Chein, Isidor

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CHEIN, ISIDOR (1912–1981), U.S. psychologist. Chein was a research worker in the psychological aspects of social problems such as intergroup relations and narcotic addiction. He wrote The Road to H: Narcotics, Delinquency, and Social Policy (1964) and The Science of Behavior and the Image of Man (1972).

His articles on the adverse effects of segregation were quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its desegregation decision of 1954. Chein was the associate director of research for the Commission on Community Interrelations of the American Jewish Congress (1949–52). He was also a council member of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (1959–61) and served as its president from 1961 to 1962. In 1975 he was honored with the spssi's annual Lewin Memorial Award for "outstanding contributions to the development and integration of psychological research and social action."

Chein wrote about the place of the Jew in pluralistic American society. He advocated Jewish participation in institutional settings, such as integrated housing and hospitals, to avoid divisiveness or a sense of separateness, but he supported separation in matters uniquely religious. He wrote, "Our goal is a feeling of Jewish identification which is integrated with the best values of American culture and which opposes both assimilation and ghettoism." He was strongly in favor of multiple group membership as well, writing: "Opportunities for Jews to participate as Jews in affairs which are of concern to the general community – e.g., in working for specific civil rights programs – should be developed and exploited…. It helps the person to feel that being a Jew does not prevent him from participating as an individual in the broader grouping, and hence eliminates a barrier to a feeling of dual membership." He also promoted Jews' working on behalf of social justice for other ethnocultural and religious communities as well as their own. This, he felt, was possible only from the secure position of belonging to one's own group.

Chein's works on identity were found mainly in Jewish publications, as working documents for cci, or as talks given to Jewish community center workers, parents, educators, and social workers. Most of them remain unpublished.

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]