish in its commitments as any Jewish community in the past, yet as American as any other segment of the mosaic that is present-day America.
* Even the phrase, which is common enough in modern Jewish discourse, is rarely found in Christian discourse. There are distinct ways in which different people are Catholic or Protestant, but they have to do with the denominational and, more important, the ethnocultural factors that shape the various Catholic and Protestant subcommunities. Traditional discussions of these matters in America have tended to ignore worldly diversities and to assume that a certain universalism inheres in Catholicism or Protestantism that is, ipso facto, absent from Judaism.
1. Marshall Sklare explored this in depth in Jewish Identity on the Suburban Frontier: A Study of Group Survival in the Open Society, volume 1 of the Lakeville Studies, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979); Marshall Sklare, ed. Understanding American Jewry (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1982); and Marshall Sklare, Joseph Greenblum, and Benjamin B. Ringer, Not Quite at Home: How an American Jewish Community Lives with Itself and its Neighbors (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1969). See also Benjamin B. Ringer The Edge of Friendliness: A Study of Jewish-Gentile Relations, volume 2 of the Lakeville Studies (New York: Basic Books, 1967).
In keeping with the spirit of American society, formal association with the institutions and organizations of the Jewish community has increasingly become the measure of Jewish attachment in the United States. When Jews lived in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, formal affiliation was less necessary, but with the dispersal of the Jewish population, acts of association become vital. This is true of American Christians as well. In the nineteenth century when the United States was a far more religious society in its spirit and behavior than it is today, church membership was quite low. It was only in the twentieth century, after the society became more secular, that those who wished to demonstrate their religious commitment had to join churches to do so.
In the 1970s and 1980s, social scientific studies of Jewish behavior suggested that at least two-thirds of all American Jews sent their children to some kind of Jewish school at some time during their lives and contributed to Jewish philanthropies. At any particular time, some 50 percent claim synagogue membership; that percentage is even higher among parents of school-age children. Overall, 75 percent claim to have been synagogue members at one time or another in their lives. See, among others, Sidney Goldstein, "Profile of American Jewry: Insights from the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey," American Jewish Year Book, 1992 (New York and Philadelphia: American Jewish Committee and Jewish Publication Society, 1992), pp. 128-138; Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1983); Sidney Goldstein and Calvin Goldscheider, Jewish Americans: Three Generations in a Jewish Community (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968). See also the various demographic studies of local communities cited in Appendix C.
In the 1990 national Jewish population survey, only 54 percent of the core Jews responding had made contributions to Jewish causes the previous year. Twenty-eight percent reported belonging to one or more Jewish organizations other than a congregation, and only 13 percent belonged to two or more. Thirty-nine percent of households claimed congregational affiliation. Once again, there were higher levels of affiliation among families with young children. The highest degree of congregational affiliation was found in communities like Minneapolis, Nashville, Rochester, St. Paul and Seattle, all medium-sized communities with very stable Jewish populations. Jewish organizational affiliation was highest in Rochester and St. Louis (Tobin and Libsman, 1984). Affiliation was lowest among single adults under the age of 35, older retirees, and low-income Jews living in large cities or sunbelt communities to which they had retired. Affiliation is also very low among the intermarried, even where conversion has taken place, and among recent migrants to the western and southwestern parts of the Sunbelt. See National Jewish Population Study and Survey (New York: Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, 1974 and 1990).
The basic point of community affiliation was with the congregation. Thirty-six percent of adults reported feelings of attachment to a local synagogue. The Jewish community federation attracted 9 percent and 10 percent joined Jewish community centers. Those who are members were more likely to volunteer for Jewish service.
In a study undertaken for the American Jewish Committee, Renae Cohen and Sherry Rosen surveyed a national sample of 1,600 self-identified Jews from a consumer fail sample. Their panel turned out to closely parallel what we know about the American Jewish community from other sources and was more Jewish than the Jewish population survey panels. Seventy percent reported that they affiliated with the overall Jewish community in some way: half by contributing money to a Jewish organization other than a synagogue, 48 percent by belonging to a congregation, and 33 percent by belonging to a Jewish organization other than a congregation; approximately the same percentage indicated that they attended meetings or functions in such organizations, and about one-fifth indicated that they did volunteer work for Jewish organizations other than a synagogue, while 9 percent reported that they held office in some Jewish organization other than a congregation. See Renae Cohen and Sherry Rosen, Organizational Affiliation of American Jews, A Research Report (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1992).
2. For a discussion of the modern epoch as a three-century phenomenon, see Daniel J. Elazar, Cities of the Prairie (New York: Basic Books, 1970), introduction and appendix; and The American Mosaic (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993).
3. Jacob Katz discusses the initial impact of this change in Tradition and Crisis (New York: Free Press, 1961), while Milton Himmelfarb assesses the consequence of modernity for contemporary American Jews in The Jews of Modernity (New York: Basic Books, 1973). See also Calvin Goldscheider and Alan S. Zuckerman, The Transformation of the Jews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984); Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1983); Steven M. Cohen and Leonard Fein, "From Integration to Survival: American Jewish Anxieties in Transition," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Scientists 480 (July 1985).
4. In recent years there have been a number of new American Jewish histories published. See the five-volume work edited by Henry Feingold, issued by the American Jewish Historical Society, The Jewish People in America (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992); Jonathan D. Sarna, ed., The American Jewish Experience (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1986); Abraham J. Karp, Haven and Home: A History of the Jews in America (New York: Schocken Books, 1985); Howard Morley Sachar, A History of the Jews in America (New York: Knopf, 1992); Marc Lee Raphael, ed., Jews and Judaism in the United States: A Documentary History (New York: Behrman House, 1983); Lucy S. Dawidowicz, On Equal Terms: Jews in America, 1881-1981 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984); Hyman Bogomolny Grinstein, A Short History of the Jews in the United States (London, New York: Soncino, 1980); Jacob Rader Marcus, United States Jewry, 1776-1985 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989); Henry L. Feingold, Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1981); Irving J. Sloan, ed. and comp., The Jews in America, 1621-1977: A Chronology and Fact Book (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1978).
Two older works include Anita Libman Lebeson, Pilgrim People (New York: Harper, 1950) and Oscar Handlin, Adventure in Freedom: Three Hundred Years of Jewish Life in America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1954), both prepared before the 1954 tercentenary of the original settlement. Abraham Karp has edited the five-volume The Jewish Experience in America (New York: Ktav, 1969), a collection of articles originally published in the American Jewish Historical Quarterly that covers the range of American Jewish history.
For a study of Jewish acquisition of full civil rights in the United States, see Jacob Rader Marcus, Early American Jewry (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1953). Ben Halpern evaluates the meaning of this openness in American Jewry: A Zionist Analysis (New York: Herzl Press, 1956).
5. Daniel J. Elazar, Jonathan D. Sarna and Rela Geffen Monson, eds., A Double Bond: The Constitutional Documents of American Jewry (Jerusalem and Lanham, MD: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and University Press of America, 1992).
6. Charles Liebman analyzes this in The Ambivalent American Jew (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1973). See also Daniel J. Elazar, "The Kenites of America," Tradition (Fall 1967).
7. For a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of mythic versus nonmythic world views, see Henri Frankfort, Before Philosophy (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967). Yehezkel Kaufmann treats the problem from the perspective of Israel's monotheistic revolution in The Religion of Israel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), a one-volume abridgment of his great eight-volume Hebrew work, Toldot HaEmunah HaYisraelit, selected and translated by Moshe Greenberg.
8. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (1835), introduction.
9. Halpern, American Jewry.
10. See, for example, Lloyd Warner, American Life -- Dream and Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1953).
11. Steven M. Cohen, The Dimensions of Jewish Liberalism (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1989). See also Ruth R. Wisse, If I Am Not For Myself...The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews (New York: Free Press, 1992).
12. Peter Y. Medding, Transformation of American Jewish Politics (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1989).
13. Daniel J. Elazar, ed., The New Jewish Politics (Lanham, Md.: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and University Press of America, 1988); and Marvin J. Feuerwerger, Congress and Israel, 1969-1976 (Westport: Leland Press, 1979).
14. Moshe Davis, "Centres of Jewry in the Western Hemisphere -- A Comparative Approach," Jewish Journal of Sociology 5, no. 1 (June 1963):4-26.
15. The liberal tradition in America is analyzed by Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America, 2nd ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1991). Liebman traces contradictory Jewish trends in The Ambivalent American Jew (Ch. 7, pp. 135-160). See also Himmelfarb, The Jews of Modernity; Steven M. Cohen, The Dimensions of American Jewish Liberalism (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1989); relevant selections in Zvi Gittleman, ed., The Quest for Utopia: Jewish Political Ideas and Institutions through the Ages (Armonk, NJ: M.E. Sharpe, 1992); Peter Y. Medding, "Towards a General Theory of Jewish Political Interests and Behavior," in Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Kinship and Consent: The Jewish Political Tradition and Its Contemporary Uses (Ramat Gan and Philadelphia: Turtledove Publishing, 1981), pp. 313-343; Chaim I. Waxman, America's Jews in Transition (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983); Peter Y. Medding, The Transformation of American Jewish Politics (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1989); Peter Y. Medding, ed., Studies in Contemporary Jewry: A New Jewry? American Since the Second World War, vol. VIII (October 1992) (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Charles S. Liebman and Steven M. Cohen, Two Worlds: The Israeli and American Experiences (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), Chapter 5; Jonathan S. Woocher, "Are American Jews Becoming Conservatives and Should They? Reflections after the 1980 Elections," Jerusalem Letter, VP15 (1981); Calvin Goldscheider and Alan S. Zuckerman, The Transformation of the Jews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984).
16. The classic statement is that of Horace M. Kallen in "Cultural Pluralism versus the Melting Pot," The Nation 100, no. 190-94 (February 18-25, 1915):217-220.
17. See Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1960).
18. See Gerhard Lenski, The Religious Factor (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963).
19. See Sklare, Jewish Identity.
20. Patterns of Jewish religious observance in the postwar generation are profiled in the following sources, among others: Sidney Goldstein, "Profile of American Jewry: Insights from the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey," American Jewish Year Book, 1992 (New York and Philadelphia: American Jewish Committee and Jewish Publication Society, 1992), pp. 128-138; Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1983); Charles S. Liebman and Stuart M. Cohen, Two Worlds of Judaism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990); Abraham G. Duker, "Religious Trends in American Jewish Life," YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Science 4 (1949); Sidney Goldstein and Calvin Goldscheider, Jewish Americans: Three Generations in a Jewish Community (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968); National Jewish Population Study and Survey (New York: Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, 1974 and 1990). See also the various demographic studies of local communities cited in Appendix C.
21. For more extensive exploration of this problem, see Peter Y. Medding, Gary A. Tobin, Sylvia Barack Fishman and Mordechai Rimor, "Jewish Identity in Conversionary and Mixed Marriages," American Jewish Year Book, 1992, pp. 3-76; Sidney Goldstein, "Profile of American Jewry: Insights from the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey," American Jewish Year Book, 1992, pp. 128-138; The Intermarriage Crisis: Jewish Communal Perspectives and Responses (New York: American Jewish Committee, William Petschek National Jewish Family Center, 1991). A collection of thirteen varied viewpoints on the problem; Nathan Glazer, New Perspectives in American Jewish Sociology (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1987); Calvin Goldscheider, Jewish Continuity and Change, Emerging Patterns in America (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1986); Steven M. Cohen, American Assimilation or Jewish Revival? (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988); Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1983); Barry A. Kosmin, Nava Lerer and Egon Mayer, Intermarriage...Divorce and Remarriage Among American Jews, 1982-87 (New York: North American Jewish Data Bank, 1989); Egon Mayer, Love and Tradition: Marriage between Jews and Christians (New York: Plenum Press, 1985); Paul and Rachel Cowan, Mixed Blessings: Marriage between Jews and Christians (New York: Penguin Books, 1987); Susan Weidman Schneider, Intermarriage: The Challenge of Living with Differences between Christians and Jews (New York: Free Press, 1989); Egon Mayer, "Processes and Outcomes in Marriages between Jews and Non-Jews," American Behavioral Scientist 23, no. 4 (March/April 1980):518-587; Steven M. Cohen, "Reason for Optimism," in Steven M. Cohen and Charles S. Liebman, The Quality of Jewish Life -- Two Views (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1987), pp. 13-17, 26-27; Egon Mayer and Carl Sheingold, Intermarriage and the Jewish Future: A National Study in Summary (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1979); Sergio Della Pergola and Usiel O. Schmelz, "Demographic Transformations of American Jewry: Marriage and Mixed Marriage in the 1980s," and "American Jewish Marriages: Transformation and Erosion -- A Rejoinder to Calvin Goldscheider," in Studies in Contemporary Jewry 5, ed. Peter Y. Medding (New York and Oxford, 1989):169-200, 209-214; Calvin Goldscheider, "American Jewish Marriages: Erosion or Transformation?" Studies in Contemporary Jewry 5, 201-208.
22. The present state of the American Jewish family is discussed in Steven M. Cohen and Paula E. Hyman, eds., The Jewish Family, Myths and Reality (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1986); Peter Y. Medding, Gary A. Tobin, Sylvia Barack Fishman, and Mordechai Rimor, "Jewish Identity in Conversionary and Mixed Marriages," American Jewish Year Book, 1992; Gerald B. Bubis, Saving the Jewish Family: Myths and Realities in the Diaspora, Strategies for the Future (Jerusalem and Lanham, MD: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and University Press of America, 1987) has an extensive bibliography of over 1,200 entries; Steven M. Cohen, "The Jewish Family Today," American Jewish Year Book, 1982, pp. 136-154; Steven M. Cohen and P.E. Hyman, eds., The Evolving Jewish Family (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1983); Steven M. Cohen, Alternative Families in the Jewish Community: Singles, Single Parents, Childless Couples, and Mixed-Marrieds (New York: American Jewish Committee, William Petschek National Jewish Family Center, 1989); Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1983) and American Assimilation or Jewish Revival? (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988).
The drug problem is symptomatic of recent trends toward the disintegration of traditional Jewish values among American Jews. See, for example, Stephen J. Levy and Sheila B. Blume, eds., Addictions in the Jewish Community (New York: Commission on Synagogue Relations of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, 1986).
23. See New York Magazine, January 25, 1993, p. 43; New York Law Journal, January 22, 1988 and March 20, 1992; The Jewish Press, July 10-16, 1992 and November 6, 1992.
24. Mordecai M. Kaplan, Judaism as a Civilization (New York: Reconstructionist Press, 1957). See also his The Future of the American Jew (New York: Macmillan, 1948).