United States of America
United States of America
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA , country in N. America.
This article is arranged according to the following outline:Introduction
Colonial Era, 1654–1776
Early National Period, 1776–1820
German Jewish Period, 1820–1880
East European Jewish Period, 1880–1930s
From the New Deal to the Rise of the State of Israel, 1932–1948
The Cold War Era, 1950s–1980s
The Contemporary Period, 1980s–2000s
American Antisemitism in Historical Perspective
United States-Israel Relations
American Jewish history is the product of a unique New World environment. It is also the outcome of centuries of social, religious, cultural, and political developments that reflect the myriad complexity and cross-currents of the history of East and West in the modern era, including the distinctive role played by the Jews in a variety of Christian and Islamic host societies and settings. This article traces the evolution and shaping of American Jewish life over time, from the colonization of North America in the early 17th century to the present age. It highlights broad themes and major topics in the American Jewish experience, examines divergent attitudes and perspectives on American Judaism, and investigates critical historical junctures in the relationship between the Jews and American society.
To understand the nature of American Jewish society and how American Jewry has organized itself for local, national, and international purposes, several factors specific to this continental community must be borne in mind. First, it is important to note the relative youth of American Jewry, a post-emancipationist community virtually devoid of persecution and expulsion, themes of special significance in the history of Jewish civilization. The overwhelming majority of today's American Jews date their arrival or that of their ancestors in America to the turn of the 19th century, the era in which czarist Russia's severe legal restrictions and widespread pogroms in Eastern Europe triggered the relocation of millions of Jews to Western Europe, Ottoman Palestine, and North and South America. To be sure, the first 23 Jews to settle in North America arrived in New Amsterdam (later New York) in 1654, but until the middle of the 19th century the total number of Jews in the United States was relatively sparse, especially in comparison to the vast numbers that arrived between 1881 and 1924.
A distinctive historical paradox of American Jewish life is that it tends toward being both chaotically over-organized and lacking in any central organizational structure. In fact, American Jewish life is typified by decentralization and competition in the marketplace of ideas over the direction of its communal agenda, and there has never been a figure (such as a chief rabbi) or group (such as the French General Assembly of Jews in the Napoleonic era) that can speak authoritatively for the entire Jewish community on social, religious, political, and philanthropic issues. The Council of Jewish Federations, an umbrella framework of Jewish Federations from across the country, wields considerable authority in regional affairs and often seeks to influence matters of domestic and international policy. Meanwhile, a host of formidable countrywide membership organizations have grown over time to exercise a profound impact on American, Israeli, and global Jewish affairs. This is true of the secular arena – consider, for example, the variety of non-religious American Jewish activity represented by the *American Israel Public Affairs Committee (aipac), the *Anti-Defamation League, *Hadassah, the *Jewish Labor Committee, the *National Jewish Democratic Council, the *Republican Jewish Coalition, and the *World Jewish Congress – and the religious spectrum demarcated by the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogue movements. Competition among and between these and other branches of institutional American Jewish life can be vigorous, especially in matters of theology, community relations, and philanthropy.
There have been frequent attempts in the United States to establish a central representative authoritative body of American Jews as well as strong counter pressure to preserve fragmentation, local autonomy, with large segments of the community refusing to become a part of any central organization. The impulse towards unification of the wider American Jewish community in the 20th century manifested itself in the *American Jewish Congress of 1917 and the *American Jewish Conference of 1943–45 and later in frameworks such as the *Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, and the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations. More recently, the *United Jewish Communities was created in 1999 out of a merger of the Council of Jewish Federations, the United Jewish Appeal, and the United Israel Appeal to mobilize the energies of the American Jewish community. At the dawn of the 21st century, the United Jewish Communities constituted the fifth largest charity in the country, with a combined income of over $2.2 billion.
That no centralized authority exists in American Jewish life is, in large measure, a reflection of the anti-hierarchical model of American society as a whole. To borrow a phrase coined by the historian Ben Halpern, "America is different" in numerous ways, not only in size and age but, most importantly, in the absence of any established church or governmental recognition or support of religion. This is markedly unlike other host societies in Europe and the Middle East where there are long histories of officially recognized Jewish Kultusgemeindes, chief rabbis, and other spokespeople. The American constitutional system has hallowed the separation of powers and the ban on any support of religious activities, which is strictly monitored by the courts and other organizations, including many Jewish organizations, for any incursion of government involvement in religious concerns. The American tradition does not recognize the perpetuation of separate ethnic or linguistic communities such as exist in Canada. This is one of the reasons for the lack of a religious census taken as part of the decennial census as well as the absence of definitive data about the size of the Jewish population in the United States. The estimate over the past 40 years has usually hovered around six million American Jews.
Many factors have contributed to the remarkable progress of the American Jewish community in almost every area of Jewish concern from the decline of antisemitism, the explosion of Jewish affluence, the emergence of higher institutions of Jewish learning and educational institutions, from elementary to post-graduate, to the growing influence and support of the community for Israel both politically and materially. It is hard to determine the extent to which the impact of the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel have contributed to the makeup of contemporary American Jewish life. Undoubtedly, both events were significant in reinforcing American Jews in their determination not to allow the repetition of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s when the United States stood by as European Jewry (one-third of the modern Jewish world) was destroyed by the Nazi regime.
In the three centuries since Jews first set foot on American soil – and roughly a century after the United States was but a distant, numerically insignificant outpost of the Jewish people – American Jewry has attained robust proportions, prosperity, cultural eminence, and political prestige. Humanitarianism, skill at organization, liking for innovation, and confidence in unlimited social and material improvement profoundly influenced the American Jewish experience. Such growth and achievements found no precedent in the history of the Jews, just as those of the United States itself were unparalleled. In post-emancipationist America – essentially devoid of feudal, aristocratic, and clerical roots – most of the legal and social problems that preoccupied European Jewry during and long after its era of emancipation were pointless. Discussions of Jewish status in the United States have sometimes had an apprehensive tone and antisemitism palpably existed. But American Jews, shaped in part by a continent-wide society composed of many religions and ethnic groups, has largely lacked the sense of the historical problematics that for centuries permeated Jewish life in Europe and the Islamic world. In American life, the Jewish role has been far in excess of the small Jewish percentage of the population. Only the State of Israel has played a greater role than its American counterpart in the transformation of the Jewish people in the modern period.
the puritan setting
The Hebrew Bible influenced the Pilgrims' journey from their native England to the new "Promised Land." The élan vital of the Pilgrim voyage was the profoundly biblical perception of a supernatural orientation to human history. After fleeing England, the "Separatists" (as the Pilgrims were known to their contemporaries) sojourned in Leyden, Holland. Before long, however, they began to fear that their children might be assimilated into the alien environment, and the group decided to resume its voyage to America without further delay. When this assemblage, The Scrooby Congregation, was ready to depart for the new land, the members fasted in a manner reminiscent of the ancient Israelites. Once settled in America, the custom was retained and frequently renewed. Early in 1620, the very year of the Pilgrims' landing in the new Plymouth, a solemn day of prayer was observed. This custom, combining prayer and fasting with biblical readings on important occasions, persisted at least until 1774, when Massachusetts declared a solemn day of prayer and fasting after the passage of the Intolerance Acts by the British Parliament. As late as 1800, President John Quincy Adams likewise called for a national day of prayer and fasting during the Napoleonic Wars. English colonists possessed of a similar sensibility soon followed in the footsteps of the pioneering Pilgrims. They, too, were impelled to forsake their native land owing to the political and religious persecution they endured under the prevailing ecclesiastical and civil authorities in England.
Of equal significance is the fact that the Puritan voyages to America were also part of a commercial phenomenon. The Endicott group, for instance, among the first to be sent to New England in 1628, was organized and financed entirely by a commercial concern established by English Puritans with the practical aim of turning a profit. Although it is difficult to disentangle the diverse strands woven into the Puritan effort to establish a new society, the two different elements – the search for religious liberty and the rise of capitalist enterprise – should be kept in mind when the colonization of North America is assessed.
In 1630 John Winthrop led the next major group of Puritan settlers to arrive in New England. He brought with him an organized form of government that attempted to fuse diverse political, social, and religious elements. The Massachusetts Bay Colony founded by Winthrop was ruled initially by an oligarchy of leading Puritan families, whose natural instrument of rule – since the colony itself was based on biblical principles and was moved by the Puritan spirit of the Scriptures – was the Holy Bible. The Puritans wholeheartedly believed it was their special mission to establish in America a society modeled on the precepts of Sacred Scripture. While there is considerable debate over whether the society established in the new colony was in effect a theocracy, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was at the very least a state inspired by and thoroughly devoted to the Bible.
The Puritans in coming to America believed they were entering a wilderness ruled by Satan and his attendant forces of idolatry, and they felt it their sacred duty to secure the rule of God in this latter-day Canaan. The Puritans' conviction that they were the Lord's chosen people redivivus, and, as such, partners in a new covenant with Him, pervaded every aspect of colonial life, political as well as religious. This had a twofold effect. First, it distinguished them from other Christian sects in the New World; the well-known intolerance of the Massachusetts colony stemmed directly from this fervent belief in their divine election. Secondly, it reinforced their sense of autonomy from England; the Puritans were certain they had been led to America at God's express command, and that their successes were the direct result and special sign of divine favor, protection, and guidance. This prevailing belief found expression and confirmation in the Synod of 1679, which declared "the ways of God towards this His people are in many respects like unto His dealings with Israel of old. It was a great and high undertaking of our fathers when they ventured themselves and their little ones upon the rude waves of the vast ocean, that so they might follow the Lord into this land."
The Scriptures were not simply left to the clergy but also read and studied by the laity who related the Bible to their New World experience. Such active lay participation and control in matters that were not the ordinary concern of lay members of a church in Europe was due to the dominant role the laity generally played within the larger Puritan religious establishment. The New England "meeting house" was consciously modeled on the synagogue, serving as the central place of learning as well as the social center of the community. The emergent spiritual sensibility in the colonies had political implications as well. The Puritan practice of restricting political rights to Church members was justified by reference to the Hebrew Bible. If worldly men were electors, wrote John Cotton, they "would as readily set over us magistrates like themselves, such as might hate us according to the curse" (Lev. 26:17). A curious but illuminating sidelight of the conception of the Bible as a living document was the Puritan proclivity to view the indigenous Native American population as remnants of the "ten lost tribes of Israel."
Such conscious analogy with the Hebrew Bible was a regular feature of Puritan thinking in New England. If Israel had its Pharaoh, the Puritans had their King James I. The Atlantic Ocean was their Red Sea, America their Promised Land, and the "founding fathers" their Moses and Joshua. Such analogies came naturally to a people who so thoroughly incorporated the Bible into their lives. Accordingly, the first settlers in New England called themselves "Christian Israel."
The names of early cities, towns and settlements likewise derived from Hebraic sources. The names Salem (peace), Bethlehem (house of bread), and countless others bear witness to this phenomenon. For example, the name Nahumkeik, conferred upon the later Salem plantation original settlement in 1628, was clearly of Hebraic origin. It derived, according to Cotton Mather, from the combination of two Hebrew words, naum (comfort or consolation) and keik (haven): "And our English not only found in it an Haven of Comfort, but happened also to put an Hebrew name upon it; for they called it Salem for the peace which they had and hoped in it; and so it was called unto this day."
The practice of investing the strange New World environment with the more familiar nomenclature of the Bible was widespread in colonial America and continued for many generations. Very often, names were chosen because the implications they carried or the impression they conveyed seemed appropriate to the chosen site. Thus one minister chose the name "Rehoboth," meaning "the Lord hath made room." Names such as Goshen, Canaan, and Sharon were probably selected because they suggested rich valleys or lush plains. Many early American towns – Bethesda, Bethany, Zion, to mention but a few – received their biblical names in this way, and the custom continued throughout the country's history. The rugged terrain of the New World filled the early settlers with awe, and the names of many biblical heights were eventually bestowed upon the great mountains of America, e.g., Mount Carmel, Mount Horeb, Mount Nebo, etc.
That the early settlers showed an active interest in Hebrew language and nomenclature should not be surprising. Cotton Mather, to cite only one example, was extremely preoccupied with Hebrew. He reportedly began studying Hebrew grammar at the age of twelve and likewise taught his eldest daughter, Katherine, to read Hebrew. Hebrew words and phrases are found throughout his writings. In general, the Puritans drew inspiration from the Hebrew Bible and interpreted it to serve their own peculiar needs, often in an arbitrary fashion. Biblical Judaism thus served as a touchstone for America's early settlers, and it was this spirit that infused the colonization of the New World with intense religious devotion.
arrival of jews in north america
After the medieval Crusades, European Jewish immigration moved eastward to Poland, but with anti-Jewish hostilities in the east, culminating in the *Chmielnicki uprising of 1648, the pendulum swung westward. Meanwhile, the Spanish *Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497 prompted a transcontinental Jewish migration from the Iberian peninsula to Holland and England. Thus as the modern age dawned, Jews began rejuvenating their communities in Central and Western Europe.
Induced by the commercial and industrial revolutions and the exploitation of the Americas in this period, a relatively small number of Jews sought the opportunities of the Western Hemisphere. For those who did, the prime motivation was economic. One result was the establishment of a Jewish community in the Dutch colony of Pernambuco (*Recifé) in northeastern Brazil. With the recapture by the Portuguese of Dutch colonies in Brazil, the local Sephardi Jewish community disbanded. Not only did the Jews wish to flee from the Inquisition, but they also feared Portuguese retribution for having aided the Dutch in the development of the colonies. Those with means escaped to Amsterdam and London, but a small boatload of 23 Jewish refugees eventually landed in Dutch-controlled New Amsterdam aboard the St. Charles. The New Holland colony was small, with a population of approximately 750 persons, but it was also highly cosmopolitan. There the Jewish refugees expected to find a haven. However, though technically Dutch subjects, Peter Stuyvesant, former director of the Dutch West India Company's colony in Curaçao in 1643–1644 and now governor of New Amsterdam, denied the Jews entry to the colony. In a letter dated September 22, 1654, Stuyvesant wrote a letter of protest to the Amsterdam Chamber, the most significant of the Dutch West India Company's five chambers of directors. He argued that the Jews would defile the colony.
The Jews who have arrived would nearly all like to remain here, but learning that they (with their customary usury and deceitful trading with the Christians) were very repugnant to the inferior magistrates, as also to the people having the most affection for you; the Deaconry also fearing that owing to their present indigence they might become a charge in the coming winter, we have, for the benefit of this weak and newly developing place and the land in general, deemed it useful to require them in a friendly way to depart; praying also most seriously in this connection, for ourselves as also for the general community of your worships, that the deceitful race – such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ – be not allowed further to infect and trouble this new colony, to the detraction of your worships and the dissatisfaction of your worships' most affectionate subjects.
Meanwhile, Amsterdam Jewry interceded vigorously on behalf of the St. Charles refugees. In January 1655 the Jewish community submitted a petition to the company's Amsterdam Chamber. They explained that the Jewish colonists had shed their blood to defend the Dutch possessions in Brazil, that the French and English allowed Jews in their colonies, and that there were several Jews among the company's "principal shareholders." They argued, correctly, that Holland's Jews enjoyed greater freedoms than Jews anywhere else. Their concerns were no doubt informed by a reflexive effort to protect their own liberties. In the event, the vigorous intercession of Amsterdam Jewry, Dutch fear of English competition, and the imperatives of mercantilism impelled the Dutch West India Company's board of directors to reject Stuyvesant's request. In a reply to Stuyvesant dated April 26, 1655 permission for the Jews to remain in New Amsterdam was grudgingly given.
Honorable, Prudent, Pious, Dear, Faithful [Stuyvesant]… We would have liked to effectuate and fulfill your wishes and request that the new territories should no more be allowed to be infected by people of the Jewish nation, for we foresee there-from the same difficulties which you fear. But after having further weighed and considered the matter, we observe this would be somewhat unreasonable and unfair, especially because of the considerable loss sustained by this nation, with others, in the [Portuguese re-]taking of Brazil, as also because of the large amount of capital they still have invested in the shares of this company. Therefore after many deliberations we have finally decided and resolved to apostille upon a certain petition presented by said Portuguese Jews that these people may travel and trade to and in New Netherland and live and remain there, provided the poor among them shall not become a burden to the company or to the community, but be supported by their own nation. You will now govern yourself accordingly.
The utilitarian rationale of the bigoted Dutch West India Company stemmed from the directors' overriding concern with the manufacture of raw goods, their consumption, and the quest for Dutch mercantile supremacy over their Western competitors. True to the mercantilist spirit of the age, they placed a premium on turning a profit rather than the character of the emerging North American colony. Stuyvesant, however, whose life was impacted by events thousands of miles from the mother country, viewed matters differently. "To give liberty to the Jews will be very detrimental there," he argued on October 30, 1655, "because the Christians there will not be able at the same time to do business. Giving them liberty, we cannot refuse the Lutherans and Papists." In time, he reluctantly acquiesced and the Jews gained a foothold in New Amsterdam. Although Stuyvesant subjected the Jewish newcomers to numerous and severe disabilities, by 1657 their lot had improved considerably and they were able to carry on as traders with little hindrance. Yet in a very few years the new Jewish community began to fade because of larger opportunities in other parts of the Atlantic Basin, especially in the West Indies. By the early 1660s the New Amsterdam Jewish community was moribund.
jewish life in the english colonies
In 1664 the English eliminated the Dutch wedge between Long Island and Maryland by conquering the province of New Netherland. Henceforth New Amsterdam was known as New York. Under the English, synagogue communities were established in six towns: *Montreal, *Newport, *New York, *Philadelphia, *Charleston, South Carolina, and *Savannah. Except for Montreal, all were in the tidewater, where most Jews lived. By 1700 there were at most 200 to 300 Jews in the country; by 1776, about 2,500. Up to 1720 the majority of the Jews were of Spanish-Portuguese provenance; after that year Central and East European Jews predominated, although they accepted the Sephardi minhag (custom). Many of the Ashkenazim who landed in North America came by way of England, where they had learned some English and had even Anglicized their names. When the Dutch left in 1664, the few Jews in New Amsterdam were not allowed, officially at least, to practice a craft or to sell at retail. They could hold no public religious services and, of course, no honorific offices. Conditions under the English changed for the better. By 1700 Jews were permitted to sell at retail, to practice crafts, and to worship openly. In New York City and in other places they were compelled to support the established churches. In a few colonies they were granted the franchise, certainly in town elections; nowhere however could they hold office, except onerous positions, such as that of constable. Shortly thereafter, however, the British authorities, more liberal than the colonists themselves and eager to further intercolonial trade, passed the British Naturalization Act of 1740.
An act for naturalizing such foreign Protestants, and others therein mentioned, as are settled or shall settle, in any of His Majesty's colonies in America….
Whereas the increase of people is a means of advancing the wealth and strength of any nation or country;
And whereas many foreigners and strangers, from the lenity of our government, the purity of our religion, the benefit of our laws, the advantages of our trade, and the security of our property, might be induced to come and settle in some of His Majesty's colonies in America, if they were made partakers of the advantages and privileges which the natural born subjects of this realm do enjoy; Be it therefore enacted by the King's Most Excellent majesty… all persons… who have inhabited and resided, or shall inhabit or reside for the space of seven years or more, in any of His Majesty's colonies in America… and shall take and subscribe the oaths… shall be deemed, adjudged, and taken to be His majesty's Natural born subjects of this kingdom….
Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that whenever any person professing the Jewish religion shall present himself to take the said oath of abjuration in pursuance of this act, the said words – "upon the true faith of a Christian" – shall be omitted out of the said oath… shall be deemed a sufficient taking of the said oaths, in order to intitle such a person to the benefit of being naturalized by virtue of this act….
The naturalization law did not confer any political rights on colonial Jews. Indeed, Jews would not gain equality until the American Revolution. However, the British act did permit Jews to carry on trade anywhere in the empire. This was an important gain and it opened the door to the Jewish community's economic advancement.
Rare individuals like Francis Salvador were planters; a few were farmers, and some in Georgia ran cattle in the pine barrens. A considerable number were artisans, tailors, soapmakers, distillers, tobacconists, saddlers, bakers, and silversmiths. The economic aristocrats were the army purveyors who provisioned the British armies on the North American continent. During the frequent wars Jews also engaged in privateering. These economic activities were exceptional, however, since the typical Jew in the coastal plains was a small shopkeeper selling hardware, dry goods, and liquors. If successful, the Jew became a merchant or merchant shipper, engaged in retailing, wholesaling, commission sales, importing, and exporting. Moses Franks is an outstanding example in this regard. A talented and successful entrepreneur, Franks' fortune stemmed from speculation in the western region of the Illinois territory. His considerable business dealings with the British crown eventually impelled him to relocate to London, where he became a prominent merchant, shipowner, and financial investor. Like Franks, most Jews were exporters, limited primarily to the British Empire by the Trade and Navigation Acts, and they exchanged raw materials for English consumer wares. Jews also played a significant role in the sale of American provisions to the West Indies in exchange for molasses and rum. A merchant shipper like Aaron *Lopez of Rhode Island, who was denied naturalization in 1762, was also an industrialist contracting for anything from a work apron, to a prefabricated house, to a ship. A number of Jews were members of the United Company of Spermaceti Candlers, the first American syndicate to attempt control of the production and price of candles. Some of the candle manufacturers sent out their own whalers that penetrated as far south as the Falkland Islands. A few entrepreneurs, notably a handful of Newport merchant families engaged in the slave trade, including Lopez and his father-in-law Jacob Rodrigues Rivera, who invested in the international Guinea trade to Africa. Jewish participation in the slave trade, however, was relatively minor in comparison to the dominant role played by Christian merchants of the period. In the main, Jewish mercantile activity was governed by economic rather than moral considerations. A 1762 directive illustrates the matter-of-fact attitude of two Newport Jewish merchants toward the slave trade:
[October 29, 1762]
Captain John Peck,
As you are at present master of the sloop Prince George with her Cargo on board and ready to sale you are to observe the following orders:
That you Imbrace the first fair wind and proceed to sea and make the best of your way to the windward part of the Coast of Africa and at your arrival there dispose of your Cargo for the most possible can be gotten, and Invest the neat proceeds into as many good merchantable slaves as you can, and make all the Dispatch you possibly can. As soon as your Business there is Completed make the best of your way from thence to the Island of New Providence and there dispose of your Slaves for Cash, if the markets are not too dull; but if they should [be], make the best of your way home to this port… You are further to observe that all Rum on board your Sloop shall come upon an average in case of any Misfortune, and also all the slaves in general shall come upon an Average in case any Casualty or Misfortune happens, and that no Slaves shall be brought upon freight for any person…
And also we allow you for your Commission four Slaves upon the purchase of one hundred and four, and the privilege of bringing home three slaves and your mate one.
Observe not neglect writing us by all opportunitys of every Transaction of your Voyage. Lastly be particular Carefull of your Vessell and Slaves, and be as frugal as possible in every expense relating to the voyage….
Jews of the 14th colony, Canada, were almost all in the fur trade. Others active in the buying and selling of this commodity were the New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians. These fur entrepreneurs rarely traded directly with the Native American tribes. They were the wholesalers supplying goods to traders who went directly to the army posts and Indian villages. It was an easy shift from Indian trading to land speculation, and Jewish businessmen soon helped launch huge enterprises in the trans-Allegheny West involving millions of acres. None of the proposed colonies in which they were concerned proved successful, but they did help in opening the West to American settlers.
The typical Jewish shopkeeper was an immigrant devoted to Judaism. The kehillah (communal framework) established by Jews in this period was a voluntaristic one, with a certain measure of compulsion built in. Recalcitrant Jews with nowhere else to turn could theoretically be excluded by the collective. However, communal discipline, especially in matters of kashrut (dietary law), was constantly ameliorated by the need not to offend. There were simply too few Jews and the fact of voluntary association acted as a break on the authority of the Jewish community's leadership. Permanent cemeteries were established in 1678 at *Newport, and in 1682 at New York. Religious services that had begun in New Amsterdam in 1654 or 1655 were revived in New York not later than the 1680s. The typical colonial congregation had a parnas (sexton) and a board (mahamad or junta). Sometimes there was a treasurer (gabbai), but no secretary. New York had first-class (yehidim) and second-class members. No congregation in North America had a rabbi until 1840, but each employed a ḥazzan (cantor), shoḥet (ritual slaughterer), and shamash (sexton). On occasion the first two offices, and that of mohel (ritual circumciser) too, were combined in one individual.
A sizable portion of the budget, in New York, at least, went for "pious works," charities. Itinerants were constantly arriving from the Caribbean islands, Europe, and Palestine, and were usually received courteously and treated generously. Once in a while a Palestinian emissary would arrive seeking aid for oppressed Jews in the Holy Land. Impoverished members of the congregation were granted loans to tide them over, the sick and dying were provided with medicine, nursing, and physicians, respectable elders who had come upon hard times were pensioned, and the community itself saw to all burials. There is no conclusive evidence that a separate burial society functioned anywhere in British North America. Education was not a communal responsibility except for the children of the poor. Rebbes, private teachers, were generally available. By 1731 a school building had been erected in New York by a London philanthropist. At first the curriculum consisted only of Hebraic studies to train the boys for bar mizvah, but by 1755 the school had become a communally subsidized allday institution also teaching secular subjects. The instruction was by no means inadequate. Gershom Mendes *Seixas, the first native-born American ḥazzan, received his education in this school.
There were surprisingly few anti-Jewish incidents in the North American colonies. A cemetery was desecrated now and then, "Jew" was a dirty word, and the press nearly always presented a distorted image of Jewish life both in the colonies and abroad. Despite the fact that Jews were second-class citizens, physical anti-Jewish violence was very rare. Rich Jews like the Lopezes and the army-purveying Frankses were highly respected. They were influential even in political circles. Jews were accepted in the English North American settlements because they were needed. Men, money, and talent were at a premium in the mercantilistic age. It was not their Christian interest in the Hebrew Bible that led Protestants to tolerate Jews. Christian Hebraists were enamored of Hebrew, but not of actual Jews or their descendants. Hebraism was an integral part of Christian culture. Nonetheless, Jews were often welcomed as business partners. At one time or another most Jewish merchants had worked closely with Christian businessmen. Many of these Jews had intimate Christian friends. Children of the wealthy went to college where they were made welcome, but on the whole the Jews showed little interest in formal higher education. Careers in law were closed, while medicine, apparently, had little appeal.
As illustrated by the well known Franks-Levy portraits, one of the most significant collections of extant colonial portraiture, Jews in this period typically dressed, looked, and acted like gentiles. Like the Franks-Levy clan, a prominent New York City Jewish family of merchants and arms purveyors, they were completely acculturated. Moreover, away from the community and its rigid controls many of the younger generation abandoned traditional observances and dietary laws. Social intimacies led to mixed marriage. Practically every Jew who permanently settled in Connecticut married out of the faith and most of them assimilated completely. Intermarriages even in the larger towns of the country were not unusual. The latter was a source of great concern for Abigail Franks, who in 1743 wrote to her son Naphtali, imploring him to remain faithful to Jewish customs and expressing her distress over the elopement of her daughter Phila to Oliver DeLancey, a gentile aristocrat.
Flatt bush, June 7th, 1743
My wishes for your felicity are as great as the joy I have to hear you are happily married. May the smiles of Providence waite always on y'r inclinations and your dear [wife] Phila's whome I salute with tender affections, pray'g kind Heaven to be propitious to your wishes in making her a happy mother….
I am now retired from town and would from my self (if it where possible to have some peace of mind) from the sever affliction I am under on the conduct of that unhappy girle [your sister Phila]. Good God, wath a shock it was when they acquaintyed me she had left the house and had bin married six months. I can hardly hold my pen whilst I am writing it. Itt's wath I never could have imagined, especially after wath I heard her soe often say, that noe consideration in life should ever induce her to disoblige such good parents.
I had heard the report of her goeing to be married to Oliver Delancey, but as such reports had often bin off either of your sisters, I gave no heed to it further than a general l caution of her conduct wich has always bin unblemish'd, and is soe still in the eye of the Christians whoe allow she had disobliged us but has in noe way bin dishonorable, being married to a man of worth and character.
…My house has bin my prison ever since. I had not heart enough to goe near the street door. It's a pain to me to think off goeing again to town [lower Manhattan] and if your father's buissness would permit to live out of it I never would goe near it again. I wish it was in my power to leave this part of the world; I would come away in the first man of war that went to London.
Oliver has sent many times to beg leave to see me… tho' I never will give him leave to come to my house in town, and as for his wife, I am determined I never will see nor lett none of the family goe near her.
He intends to write to you and my brother Isaac [Levy] to endeavour a reconciliation. I would have you answer his letter, if you don't hers, for I must be soe ingenious to confess nature is very strong and it would give me great concern if she should live un happy tho' it's a concern she does not merit…
Your affectionate mother,
Although some Jews retained a strong sense of their identity, many identified easily with the larger community into which they were integrated. The desire for low visibility induced even the Sephardi ḥazzan, Saul *Pardo, to change his name to its English equivalent, Brown. In 1711 the most prominent Jewish businessmen of New York City, including the ḥazzan, made contributions to help build Trinity Church. In the days before the American Revolution the Union Society, a charity composed of Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, made provision for the poor of Savannah, Georgia.
The typical American Jew of the mid-18th century was of German origin, a shopkeeper, hardworking, enterprising, religiously observant, frequently uncouth and untutored, but with sufficient learning to keep accounts and write a simple business letter in English. This is well illustrated by a communication from Isaac Delyon of Savannah to Barnard Gratz of the respected Philadelphia mercantile firm B. and M. Gratz.
Savannah, 24 Sept., 1760
To Mr. Barnard Gratz,
Marchant in Philadelphia.
Mr. Gratz, Sir:
By Capt. Joseph Howard I have inclosed you an invoice of sundry [goods] shipped you on my one [own] account; four barrels rice; four bundles of drear [deer] skins, one hundread dressed ones, fifteen onery [ordinary] six in the heir [undressed], which [you] will be good enuph to seal [sell] them to the best advantage. Please to seal them so that I may git the remittence by this schooner, because I don't know when the[re] will be a nother opertunity. Even if you should oblige to seal them something cheepor than the common rate, I should be glad if you would send me an account of the seals [sales] of which I have shipped you in all.
I should be glad if you have received the money of what you sould for me. If you have, you will be good enuph to remit it by this.
You rote me by Capt. Nezbet to let you know if starch seals heir [here]. It is now from 30s. to 40s. [shillings].
Pleas to send me the following artcles. You will mutch oblige me if you do send theme this time, because it will be mutch to my advantage. Pleas to inshure what you send. From
Your most humble servant,
25 lb. chokolet
1 barrel linced [linseed]oil
1 doz best black grane [grain] calf skins
9 barrels makarels
1 ditto herrings
150 lb. gingerbread
2 barrels cranberys
10 barrels of apples
If there is any thing remaing, plead to send it in milk and butter bread if the wether is not low. Could send me 15 barrels ables [apples], but do let them be the last you put on board, for fear of the frost.
The American Jews of the pre-Revolutionary era brought with them from Europe to the New World a sense of Jewish communalism. Despite their absorption in business as they struggled for economic self-sufficiency, they kept their congregation alive. In general, Jews in British North America tended to be careless in matters of ritual, governed less by traditional prescriptions than by the unconscious principle of salutary neglect and a readiness to make concessions in order to keep more negligent fellow-Jews within the ambit of the minyan (religious quorum). There were exceptions to this rule, however, and fear of assimilation sometimes prompted bitter recriminations by communal leaders. In 1757, for example, having received disturbing reports that Jews were ignoring basic religious customs and laws, Shearith Israel, the flagship synagogue of New England and the mid-Atlantic provinces, issued a stern public warning. On the eve of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the leaders of the New York congregation denounced those community members who flouted Jewish practices.
The parnasim [presidents] and elders having received undouted testimony that severall of our brethren that reside in the country have and dayly violate the principles [of] our holy religion, such as trading on the sabath, eating forbidden meats, and other heinous crimes, and as our Holy Law injoins us to reprove one another agreeable to the commandments in Liviticus … that is no one is to be punished unless first admonished:
Therefore whosoever for the future continues to act contrary to our Holy Law by breacking any of the principles command will not be deem'd a member of our congregation, have none of the mitzote [honors] of the sinagoge conferred on him, and when dead will not be buried according to the manner of our brethren … the Gates of our Community will be shut intirely against such offenders, but thos that repent and obey the precepts of the Almighty, we beseech the divine goodness to open to them the gates of mercy, and all their enterprises will be attended with the blessing of haven.… All who obey will be blessed [Hebrew].
In reality, however, the leaders of Shearith Israel and other early synagogues commanded few if any social controls. For although most colonial Jews were synagogue-goers, so too were they strongly influenced by the New World's relaxed social and economic rhythms. In time, a variety of synagogue communities emerged and the competition among them made it possible for Jews of varying attitudes and behaviors to find suitable religious and communal frameworks. Lack of a centralized authority in Jewish life, along with the considerable influence of synagogue lay leaders whose mercantile lifestyles predisposed them to benign acceptance of non-traditional behaviors and attitudes, undermined the fixity of halakhah in Jewish affairs. In sum, the Jewish newcomers of this period seem not to have felt that they were in galut (exile). Rather, America for them was home.
the revolutionary era
When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, the Jewish population of the New World numbered approximately 2,500, or less than one-tenth of one percent of the entire population. In accord with centuries of social conditioning some Jews, including Isaac Touro of Newport, were Tory loyalists and clung to the status quo. Others such as Aaron Lopez, a merchant of considerable importance who owned more than 30 ships and was heavily invested in inter-colonial and international trade, were not Tories and only quietly supported the revolution. When 8,000 British and Hessian troops occupied and sacked Newport, Lopez, his father-in-law Jacob Rodriguez Rivera, and his son-in-law, Abraham Pereira Mendez, relocated their families to Leicester, Massachusetts until the war's end. Still other families divided into opposing camps (like the Gomezes, Frankses, Hayses, and Harts), and a fair number were Jewish Hessians (that is, German mercenaries hired by King George iii to help put down the American insurrection). However, the majority of Jews – once they were forced to make a choice and vacillation no longer remained an option – were Whigs. Indeed, by this time most Jews had few ties to England and were determined to become first-class citizens. They accepted the revolutionary propaganda that had already been aired for half a generation, and they were fascinated by the "Great Promise" of July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence. Quite a number were in the militia, which was compulsory, and some served in the Continental line as soldiers and officers. Three officers attained relatively high rank. Jewish merchants ventured into privateering and blockade-running, but the Jew was in general still a shopkeeper somehow or other finding the consumer goods so desperately needed in a nonindustrial country whose ports were often blockaded by the British fleet.
Among the most notable Jewish rebels was the Polish immigrant, Haym Salomon, an ardent patriot who served as an underground agent for the American forces while working for the British. When discovered, he fled to Philadelphia to avoid being arrested, leaving his family and considerable resources behind. The following memorial addressed to the Continental Congress, in which a penniless Salomon requested public employment, provides a detailed account of his services during the first three years of the war.
Philada Augt 25th 1778.
To the Honorable the Continental Congress
The Memorial of Hyam Solomon of the City of New York,
That Your Memorialist was some time before the Entry of the British Troops at the said City of New York, and soon after taken up as a Spy and by General Robertson committed to the Provost – That by the Interposition of Lieut. General Heister (who wanted him on account of his Knowledge in the French, polish, Russian Italian &ca Languages) he was given over to the Hessian Commander who appointed him the Commissary War as purveyor chiefly for the Officers – That being at New York he has been of great Service to the French & American prisoners and has assisted them with Money and helped them off to make their Escape – That this and his close Connexions with such of the Hessian Officers as were inclined to resign and with Monsieur Samuel Demezes has rendered him at last so obnoxious to the British Head Quarters that he was already pursued by the Guards and on Tuesday the 11th inst. He made his happy Escape from Thence – This Monsieur Demezes is now most barbarously treated at the Provost's and is seemingly in danger of his Life And the Memorialist begs leave to cause him to be remembered to Congress for an Exchange
Your Memorialist has upon this Event most irrevocably lost all his Effects and Credits to the Amount of Five or six thousand Pounds sterling and left his distressed Wife and Child of a Month old at New York waiting that they may soon have an Opportunity to come out from thence with empty hands –
In these Circumstances he most humbly prayeth to grant him any Employ in the Way of his Business whereby he may be enabled to support himself and family – And Your Memorialist as in duty bound &ca.
The Congress seems to have ignored Salomon's request and he subsequently opened his own brokerage business. He eventually became the best known war broker in the country. Indeed, it was in his capacity as a chief bill broker to Robert Morris, the superintendent of finance, that Salomon helped make funds available for the successful expedition against General Charles Cornwallis, which brought the war to an end.
Independence from England did not at once materially improve the political status of the American Jew. But in 1787 the Northwest Ordinance guaranteed that the Jew would be on the same footing as his fellow citizens in all new states. The Constitution adopted a year later gave the equality on the federal level. At the time this was not a great victory, for most rights were still resident in the states. This meant that while a Jew could be elected president of the American republic, he might be barred from becoming a local or state official. As late as 1820 only seven of the 13 original states had recognized the Jew in a political sense. Ultimately men of talent were appointed or elected town councilors, judges of the lower courts, and members of the state legislatures. The national authorities appointed them marshals and consuls; outstanding individuals made careers for themselves in the army and the navy, though the latter branch of the service was particularly inhospitable to Jewish aspirants.
In spite of these advances, in an era when the American form of government was still raw and new, the Jewish community as a whole was susceptible to the ambivalence of the dominant Christian majority and wary of the possibility of social discrimination in the New World. A telling illustration in this regard is the entreaty of the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, presented to President George *Washington in 1790 as he campaigned along the eastern seaboard to win support for ratification of the federal constitution. The letter reveals an early American Jewish sensibility that was conditioned, on the one hand, by life under the ancien regime and shaped, on the other, by the recent history of Jews in the new American society-in-the-making.
Permit the Children of the Stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits – and to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming you to New Port.
With pleasure we reflect on those days – those days of difficulty and danger, when the God of Israel, who delivered David from the peril of the sword – shielded your head in the day of battle: – and we rejoice to think the same Spirit, who rested in the bosom of the greatly beloved Daniel, enabling him to preside over the provinces of the Babylonish Empire, rests, and ever will rest upon you, enabling you to discharge the arduous duties of Chief Magistrate in the States.
Deprived as we have been hitherto of the invaluable rights of free citizens, we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty Disposer of all events) behold a government (erected by the majesty of the People) a Government which gives to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance – but generously affording to all liberty of conscience, and immunities of citizenship – deeming every one, of whatever nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental machine. This so ample and extensive federal union whose basis is Philanthropy, mutual confidence, and public virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatsoever seemeth him good.
For all the blessings of civil and religious liberty which we enjoy under an equal and benign administration we desire to send up our thanks to the Antient of days, the great Preserver of Men – beseeching him that the Angel who conducted our forefathers through the wilderness into the promised land, may graciously conduct you through all the dangers and difficulties of this mortal life – and when like Joshua full of days, and full of honor, you are gathered to your fathers, may you be admitted into the heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life and the tree of immortality.
Done and signed by order of the Hebrew Congregation in New Port, Rhode Island, August 17th, 1790.
Moses Sexias [sic] Warden
Washington's judicious and cogent reply addressed the Jewish community's concerns in a respectful and dignified manner. Nonetheless, he also gently reproached them, offering a brilliant object lesson in civic rights. In the gracious and brief formulation that follows, he incorporated some of Jewish petitioners' felicitous language, while elevating the dialogue to the level of an ultimate test of America's hallowed principle of inalienable rights.
While I receive with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of affection and esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to New Port from all classes of Citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity.
If we have the wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government to become a great and happy people.
The Citizens of the United States have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy, a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity.
May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the Father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own time and way everlastingly happy.
The exchange of letters between the Hebrew Congregation of Newport and George Washington underscores the centrality of liberty of conscience and religious toleration in the struggle to create a free and open American society. The eloquent phraseology articulated by the Jewish petitioners and Washington – that the government of the United States "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance" – would in time become a classic formulation of the American attitude to minority rights.
From a global perspective, the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and subsequent amendments between 1788 and 1791 portended a significant and unprecedented departure from the general trajectory of Jewish history. In a mere 45 words, Article 1 (known today as the "establishment clause") erased the scourge of legalized social and religious discrimination which hitherto prevented Jews from participating fully in modern society: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
The Newport Jewish community disappeared after 1800, but the other Sephardi congregations continued to prosper, reinforced by the growth of communities in Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, and Richmond. The apparatus of all these synagogues was modified and enlarged: the status of the ḥazzan was raised to that of the Christian minister; secretaries and committees were common, and eleemosynary societies
and confraternities (ḥevrot) rose in every congregation during this post-Revolutionary period. From then on special organizations took care of the poor, the sick, and the dead. Some of these societies, primarily concerned with mutual aid, offered sick and death benefits. Originally these new groups – whether composed of men or women – were closely affiliated with congregations, but from the very beginning they enjoyed a degree of autonomy. Given the voluntaristic nature of emergent American Jewish life, the charities would ultimately emancipate themselves from congregational control.
Changes also occurred in the economic activities of the Jews. As cotton became "king," Jewish planters increased. Merchant shippers, though still rich and powerful, lost their relative importance as the retail and wholesale urban merchants turned away from the sea and became specialists. With good titles possible, land speculation within the ambit of states and territories assumed increasing importance; Cohen & Isaacs of Richmond employed Daniel Boone to survey their holdings in Kentucky. Independence and affluence brought new economic fields into prominence in the United States. Jews began turning to banking and moneylending, insurance, industry, and the stock exchange. By 1820 they had entered the professions of law, medicine, engineering, education, and journalism.
Many Jews in the post-Revolutionary period, especially in South Carolina, were men of education and culture, at home in the classics, in modern languages and literatures, devotees of music and poetry. A number of literati both in the North and in the South were playwrights of some distinction; all were ardent cultural nationalists. Patriotism, however, was no guarantee against Judeophobia, which increased as the Jew rose in wealth, prominence, and visibility. For example, an antisemitic letter published in 1800 in the Gazette of the United States, a Federalist newspaper, publicly ridiculed and defamed Benjamin Nones in mocking tones for not having contributed to a collection of the Democratic Society of Philadelphia: "Citizen N – the Jew. I hopsh you will consider dat de monish ish very scarch, and besides you know I'sh just come out by de Insholvent Law. – Several. Oh yes let N – pass." When the Gazette refused to print Nones' reply, he turned to the Philadelphia Aurora, a leading Republican organ, with the following eloquent and damning refutation:
Philadelphia Aug 11, 1800
To the Printer of the Gazette of the United States.
I hope, if you take the liberty of inserting calumnies against individuals, for the amusement of your readers, you will at least have so much regard to justice, as to permit the injured through the same channel as conveyed the slander, to appeal to the public in self defence… I can shew, that the want of prudence of this Mr. Marplot [the anonymous writer], in his slander upon me is equally glaring with his want of wit, his want of veracity, his want of decency, and his want of humanity.
I am accused of being a Jew; of being a Republican; and of being Poor.
I am a Jew. I glory in belonging to that persuasion, which even its opponents, whether Christian, or Mahomedan, allow to be of divine origin – of that persuasion on which Christianity itself was originally founded, and must ultimately rest – which has preserved its faith secure and undefiled, for near three thousand years – whose votaries have never murdered each other in religious wars, or cherished theological hatred so general, so unextinguishable among those who revile them…
To be of such persuasion, is to me no disgrace; though I well understand the inhuman language of bigoted contempt, in which your reporter by attempting to make me ridiculous, as a Jew, has made himself detestable, whatever religious persuasion may be dishonored by his adherence…
I am a Republican! Thank God, I have not been so heedless, and so ignorant of what has passed, and is now passing in the political world. I have not been so proud or so prejudiced as to renounce the cause for which I have fought, as an American throughout the whole of the revolutionary war, in the militia of Charleston, and in Polafskey's legion, I fought in almost every action which took place in Carolina, and in the disastrous affair of Savannah, shared the hardships of that sanguinary day, and for three and twenty years I felt no disposition to change my political, any more than my religious principles. – Your correspondent… cannot have known what it is to serve his country in time of danger and difficulties, at the expence of his health and his peace, of his pocket and of his person, as I have done; or he would not be as he is, a pert reviler of those who have done so… On religious grounds I am a republican…
In the history of the Jews are contained the earliest warnings against kingly government…
How then can a Jew but be a Republican? in America particularly. Unfeeling & ungrateful would he be, if he were callous to the glorious and benevolent cause of the difference between his situation in this land of freedom, and among the proud and priviledged law givers of Europe.
But I am poor, I am so, my family also is large, but soberly and decently brought up. They have not been taught to revile a Christian, because his religion is not so old as their. They have not been taught to mock even as the errors of good intention, and conscientious belief. I hope they will always leave this to men as unlike themselves, as I hope I am to your scurrilous correspondent.
I know that to purse proud aristocracy poverty is a crime, but it may sometimes be accompanied with honesty even in a Jew. I was bankrupt some years ago. I obtained my certificate and was discharged from my debts. Having been more successful afterwards, I called my creditors together, and eight years afterwards unsolicited I discharged all my old debts, I offered interest which was refused by my creditors, and they gave me under their hands without any solicitations of mine, as a testimonial of the fact (to use their own language) as a tribute to my honor and honesty…
This is a long defence… but you have called it forth, and therefore, I hope you at least will not object to it. The Public will now judge who is the proper object of ridicule and contempt, your facetious reporter, or
Your Humble Servant,
Not unlike Nones' predicament vis-à-vis anti-Republican sentiment, Jews who entered politics and joined the Jeffersonians were vilified in the Federalist press as "democrats," which was at the time used in public debate as a derogatory epithet. In this manner, Jews seeking public office, even Christians of Jewish ancestry, were frequently and viciously attacked. Aside from a few plays, miscellaneous orations, addresses, and literary anthologies, however, Jews wrote relatively little of note in this period. Meanwhile, Jewish publishers in New York City did begin to make themselves known by reprinting significant European books. In the area of Jewish culture, American Jewry was equally uncreative. In the 1760s two English translations of Hebrew prayer books had appeared. After the Revolution, Jews brought out a few sermons and eulogies, a Hebrew grammar, and by 1820 a rather interesting polemic entitled Israel Vindicated, though there is no absolute proof that this was written by a Jew. More important was the reprinting of a number of apologetic works directed against deists and Christian missionaries. Some of these books had originally appeared in England.
The typical American Jew of the post-Revolutionary period was native born and completely acculturated. Intermarriage was not uncommon. Though nominally a follower of Jewish customs, most Jews of this era were in reality largely indifferent to the tenets and practices of traditional Judaism. Despite such an attenuated profile, they were nonetheless strongly and even belligerently attached to American and world Jewry by a strong sense of kinship. Altogether there were about 4,000 Jews in the United States by 1820, most of them in the Alle gheny regions, but there was no town in the United States, even distant St. Louis, which did not shelter some Jews. Many of them were recent German immigrants who had drifted in after the Napoleonic wars. By the turn of the 18th century Central Europeans had already started a little Ashkenazi synagogue in Philadelphia. Within a generation Ashkenazi culture dominated the American Jewish scene.
population, immigration, and settlement
The salient development in American Jewry during the four decades before the Civil War was its growth from a small group, estimated at 6,000 in 1826, to a major world Jewish community. The number of Jews, which stood at about 15,000 in 1840, was authoritatively estimated at 150,000 in 1860, and probably reached 280,000 in 1880. This vast increase was largely due to foreign immigration, especially from German lands. In general, the Metternichian age in Central Europe was one of conservatism. Jews feared conscription, their right to move about freely and settle in the German lands was often limited, they were not always free to marry, the new industrialism was a threat to their traditional economy, the German guild system hemmed them in, and anti-Jewish prejudice was constant. This was the push that impelled them to emigrate; American liberties and opportunities attracted them.
In Bavaria, dozens of small largely Jewish villages saw most of their inhabitants leave for the United States, while in Posen (Prussian Poland) there was a steady outward movement. Germanized Jews from Bohemia and Hungary also emigrated. Immigration attained a peak during the early 1850s, when economic depression and the repressive aftermath following the abortive Continental revolutions of 1830 and 1848 impelled the greatest movement to the prospering American republic. Consequently, the Jewish community in the United States long spoke English with a German accent when it was not speaking its native German. The German Jews also proved to be hard working and highly adaptive to their New World environment. The swift Americanization and cultural elasticity that characterized German Jews in the antebellum period is evident in the following letter (translated from German) in which Jacob Felsenthal, originally of Cologne, invites his brother to join him in San Francisco.
San Francisco, Calif., Jan, 13, 1854
It was a wonderful surprise to learn from a fellow named Liwey [Levy?] that you are in America! And also that you are living in Baltimore with a family named Herzog. I could not remember who the Herzogs are but it finally dawned on me that must be Jacob Herz and his wife from Limburg!
How are you getting along and how's business? It's not great here since as you can imagine things don't just fall in your lap. Here I have learned what business means, and I have put up with a lot, especially in Panama. I was sick for several months and had no money, not even enough to eat. As I got a little better I got various jobs to pay for board and room, which cost a dollar-and-a-half a day. I was too weak even to play my guitar.
But with God's help I got well, and after 4–5 months in Panama in that awful heat I was able to put away 120 dollars in gold which I earned in just five weeks. Then I was able to go to California! Luckily, through a doctor I know, I got a place on a steamer as a cook so I didn't have to pay any fare. Also, I made a deal with Carl Reis and made some money in potatoes, which cost 1 schilling a pound. I don't have to tell you how expensive everything is.
I have now been in California seven months, in San Francisco, and am married! I have a fine wife and thank God things are going quite well. I have already taken in several hundred dollars. If you would want to come here then you and I and my wife would start up a nice café with music and singing every evening. Here a cigar costs 1 or 2 schillings each, and drinks the same, so there is money to be made. Also I am as well known in San Francisco as I was in Cologne …
Write immediately of you are coming or not. If you don't have 50 dollars then let me know and I will send you the money. It would be better if you have the money and then I can put more into the business. In any case, answer by return mail so I can start arranging things. Don't buy a through ticket because it will cost 25 dollars more from Panama to San Francisco by steamer. Take a sailing vessel. As I said, write me by return mail. I won't leave you in the lurch. The sooner you come the better for you and me. An ordinary worker gets 4–5 dollars a day, so you can see how you'll do.
I imagine you already speak good English. So do I since my wife is American and doesn't speak a word of German. She was born in Boston and speaks a little Spanish. But here every language in the world is spoken. If you get to Panama, then go to the pharmacist – take your right, then left – he is also German. They both know me; tell them you are my brother and ask their help to get you a job on the steamer so you won't have to pay passage. Don't stay in Panama long; it is very unhealthy. And don't eat too much meat. The sooner you leave the better. Do what is best for you.
Regards from my wife who is looking forward to meeting you.
In the decades prior to the Civil War, Jewish settlement traversed the North American continent. Old seacoast Jewish communities like those in Charleston, South Carolina, Newport, Rhode Island, and Norfolk, Virginia, failed to grow and declined in importance. The most important expansion took place along the route of the Erie Canal, which crossed upstate New York after 1825, and on the shores of the Great Lakes. The Jewish population of such cities as *Albany, *Syracuse, *Rochester, and *Buffalo in New York State, and *Cleveland, *Chicago, *Detroit, and *Milwaukee in the Middle West quickly rose to the thousands. On the banks of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers scores of smaller towns had Jewish settlements. *Cincinnati on the Ohio River stood second only to New York during the mid-nineteenth century, while *Louisville, *Minneapolis, *St. Louis, and *New Orleans on the Mississippi drew upon vast developing hinterlands for the commercial and industrial growth in which Jews took a prominent role. Dozens of towns in the southern Cotton Kingdom sheltered little groups of German Jews, who traded in the freshly picked cotton and kept general stores. A striking growth occurred in northern California during and after the Gold Rush of 1849–52; perhaps 10,000 Jews lived in the boom city of *San Francisco and scattered among the mining camps by 1860. New York City's numerical predominance in American Jewish life was well established by that date with 40,000 Jews, and Philadelphia and Baltimore were also important communities. Jews in New England, on the other hand, were very few.
The last significant traces of legal inequality disappeared early in this period. The most significant episode was the public agitation and debate in the State of Maryland over the disqualification of Jews for public office, which was finally removed by the "Jew Bill" of 1826. Like the debates during the period of the American Revolution, these deliberations concerned the alleged Christian basis of the state, rather than a contest between pro-Jewish and anti-Jewish feeling. The states of North Carolina and New Hampshire retained legal obstacles to Jewish tenure of public office but very few Jews resided there and prescribed Christian oaths appear to have been a dead letter issue.
The middle of the 19th century was the day of the German Jewish peddler. At a time when retail trade outlets outside large cities were few, the peddler was an important functionary of emergent American commerce. Thousands of men, mostly recent young immigrants, trudged the countryside east of the Mississippi River with packs on their back, successors of the Yankee peddler. Peddling proved to be a hard-scrabble existence and was susceptible to the attacks of those, like the anonymous author of Men and Manners in America (1833), who believed "the whole race of Yankee peddlers are proverbial for their dishonesty. These go forth annually in thousands to lie, cog, cheat, swindle… In this respect they resemble the Jews…" To the profile of the Jewish peddler must therefore be added the occasional encounter with petty antisemitism which, as the following text demonstrates, illustrated the darker side of America's European legacy.
I continued my peddling until January 1835, when one evening, in deep snow and quite frozen I came to Easton, a pretty little town in Delaware, and entered an inn. A number of guests sat around the glowing stoves; and as they saw me enter, a pale and snow-covered merchant, a feeling of compassion must have come over them, for nearly every one bought something of me, and thus even in the evening, I did some good business, after I had run about the whole day in terrible winter weather, earning scarcely enough for a drink.
While preoccupied with my business, I was watched by an oldish-looking, occasionally smiling, but apparently unconcerned man behind the stove. He allowed me to finish the business in peace but then he got up, tapped me on the shoulder and bade me follow him. Out of doors his first question was whether I had a trade-license for peddling? I still felt so strange in America, and he spoke in so low a voice that I did not understand him and, therefore, looked at him in astonishment. My long, ten-days-old beard struck him, and he asked me further whether I was a Jew. He did not want to believe me when I denied it. Fortunately, I had with me the passport of my homeland, which I presented to him. Now he grew somewhat better disposed, looked at me sympathetically and said: "Since I see that you are an honest Protestant Christian I shall let you go, although I am losing 25 dollars through it. I have no kind feelings for the Jews, and were you one of them, I would not treat you so gently. If I wanted to arrest you, you would have to pay 50 dollars fine or, until you were able to raise it, you would have to go to jail, and half the fine would be mine. Still I shall forge that; but you better give up your trade and look for another one. Sooner or later you will be caught and then you'll be out of luck."
Jews also became the purveyors of nearly all the necessities of gold prospectors in California. Although many had been trained in crafts and trades in Europe, few held to them in the United States and were instead drawn into grueling but lucrative peddling. Isaac Mayer *Wise, who served as a rabbi in Albany, New York, from 1846 to 1854, described his community as composed mostly of men who departed on Sunday morning for their peddling routes through the countryside, returning only for the following Sabbath. The progress of many of these men followed a classic pattern: from peddler on foot, to peddler on a wagon, to crossroads shopkeeper, to large merchant. Jews who practiced trades were mostly tailors and cigarmakers. The overwhelming majority of American Jews, native and immigrant, were occupied in commerce at its various levels and in skilled crafts. Very few tilled the soil. The proportion of Jews in the professions of the day – medicine, law, teaching, and journalism – was low. Here and there a man of significance stood forth in his profession, such as the physicians Daniel Peixotto *Hays, Jonathan P. *Horwitz,Daniel L.M. *Peixotto, and Abraham *Jacobi. However, during the period of mass immigration into a very small original settlement, commerce remained the Jewish livelihood par excellence.
cultural, religious, and communal activity
The first countrywide stirrings of cultural activity, religious diversity, and communal organization beyond the synagogue appeared in the middle of the 19th century. German Jewish immigrants included a considerable number of persons versed or learned in Judaism. Thus while ordained rabbis were extremely few, many teachers from Europe assumed the rabbinic title and became spiritual heads of congregations. (This is best exemplified by the case of Isaac Mayer Wise, arguably the most important American Reform leader of the 19th century, whose own rabbinic qualifications were uncertain and never verified.) German-speaking culture was also widespread. As part of the vast German migration to the United States, many were active in German American cultural life. Jews were prominent in German theatrical societies, as writers and subscribers to German newspapers, members of German musical societies, leaders of German immigrant aid and charitable societies, and political personalities within the German ethnic group. For a large but indeterminate group of Jews in the United States German culture was a full substitute for their ancestral Judaism.
The decades between 1820 and 1860 were a period of broad freedom and social acceptance for American Jews. The small native bourgeois group readily entered United States life and politics in such centers as Charleston, South Carolina, New York City, and Philadelphia. Of actual antisemitism there was very little. Indeed, the antagonisms and tensions within American society found expression in anti-Catholicism, which was directed especially at recent Irish immigrants. By contrast, instances of antisemitism were infrequent – e.g., an attack on Jewish businessmen in the California legislature during a debate on a Sabbath closing law, explicitly phrased insistence that the United States was "a Christian country," or a biased courtroom address by a lawyer against a Jewish adversary. Branches of American Protestantism continued to produce extensive missionary literature, including newspapers, books, and pamphlets, but Jewish conversions to Christianity by such means were negligible. Linked to such proselytizing endeavors were expressions of faith that the Jews would ultimately be restored to their homeland, and sympathy for Jewish efforts, real or rumored, toward that end. If the biblical people of Israel still lay deep in the American mind, the contemporary Jews were on the whole not a preoccupation.
The most characteristic form of German Jewry's religious expression in the United States in this period was Reform Judaism. After an early episode in Charleston between 1824 and 1828, where the demand was mainly for more aesthetic ritual, Reform took root during the 1840s with the beginning of the Emanu-El Reformverein in New York and the founding of Reform congregations. Few synagogues, however, were founded on professed Reform principles. Usually an Orthodox congregation of German immigrants changed at first in a relatively superficial manner: it might omit the prayer for the long defunct Babylonian academies (yekum purkan), the incense formula (pittum ha-ketoret), and the complimentary benedictions during the reading of the Torah (mi she-berakh). More far-reaching alterations followed thereafter, such as the shift to a mainly English liturgy, the elimination of the second day of festivals, and the doffing of hats. It was less the initiative of the members of these early congregations than that of their rabbis which produced these changes. By the time of the Civil War several dozen congregations had taken their first steps toward Reform under the major rabbinic figures of the day: Isaac Mayer Wise, who settled in Cincinnati from 1854 after a stormy term in Albany to become the spokesman and organizer of American Reform; David *Einhorn, a theological radical of deeply Germanic and classical Reform thought; Bernard *Felsenthal, a moderate reformer; and Samuel *Hirsch and Samuel *Adler, similar to Einhorn in their Germanism and religious radicalism. The theological approach of these rabbis satisfied the widespread desire for Americanized forms of Judaism that harmonized with contemporary liberalism, rationalism, and optimism. Thus a version of Judaism was formulated in the United States that sought to bridge the chasm between Jews and Christians and refute the millennial view that Jews were living in exile.
To the difficulties of communication and transportation in this period may be added some apprehensiveness on the part of recently arrived German Jews over Jewish separatism and isolation. The synagogue was frequently the basic institution in the communal structure, although the founding of the fraternal order *B'nai B'rith in 1843 and its rapid growth outside the synagogue framework as a representative social and benevolent organization provided an alternate and rival form of Jewish affiliation and identification. Most cities also had their Jewish "literary" and charitable group. During the agitation over the *Damascus blood libel in 1840, protest meetings were purely local, but with some overall coordination. Repeated calls by Isaac *Leeser and Samuel M. *Isaacs of New York brought about the formation of the Board of Delegates of American Israelites in 1859, intentionally resembling in name and structure the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Like many central representative bodies thereafter, the Board of Delegates was founded on account of crises – on this occasion a not insignificant one in 1854 over the United States government's ratification of a treaty with Switzerland that enabled the latter country to bar foreign Jews from entry, and the more serious *Mortara Affair of 1858–59 in which a Jewish boy, Edgar Mortara, was secretly baptized by his Christian nurse and taken from his parents. The Board of Delegates was initially controlled by traditionalists and opposed by the Reformers. It claimed no more than 30 congregations – perhaps one-fifth of the number in existence.
The main ideas of American Reform Judaism were already articulated before 1860, but large-scale expansion of the movement took place in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1873, Isaac Mayer Wise, author of Minhag Amerikah ("The American Custom," 1857), a prayer book intended to be the unifying text of American Judaism, led the movement in cohering around a relatively small organization calling itself the *Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The constitution of the new Union scrupulously avoided theological and ideological references. In the wake of the Civil War, the notion of "union" became a hallowed principle in itself and Wise and his followers sincerely hoped all American Jews would join them.
[July 9, 1873]
preamble, constitution, and by-laws of the union of american hebrew congregations preamble
The congregations represented in this convention, in faithful attachment to the sublime principles of Judaism, and in consciousness of Israel's sacred duties, feel impressed with the conviction, that in order to discharge these obligations beneficially, a closer union of the congregations is necessary. To this end, under the protection of the benign Providence and the laws of our country, we hereby establish this sacred covenant of the American Israelites, as set forth in the following:
Article i. The body hereby constituted and established shall be known as "The Union of American Hebrew Congregations."
Article ii. It is the primary object of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to establish a Hebrew Theological Institute – to preserve Judaism intact; to bequesth it in its purity and sublimity to posterity – to Israel united and fraternized; to establish, sustain, and govern a seat of learning for Jewish religion and literature; to provide for and advance the standard of Sabbath-schools for the instruction of the young in Israel's religion and history, and the Hebrew language; to aid an encourage young congregations by such material and spiritual support as may be at the command of the Union; and to provide, sustain, and manage such other institutions which the common welfare and progress of Judaism shall require – without, however, interfering in any manner whatsoever with the affairs and management of any congregation.
Opposition to the Reform movement came from a few Orthodox and proto-Conservative figures, most notably Isaac Leeser, lecturer, editor, author of Olat Tamid ("Eternal Offering," 1858) – a traditionalist prayer book – and ḥazzan of the Sephardi congregation in Philadelphia. Leeser stressed the immutable character of Judaism as a revealed religion, and insisted that under American freedom the Jewish religion had to be observed in full, rather than truncated. In the final analysis, however, the times were not with Leeser and his companions.
In the 1840s and 1850s Jewish schools teaching both Hebrew and general subjects (usually under the auspices of a synagogue) opened around the country. They existed during the absence of adequate public schooling or because of a Christian sectarian tinge to the public schools. During the same decades the movement for free, universal, religiously neutral public schools spread throughout the United States. As they were established in city after city, the recently founded Jewish schools closed and their children were sent to the new public institutions. By 1860 a new pattern was set for Jewish children of the public school combined with the afternoon or Sunday supplementary Jewish school.
For much of the 19th century Jewish communal organization seldom reached above the local level. However, several notable instances of intensive regional activity did set the stage for later countrywide innovations. An excellent example in this regard is the case of Rebecca *Gratz, daughter of a family of successful German Jewish merchants, who used her considerable talents to help create and lead five benevolent associations: the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances (1801), the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum (1815), the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society (1819), the Hebrew Sunday School (1838), and the Jewish Foster Home (1855). Gratz herself was religiously observant. But her participation in Philadelphia's elite social circles, her commitment to nondenominational civic causes, and her appreciation of successful Gentile communal agencies underscore the capacity and rapidity of Jewish integration into wider American culture. Her pioneering mindset led to experiments in communitywide Jewish organization and philanthropy that would ultimately transform the American Jewish scene.
the civil war
Moses Judah, a New York merchant, was apparently the first American Jew to play a leadership role in the emergent abolitionist movement. In 1799 he joined New York City's Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves and in 1806 he was elected to the group's executive committee. Judah was an exception, however, and before the American Civil War (1861–65) few Jews took part in the mounting debate over slavery. The 150,000 or so American Jews generally sided with their respective regions before and during the conflict. As tensions escalated, some American Jewish leaders and activists engaged in fierce public debates. In 1860 Rabbi Morris J. *Raphall of Congregation Bnai Jeshurun, the first Jew to open a session of the U.S. House of Representatives with prayer, and Michael *Heilprin of New York City engaged in a printed debate over the alleged biblical legitimization of slavery. The exchange garnered nationwide attention. Asserting that "the slave is a person in whom the dignity of human nature is to be respected," Raphall nonetheless sought to justify the institution of slavery on theological grounds. "If our Northern fellow-citizens, content with following the word of God," he stated in a widely disseminated sermon, "would not insist on being 'righteous overmuch,' or denouncing 'sin'… they would entertain more equity and less ill feeling towards their Southern brethren." In response, Heilprin offered a cogent exegetical and scholarly retort, printed on January 15, 1861 by the New York Daily Tribune, which reached a substantial newspaper audience.
If [Raphall's pro-slavery] assertion needs a refutation you can find it in the concluding passages of the Book of Job, in which you will find how the martyr was rewarded for his constancy, all his former possessions being restored double, his sheep, his camels, his oxen, and his she asses – but is there a word of slaves? So much for your proofs from passages of the Scriptures.
Another ample and general refutation of our Rabbi's view can be found in the history of the Hebrews as a nation, a history of fifteen centuries, full of wars, revolutions, civil strifes and catastrophies, but without a mention of a single slave rising, or a single similar event. And how often do the Helots figure in Spartan history! How often slaves in the history of Rome! The history of this country, alas, has scarcely a page on which is not written the black word "Slavery." Shall its history be so continued? Answer, statesmen and people of America!
And you, Rev. Rabbi Raphall, make your Bible, by some process of reasoning, to be pure, just, and humane, if you want to have it regarded as divine; or reject it as full of human frailty, if you dare! Shalom!
In addition to the secular abolitionist worldview of Heil prin, the American Jewish landscape was dotted with rabbis who took different positions on the question of abolition. An especially courageous communal leader was Rabbi David *Einhorn, the Baltimore reformer, who called slavery "the cancer of the Union" in the German-language monthly Sinai. He also staunchly upheld abolitionism in the slaveholding state of Maryland, in the heart of a city where one-tenth of the population consisted of slaves, and despite the opposition of his congregation and threats to his personal safety. He fled to New York City from a mob in 1861. On the other hand, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise probably reflected the mixed sympathies in his border city of Cincinnati by remaining silent about the Civil War and its issues; the reverends Isaac Leeser and Samuel M. Isaacs did likewise. Meanwhile, Judah P. *Benjamin, a distinguished Southern Jewish jurist, slave owner, and plantation farmer, who rose to become a United States senator representing Louisiana, played a key role in the secessionist movement. Benjamin, a close personal advisor to Jefferson Davis, would later serve as attorney general, secretary of war, and secretary of state of the Confederacy. Although Benjamin's attachments to Jewish life were minimal, he swiftly became an object of ridicule for antisemites in the North and the South, who feverishly accused him of treason, profiteering, and the like.
Perhaps 10,000 Jews served, about 7,000 in the Northern armies and 3,000 in those of the South, and over 500 lost their lives. Many of these soldiers, recent immigrants from Germany, served in the numerous units of German-born soldiers. The Union army began to appoint Jewish military chaplains in 1862, after the restriction under the law of 1861 on the appointment of military chaplains to Christian clergy was abolished.
Among the extant documents that illustrate the wartime experience of American Jews is an anonymous letter by a Union soldier, in which the writer discloses the self-consciousness of Jews in the military.
As a general rule, the Jews do not care to make their religion a matter of notoriety, as it would at once involve them in an intricate controversial disquisition with the Christian chaplains, for which they do not always feel themselves qualified, and which, of course can, under no circumstance, afford them anything but annoyance. Some of our brethren fear that, were they known as Hebrews, it would expose them to taunts and sneers of those among their comrades who have been in the habit of associating with the name of the Jew, everything that is mean and contemptible; but I must say, and it redounds much to the credit of the army, that in the course of my experience in the camps, which has been considerable, I have heard but of a single instance in which a Jew was wantonly insulted on account of his religion, and that was by a drunken Scotchman, who commenced damning in every variety of language and motion, when he learned that he was addressing an Israelite, declaring them all to be cheats and thieves.…
Most people take it for granted, that every soldier is an infidel, and that no sooner does he enter on active duty, than he banishes all the idea of religion from his mind. This is a great mistake, at least as far as the Jews are concerned. My own observation has convinced me that military life does not injuriously affect their ideas of duty and devotion.… It is quite common for Jewish soldiers belonging to the same company, to meet together for worship on Sabbath, in some secluded spot, and I know a young soldier, who was on Kippore [sic] morning, ordered to take part in a skirmish, near Harper's Ferry, which he had to go through, without having tasted food, and as soon as the enemy retreated, he retired to the woods, where he remained until sunset, reading his prayers.…
Some Jewish soldiers suggested the idea of organizing all the Jewish soldiers in the army, into distinct regiments, with Hebrew banners, etc., so that both our food and religious services may be more consonant with our habits and ideas, and we may have the pleasure of associating with our own brethren. I was further informed that such was actually the custom among the Dutch Jews.… The suggestion of my friends to form themselves into separate regiments was, however, disapproved of by wiser heads, which was altogether unnecessary, as it is at present impracticable, and we are quite satisfied to fight with our Christian comrades for one cause, one country, and the union.
Another useful example of American Jewish life during the Civil War is the memoir of German-born Marcus Spiegel, who served as a second lieutenant in the 67th Ohio Infantry and then as a colonel in the 120th Ohio Infantry. Marcus' extensive correspondence with his wife Caroline, a convert to Judaism, underscores the conflict's tragic impact on family life in this period. Addressing his "good, lovely and abused Wife," Marcus noted:
I speak truly when I say "abused Wife": a Woman as good and lovely, as saving and industrious, as kind a wife and good mother as you are should [not] be left alone hundreds of miles from her husband who loves her more and more with fervor, zeal, and devotion… with three small children and one coming, or that he should leave her at all.
Somewhat later, Marcus lay dying in 1864 from a mortal wound and wept to an attending surgeon, "This is the last of the husband and father, what will become of my poor family?"
As the tragedy of the war deepened, casualties mounted, and hardships intensified, the beleaguered Confederacy became subject to serious antisemitic agitation, most of which focused on Judah P. Benjamin. The agitation was mainly felt in the smaller towns, however, no instance appeared of antisemitic physical assaults. By contrast, in the North, General Ulysses S. *Grant's General Order No. 11 was a serious albeit short-lived instance of official antisemitism. Predicated on the claim that "the Jews as a class" were engaged in illegal trade with the Confederate army, specifically that they were profiting from illicit traffic in cotton, Grant unilaterally expelled all Jews from the Department of Tennessee, the region along the lower Mississippi occupied by the Union army.
Head Quarters 13th Army Corps
Department of the Tennessee.
Oxford, Miss. Dec. 17th 1862
General Orders No. 11 (12)
i. The Jews, as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department.
ii. Within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order by Post Commanders, they will see that all of this class of people are furnished passes and are required to leave, and any one returning after such notification, will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners unless furnished with permits from these Head Quarters.
iii. No permits will be given these people to visit Head Quarters for the purpose of making personal application for trade permits.
By order of Maj. Genl. U.S. Grant
Jno. A. Rawlins
Ass't Adj't Genl.
The Jews of Paducah, Kentucky, led by Caesar Kaskel, immediately petitioned President Abraham *Lincoln for removal of "this inhuman order, the carrying out of which," they argued, "would be the grossest violation of the Constitution and our rights as good citizens under it, and would place us, besides a large number of other Jewish families of this town, as outlaws before the world." President Abraham Lincoln promptly nullified and rescinded the order.
Washington, January 4, 1863
Major General Grant,
Holly Springs, Miss.
A paper purporting to be General Orders, No. 11, issued by you December 17, has been presented here. By its terms it expels all Jews from your department.
If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.
Like the wider Christian society of the North, Jews also shared in the prosperity that was a byproduct of the Civil War. The demands of military supply provided unusual opportunities to entrepreneurial businessmen and provisioners, who developed and expanded the ready-made clothing industry from large-scale orders for army uniforms. For example, the Jewish communities of Buffalo and Rochester experienced a wartime boost as result of their significant participation in the local garment making and tailoring industries. Similarly, American banking in general was vastly stimulated by the needs of government finance. The success of the *Seligman brothers in marketing Union bonds on the European market was a critically important contribution to the war effort. Numerous Jewish bankers of the 1870s and 1880s started with capital they amassed during the Civil War years as clothing manufacturers and merchants.
post-civil war stability
The years between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the onset of mass immigration from Eastern Europe during the 1880s marked the maturity of German Jewry in the United States. Jewish community leaders and heads of households in this period were predominantly merchants, manufacturers of clothing and other consumer goods, and bankers in large cities and also in the small towns of the West and South. "Germandom" reached its peak in this time and Reform Judaism became the dominant institutional religious form in American Jewish society.
Meanwhile, Jews also played a visible role in the economic and political development of the South following the emancipation of the slaves and the breakup of the plantation system. Jewish peddlers and storekeepers played an important part in the economic development of the region. One contemporary attributed part of their success to the habit they had of addressing black customers as "Mister" rather than by given name. This cultural openness signaled the Jews' lack of attachment to the region's racial system. In this period, several Jews became prominent politicians, notably Raphael J. *Moses in South Carolina.
Jewish immigration to the United States resumed after its near cessation during the Civil War period. The Jewish population rose from about 150,000 in 1860 to perhaps 280,000 in 1880, much of it due to a substantial excess of births over deaths within a young immigrant population, but even more to continued immigration. For the first time there were serious discussions in the Jewish community over the possibility of organizing Jewish immigration from Europe. In 1870 about 500 East Prussians and Lithuanians were brought from their famine-stricken region. Oppressed Romanian Jews also figured as potential immigrants in 1872. Despite these discussions, Jewish migration to the United States remained a matter of individual initiative. Of profound significance was the shift in its geographic sources from Germanic to Slavic areas of Europe. To be sure, some small immigration arrived from Alsace following the German annexation of the province in 1871, and scattered immigration continued from many other lands.
The German Jewish merchant class climbed rapidly in the post-Civil War age of industrial and financial expansion and the private banker also reached his zenith during the last decades of the century. Joseph Seligman and his brothers in New York and San Francisco were among the foremost bankers of their day. He declined President Ulysses S. Grant's offer
to appoint him secretary of the treasury in 1869. Entrepreneurs like Max A. Meyer of New York City, a leading domestic and foreign dry goods dealer, Philip Heidelbach of Cincinnati, a significant clothing manufacturer, the banker and city alderman Henry *Greenebaum of Chicago, and I.W. *Hellman in Los Angeles, then still a village, were important personages. In particular, Jacob H. *Schiff swiftly rose in this period to become one his generation's and the country's most influential investment bankers.
The decades after the Civil War witnessed the greatest period of synagogue construction up to that time. Dozens of congregations founded ten and twenty years earlier had achieved size, stability, and prosperity, and the numerous edifices they erected during this period, many with elaborate decoration in Romanesque Moorish style, attest to the confidence and optimism of their builders. (Three outstanding surviving specimens are the Plum Street Temple, at Plum and Sixth Streets, Cincinnati, built in 1869, the Central Synagogue, New York City, built in 1870, and the former home of Congregation Beth Emeth, at Swan and Jay Streets, Albany, built in 1891.) Reform Judaism reached the peak of its influence during the 1870s and 1880s, when it came close to being synonymous with American Judaism, the growth of which its organizer and leader Isaac Mayer Wise anticipated in the 1850s. The ritual in Reform congregations made the rabbi its moving force, and his sermon the focus. The use of English (or in some congregations, German) greatly outweighed that of Hebrew. A shortened public worship was held on Sabbaths and the first day only of festivals. Theological changes were even more profound, probably the most basic of them being the transformation of the conception of Jewish exile and ultimate messianic redemption into a Jewish mission to spread the enlightenment of ethical monotheism to the world, and to hasten the millennium of human perfection and true faith. The Reform theological position was epitomized in the *Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, drawn up by Rabbi Kaufmann *Kohler, which remained the standard Reform creed for 50 years. The organizational strength of Reform Judaism was solidified by the founding of the *Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1873, the *Hebrew Union College in 1875, and the *Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1889.
While Reform attained structural maturity and theological stability, traditionalists, both Orthodox and proto-Conservative, were confined to a few synagogues and were linked by personal and family ties. Their strength grew out of the mass immigration of East European Jews that reached the United States from the 1880s to the 1920s in unprecedented numbers.
Jewish participation in mainstream American culture grew considerably in the late 19th century as ever increasing numbers of Jews interacted socially, economically, and politically with their gentile peers. For many, the fraternal order B'nai B'rith, established in 1843 by German Jews, provided a pluralistic non-religious framework for meaningful association. By 1876 B'nai B'rith's reach grew to include lodges all across the country. All in all, however, Jewish participation in the arts remained marginal, with the exception of music, which was extensively cultivated by German Jews. Nor did any novelist, poet, essayist, artist, or scholar hold major rank. The emergence of Emma *Lazarus in this period was a notable exception and her sonnet "Ode to Colossus" would later adorn the base of the Statue of Liberty. Nevertheless, Lazarus' early work showed little concern with Jewish themes and issues. Her attitude would change dramatically in the 1880s following the outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in czarist Russia that impelled the mass waves of East European Jewish immigration to the United States. Of scientists there were few, but physicians became comparatively numerous and some were distinguished. Among them were the father of American pediatrics Abraham *Jacobi and Ernst Krakowitzer, who first used the laryngoscope, and others.
The phenomenon of Jewish exclusion from upper-level social circles was especially notable in the 1870s. It erupted notoriously in 1877, with the refusal to admit prominent Jewish financier Joseph Seligman to the fashionable Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York. In the event, the hotel's manager Henry Hilton gave explicit "instructions that no Israelites shall be permitted in the future to stop at this hotel." This act aroused widespread anger and indignation, not only among Jews but in the general press and among such liberal Protestants as Henry Ward Beecher. The social clubs for the wealthy that were being established in the 1870s and later mostly kept Jews out and the German gymnastic and social Turnvereine were also inhospitable. In 1879 the New York Herald published an interview with Austin Corbin, president of the Long Island Railroad and the Manhattan Beach Company, in which Corbin candidly explained his rationale for barring Jews from Coney Island, which he planned to develop as a fashionable resort. The interview with Corbin captured the genteel antisemitism of America's elite in the fin de siècle.
The war against the Jews, which was carried on at Saratoga two years ago, is apparently to be revived at Coney Island. This time it is in a quarter where Jewish residents of New York City are particularly aimed at. Several days ago a rumor was circulated to the effect that Austin Corbin, the President of the Manhattan Beach Company, had taken an open stand against admitting Jews to the beach or hotel. The report was on Sunday strengthened by a statement by Mr. P.S. Gilmore, the leader of the Manhattan Beach band, who said that Mr. Corbin told him he was going to oppose the Jews, and that he would rather "sink" the two millions invested in the railway and hotel than have a single Israelite take advantage of its attractions. A representative of the Herald called upon Mr. Corbin at his banking establishment in the new Trinity building, No. 115 Broadway, yesterday, to ascertain what foundation there was for these most extraordinary rumors. Mr. Corbin at first exhibited some timidity about talking on the subject, but finally invited the reporter into his private office, where he was joined by his brother and partner, Daniel C. Corbin.
"You see," he began, "I don't want to speak too strongly, as it might be mistaken for something entirely different from its intended sense. Personally I am opposed to Jews. They are a pretentious class, who expect three times as much for their money as other people. They give us more trouble on our road and in our hotel than we can stand. Another thing is, that they are driving away the class of people who are beginning to make Coney Island the most fashionable and magnificent watering place in the world."
"Of course, this must affect business?"
"Why, they are hurting us in every way, and we do not want them. We cannot bring the highest social element to Manhattan Beach if the Jews persist in coming. They won't associate with Jews, and that's all there is about it."
"Do you intend to make an open stand against them?"
"Yes, I do. They are contemptible as a class, and I never knew but one 'white' Jew in my life. The rest I found were not safe people to deal with in business. Now, I feel pretty warm over this matter, and I will write a statement which you can publish."
Mr. Corbin sat down at his desk and wrote a few sentences on a slip of paper, as follows:
"We do not like the Jews as a class. There are some well behaved people among them, but as a rule they make themselves offensive to the kind of people who principally patronize our road and hotel, and I am satisfied we should be better off without than with their custom."
"There," said he, handing the statement to the reporter, "that is my opinion and I am prepared to follow up the matter. It is a question that has to be handled without gloves. It stands this way: We must have a good place for society to patronize. I say we cannot do so and have Jews. They are a detestable and vulgar people. What do you say, eh, Dan?"
This last sentence was addressed to his brother, Mr. Daniel Corbin, who had taken an active part in the conversation. Dan said, with great emphasis, "Vulgar? I can only find one term for them, and that is nasty. It describes the Jews perfectly."
Mr. Austin Corbin then spoke warmly of the loss sustained by the Manhattan Beach Company in consequence of Israelitish patronage.
"Do you mean, Mr. Corbin, that the presence of Jews attracts the element of ruffianism?" asked the reporter.
"Not always. But the thing is this. The Jews drive off the people whose places are filled by a less particular class. The latter are not rich enough to have any preference in the matter. Even they, in my opinion, bear with them only because they can't help it. It is not the Jews' religion I object to; it is the offensiveness which they possess as a sect or nationality. I would not oppose any man because of his creed."
"Will the other members of the Manhattan Beach Company support you in your position?"
"I expect them to. They know just as much about it as I do, and no reasonable man can deny that the Jews will creep in a place just as it is about to become a grand success and spoil everything. They are not wanted at the beach and that settles it."
"Have you spoken to any other members about it?"
"No, but I guess they know my opinions."
Mr. Corbin rose from the chair he had been sitting in and paced the floor. "I'll tell you," he said, running his fingers through his hair, "if I had my way and there was no one to consult with in the matter but myself, I would have stopped the Jews from coming long ago. You just publish my statement. It covers the whole ground, and I mean every word of it."
Mr. Corbin concluded the conversation by telling the reporter to be sure not to give the impression that he was warning against the Jewish religion, but he stigmatized the Jews as having no place in first-class society.
In contrast to the major urban centers of the eastern seaboard, it generally appears that during the early development of many midwestern cities Jews had the freest opportunities for social mingling and political advancement. Indeed, it was quite usual for a Jew, as one of the few literate, stable settlers, to become mayor or a leading official of a so-called frontier town. However, once these pioneer years ended and more fixed social groupings came into being, a tendency to exclude Jews from elite social and business circles became evident.
Over the course of the 19th century, the profile of American Jewish women changed dramatically. In the ante-bellum period, German Jewish immigrant women participated actively in the family economy as their male counterparts made the transition from itinerant peddling to stationary businesses such as small stores and boardinghouses. Within a short period, German Jewish immigrant families achieved a measure of economic stability. The liberal climate and dynamic social setting of America provided the scope and inducement for American Jewish women to opt out of a traditional Jewish lifestyle marked by domesticity and religious piety. Moreover, the Reform movement's concomitant emphasis on Americanizing Judaism and eliminating aspects of Jewish practice that set Jews apart from the dominant middle-class Protestant culture of the period, including the labor intensive activity of maintaining a Jewish household in accordance with traditional dietary laws, paved the way for new models of female behavior.
As early as the 1820s and 1830s, upper-middle-class German Jewish women in urban centers transformed the activity of ḥevrot nashim, women's groups that sought to fulfill the commandment of performing mitzvot (charitable acts) such as preparing the dead for ritual burial, visiting and caring for the sick, and assisting the poor, into an emerging network of self-governing female benevolent societies devoted to a wide array of communal and philanthropic work. In 1819 Rebecca Gratz established the prototype of the Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent Society in Philadelphia. In ensuing decades, this innovative framework became a countrywide phenomenon characterized by voluntary membership, democratic procedures, and fundraising. Following an initial phase during which such female societies were attached to synagogues and run by male officers, they evolved into truly independent non-synagogal frameworks managed and directed by women. Meanwhile, the steady acculturation and secularization of German Jewry, the swift upward mobility of the German Jewish family and its embourgeoisment, and the development of an intricate web of new sociocultural institutions in wider middle-class American society – including in 1843 the creation of the B'nai B'rith fraternal order – provided a context in which Jewish women's groups became normative.
In the decades following the Civil War, a variety of Jewish female social agencies and charitable institutions emerged. Among the most notable examples from this period are the Henry Street Settlement house, created in 1893 by social activist Lillian *Wald, and the Clara De Hirsch Home for Working Girls, a trade school established in 1897 that quickly became a model for similar enterprises across the country. The year 1893 also witnessed the founding of the *National Council of Jewish Women, organized during a Jewish Women's Congress held as part of the World's Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World's Fair. Thereafter, with the support of Lillian Wald and Jane Addams, the National Council of Jewish Women established more than a dozen settlement houses in immigrant neighborhoods across the country. In the decades that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, American Jewish women of German ancestry opened the door to new social patterns and political roles that would ultimately transform the place of women in Judaism and American Jewish life.
mass waves of immigration
The "East European Era" in American Jewish history started in 1881–82 with widespread pogroms in tsarist Russia and reached a climax with the implementation of the Johnson-Reed Act in 1924 when the United States Congress effectively closed the doors to the "Golden Land." During these years, the number of Jews in the United States grew from about 280,000 in a U.S. population of 50,155,000 in 1880, to approximately 4,500,000 of 115,000,000 in 1925. Some 2,378,000 Jews arrived in the United States between 1880 and the end of free immigration in 1925. The peak was reached during the five consecutive years 1904 to 1908, when 642,000 reached American shores. This movement, which formed part of the mass waves of migration from Europe to the United States in general, was indeed epoch-making. Vast numbers of Jews who moved from Eastern Europe into the world's fastest growing economy were automatically emancipated from all legal discrimination and rapidly entered Western culture.
Events stimulating European emigration, such as the pogroms of 1881–83, the expulsion from Moscow in 1890, and Russia's years of war, revolution, and pogroms between 1903 and 1907 were notorious episodes. Other causes of the mass migration lay deeper, however, and were more influential. Probably the most important cause was the growth of East European (Russian Empire, Austrian Poland, Hungary, Romania) Jewry from perhaps 1,500,000 in 1800 to some 6,800,000 persons in 1900, generating nearly insoluble questions of sheer physical survival. The economic development of Eastern Europe failed to provide sufficient livelihood for its Jews, and Russian governmental policies excluded Jews from the new industrial cities, kept them off the land, and burdened them with drastically restrictive decrees. The feeling among Russian Jews grew stronger that their lot would never improve by normal political and economic processes but required emigration abroad or revolution at home. The Jews of Romania, mostly 19th-century immigrants from Russia who attained a better economic position by their move, suffered greatly from arbitrary and occasionally violent treatment as aliens without rights. In Galicia, under Habsburg rule, the Jews enjoyed emancipation from 1867, but the economic backwardness of that area fostered the highest emigration rate in Eastern Europe. By then emigrants could travel by fully developed railroad and steamship lines, so that the journey from a town in Eastern Europe to the port of New York City might be consummated in two weeks. Entry into the United States was virtually free, with barely one percent of arrivals turned away, mainly because of contagious diseases.
The pace of immigration increased with each decade. The annual average between 1881 and 1892 stood at approximately 19,000; between 1892 and 1903, at 37,000; and for the decade between 1903 and the outbreak of war in 1914, at 76,000 for each year. The mass waves of immigration triggered alarm bells in nativist circles, particularly among the established segments of white Protestant America who feared the mongrelization of the Christian West by so-called "new immigrants." This theme gained widespread credence as a result of the work of the Immigration Commission of the 61st U.S. Congress, chaired by the xenophobe Senator William P. Dillingham of Vermont. In 1910, the Dillingham Commission resolved "within a half hour of the time when, under the law," its report must have been filed – and with nary a reference to the findings of a 42-volume report concerning recent immigrant groups in the United States – to recommend that the American government henceforth place a premium on immigrants of "Aryan stock" from northern and western Europe and severely restrict the flow of immigration from southern and eastern European lands. Even before its formal recommendation to the U.S. Congress, news of the Dillingham Commission's nativist predisposition sent shock waves through the organized American Jewish community. The officers of the American Jewish Committee and the lay leadership of the Union of American Hebrew Congregation assumed an active role in trying to defend the interests of the American Jewish community as a whole, while protecting the burgeoning Yiddish-speaking immigrant communities now heavily concentrated along the eastern seaboard and in the Middle West. Testifying before the commission in 1909, Simon *Wolf, a prominent Washington, d.c., lawyer and Jewish leader of German ancestry active in both groups, attempted to disabuse Senators William P. Dillingham, Henry Cabot Lodge, and other commission members of their hostile attitude toward the Jews. Much of the commission's antipathetic attitude to the Jews derived from antisemitic assumptions and pseudo-scientific assumptions about race and genetics. "The point we make is this," Wolf asserted, "a Jew coming from Russia is a Russian; from Roumania, a Roumanian; from France, a Frenchman; from England, an Englishman; and from Germany, a German; that 'Hebrew' or 'Jewish' is simply a religion."
Senator [Henry Cabot] Lodge: How would you classify those coming from the seventeen provinces of Austria – men of utterly different races, historically speaking? We classify the Croatians, the Bohemians, according to the race they represent in Austria …
Mr. Wolf: I am aware of that.
Senator Lodge: The Irish are a perfect illustration of that. They are not classified according to their religion. They are British subjects –
Mr. Wolf: Certainly.
Senator Lodge: But we classify them as Irish because they are Irish, and undoubtedly there is a great deal of mixed blood in Ireland – English, Scotch, and Welsh blood.
Mr. Wolf: That is altogether geographical, and so with respect to the seventeen Austrian provinces.
Senator Lodge: The Irish are not classified geographically. An Irishman is classified as an Irish immigrant wherever he may come from.
Mr. Wolf: You seem to forget – and you are certainly sufficiently versed in the history of all people and especially the people I represent to know – that when a Jew is spoken of, a Jew in faith is meant.
Senator Lodge: Not at all… There is where we start off with a vast difference….
As manifest by the Dillingham Commission's monumental report and the Lodge-Simon exchange, the American political establishment had ample access to objective data and information about Jews and Jewish immigrants. But Dillingham, Lodge, and other key political figures were hardly predisposed to view such evidence rationally. Instead, they set in motion a chain of legislative initiatives that ultimately succeeded in closing the doors to the United States between 1921 and 1924.
Notwithstanding the wave of xenophobia and isolationism that swept the country in these years, the vast majority of East European Jewish immigrants proved successful in transplanting themselves to American soil. Indeed, the 42-volume report of the Dillingham Commission's report included considerable documentation in this regard. Meanwhile, the proportion of immigrants that returned to Europe from among the immigration of the 1880s has been estimated at 25 percent. From that point it steadily declined; in 1908 and after, when statistics began to be taken, the rate of return was about eight percent; after 1919 it sank below one percent. Clearly, the Jewish immigrant came to stay, to a greater extent than all his immigrant contemporaries except the Irish. A negligible number followed the advice of the Palestinian sage *Israel Meir ha-Kohen, known as the "Ḥafez Ḥayyim," in his emigrant guide Niddeḥei Yisrael ("The Dispersed of Israel") to return as early as possible and live in prosperous piety. Indeed, the Jewish immigrants who came to the United States became a permanent addition to the population. They raised the number of Jews in the United States to approximately 1,000,000 in 1900, 3,250,000 in 1915, and 4,500,000 in 1925, establishing the Jews as a major ethnic and religious group, and made American Jewry the largest Jewish community in the world after 1918.
Almost 80 percent of the East European newcomers were 15 to 45 years old, the age range typical of immigrants to the United States generally. Men outnumbered women only slightly, indicating the permanence and family character of this emigration, even though families were often separated for considerable periods of time. Owing to the sizable quotient of female Jewish immigrants of child-bearing age, the Yiddish-speaking immigrant community was a very fecund group; very high birthrates are recorded for urban districts where they preponderated.
Meanwhile, the earlier German Jewish stock, joined by later middle-class German Jewish immigrants and a few from England and France, shifted from predominantly mercantile occupations to a more varied spectrum. Law and politics, banking and finance, department store ownership, publishing, medicine, and literary, academic, and scientific pursuits all became widespread. A comparatively noticeable group functioned as collectors and patrons of the arts, and as philanthropists. During the 1870s German Jewish settlement had spread wide, with hundreds of small towns in California, along the Mississippi River, and throughout the South and Middle West where there were small Jewish communities. A stream of East European Jewish immigrants followed in their wake, including would-be farmers who established Jewish agricultural communities along the eastern seaboard with the support of the Baron De Hirsch Fund and the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society. Additionally, small groups of Am Olam (Eternal People) pioneers created quasi-socialist Jewish pioneering colonies that dotted the American landscape from New Jersey to Oregon. Within the space of a generation, however, most Jews quit these towns and colonies. The great expansion of America's industrial cities, the depression of the agricultural economy upon which many small towns and rural communities were reliant, and the antisemitic undertones and religious fundamentalism to be found in remote areas of the country helped to make Jews of the 20th century a largely metropolitan group.
social and cultural life
The Jewish labor movement helped to foster a secular Yiddish-speaking environment that flourished from the 1910s into the 1930s and offered a modern, social democratic alternative to Jewish tradition. About 80,000 families, mainly members of Jewish unions and small businessmen, belonged to the Arbeter Ring (*Workmen's Circle) at its peak in the mid-1920s. Like the socialist Zionist Farband, it provided sick and death benefits as well as a diverse Yiddish cultural program. In this period, there was a lively and robust Yiddish daily press with a combined circulation of about 700,000 at its peak in 1916. Through a variety of weeklies, monthlies, literary journals, and periodicals, a rich diet of news as well as Yiddish literature was supplied by prominent writers, poets, and literary critics including Sholem *Asch, M. *Boraisha, David *Einhorn, R. Eisland, Mendel Elkin, Jacob *Glatstein, Moshe Leib *Halpern, Peretz *Hirschbein, Zishe *Landau, Mani Leib, A. Leiles, N. *Minkoff, Samuel *Niger, David *Pinski, Abraham *Reisin, J. *Rolnick, Morris *Rosenfeld, H. *Rosenblatt, I.J. *Schwartz, L. *Shapiro, Isaac Bashevis *Singer, Israel Joshua *Singer, J. Slonim, and *Yehoash.
Among the most significant Yiddish newspapers in this period were the traditionalist Yidisher Tageblatt ("Jewish Daily News"), the Labor Zionist weekly *Yidisher Kemfer ("Jewish Fighter"), which attracted significant public intellectuals including Nachman *Syrkin, Chaim *Zhitlowsky, and Ḥayyim *Greenberg, *Zukunft ("Future"), which became the leading Yiddish monthly under the editorship Abraham Liessen, the conservative-leaning Morgen Zhurnal (*Morning Journal), and the liberal pro-Zionist Tog (*Jewish Day). In the final analysis, however, the Forverts (*Jewish Daily Forward), edited by Abraham *Cahan, was unquestionably the most influential newspaper of the day. The most popular feature of the Forverts was "Bintel Brief" (Bundle of Letters), a forum edited by Cahan himself in which he dispensed advice to thousands of Yiddish-speaking immigrants who wrote seeking advice about their everyday concerns, struggles, hopes, fears, and needs. The column was wildly popular, and it also proved to be important to the Forvert's general commercial success. Viewed in historical perspective, Bintel Brief throws considerable light on the daily experiences and hardscrabble lives of East European Jewish immigrants in this period. For example, a debate over secularism and tradition in 1908 prompted the following exchange:
Worthy Mr. Editor,
Please help us decide who is right in the debate between friends, whether a Socialist and freethinker should observe yohrzeit (the traditional anniversary of mourning one's relatives)?
Among the disputants there is a Socialist, a freethinker, who observes his mother's yohrzeit in the following manner: He pays a pious man to say the kaddish prayer for the dead, and burns a yohrzeit candle in his home. He himself doesn't say kaddish, because he doesn't believe in religion. But his desire to respect the memory of his mother is so strong that it does not prevent him from performing this religious ceremony.
Among the debaters there are those who do not want to know of such an emotion as honoring the dead. But if one does desire to do so, one should say kaddish himself, even if he does not believe in it.
Therefore, our first question is: Can we recognize the beautiful human emotion of honoring the dead, especially when it concerns one so near as a mother? The second question: If so, should the expression of honor be in keeping with the desires of the honored? Third: Would it be more conscientious and righteous if the freethinker said kaddish himself, or if he hired a pious man to do it for him?
Being convinced that this matter interests a great number of people, we hope you, Mr. Editor, will answer us soon.
The Debating Group
To which Cahan responded:
Honoring a departed one who was cherished and loved is a gracious sentiment and a requisite for the living. And everyone wants to be remembered after his death. Socialists and free-thinkers observe the anniversaries of their great leaders – just recently they commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Karl Marx.
Saying kaddish is certainly a religious rite, and to pay someone to say kaddish is not the act of a freethinker. But we can understand the psychology of a freethinker who feels that hiring someone else is not as much against his own convictions as to say kaddish himself.
Women, too, wrote to Cahan about their travails in the New World. Many female writers discussed their struggles as workers, wives, and mothers. The following exchange from 1908 provides a glimpse of a dilemma that faced many Jewish immigrant women: abandonment by their husbands. Known in Jewish tradition as agunot (abandoned wives), such women often suffered deep personal and intense social and economic trauma. Indeed, the Forverts frequently published lists of husbands who deserted their wives in an effort to reunite broken families.
Have pity on me and my two small children and print my letter in the Forverts.
Max! The children and I now say farewell to you. You left us in such a terrible state. You have no compassion for us. For six years I loved you faithfully, took care of you like a loyal servant, never had a happy day with you. Yet I forgive you for everything.
You ever asked yourself why you left us? Max, where is your conscience: you used to have sympathy for the forsaken women and used to say their terrible plight was due to the men who left them in dire need. And how did you act? I was a young, educated, decent girl when you took me. You lived with me for six years, during which time I bore you four children. And then you left me.
Of the four children, only two remain, but you have made them living orphans. Who will bring them up? Who will support us? Have you no pity for your own flesh and blood? Consider what you are doing. My tears choke me and I cannot write anymore.
Be advised that in several days I am leaving with my two living orphans for Russia. We say farewell to you and beg you to take pity on us and send us enough to live on…
Your Deserted Wife and Children
As the foregoing illustrates, many Jewish immigrants to the United States experienced downward mobility and consequently thousands did return to Europe despite the dangers and uncertainty they might face, particularly in tsarist Russia. That the Old World continued to exert a strong pull for many immigrants, even after they had been living in America for several years, is evident in the following exchange from 1912.
Twenty-two years ago I came to America with my wife and four little children. We lived in Chicago nineteen years, and we have been in New York for three. I am not skilled in a trade, but I am a businessman, and all these years I've struggled because I never made a living. I know English, I am not lazy, I've tried everything and never succeeded.
When the children were young I had to appeal for aid to my wealthy family in Warsaw, and they helped me many times. Later, as the children grew up and began to earn money, it was easier, but I, with all my ability as a businessman, couldn't get myself settled in this country. In the city of Warsaw, where I lived before immigrating to America, there were times when things weren't too bad. In America, however, it always went badly and I haven't been able to adjust to the country.
Now, when my children are all married and in good positions, I got an idea that it might be good for me and my wife to go back to Warsaw. It is very hard to part with the children, but to live in poverty is also bad. It seems strange to me that I must go away from the free America in order to better my condition. But the chances for me are still better there. I ask your advice and I thank you in advance.
The Unlucky One
Cahan's responded to the unfortunate man with a mixture of sympathy and hard-headed realism as follows:
The advice to this letter writer is not to go back to Warsaw, because after so many years in this country he would feel like a stranger there. He must understand he is no longer the same man he was twenty-two years ago and the city of Warsaw is also not the same as it was in the past.
Over the course of the next half a century, the Forverts emerged as the central publication of the Yiddish-speaking milieu. Following World War i, it gradually warmed to the cause of Zionism and became disenchanted with Soviet-style Communism. In time, although it never completely abandoned its socialist ethos and concern for the Jewish workers movement, the paper was gradually transformed into a vehicle of Jewish liberal opinion. In 1922 the prominent American publicist Oswald Garrison Villard, owner of The Nation, offered the following description of a typical issue of the Forverts at the height of its influence and prosperity:
Its eight pages of eight columns each (28 or 32 pages on Sundays) offers a variegated bill of fare. Pictures, of course, occasional cartoons; little of crime (about two columns a day); often sensational matter… extraordinarily valuable letters from abroad, together with a great deal of Jewish and labor news, all with Hearst-like headlines. In one week in July 1922 it carried 24 columns of letters and cablegrams from its own correspondents (in eastern Europe)… In that same week it carried 154 columns of serious reading matter and 137 columns which can be termed "light matter," though this does not adequately describe it, for while the Forward writes down to its readers it is also printing today by far the best fiction and belles lettres of any newspaper in America.
Beyond the world of print, vast audiences also responded enthusiastically to the musical artistry and liturgical compositions of cantorial singers, some of whom recorded the earliest gramaphone records. One of the most celebrated figures in this regard was Yossele *Rosenblatt, who immigrated to the United States from Germany to conduct services at the First Hungarian Congregation in Harlem, New York. He quickly attracted a following of Jewish and non-Jewish music lovers who flocked to his services and concerts. There was also a flourishing of scholarly public Yiddish lectures, Yiddish afternoon schools sponsored by a variety of organizations, and a burgeoning Yiddish theater scene, of which there were numerous troupes. The case of Abraham *Goldfaden, a pioneer of the Yiddish theater, exemplifies the complexity of the East European Jewish scene in this period. Goldfaden himself fled to the United States in 1903 after his plays were banned by the tsarist regime which feared their incendiary and revolutionary nature. He went on to write some 60 plays, including many popularly acclaimed comedies and melodramas. In the process, as historian Martin Gilbert writes, "Goldfaden became a strong critic of Jewish assimilation and participation in the life of other nationalities."
In his play Ben Ami (Son of My People) he called for Jewish national redemption in Palestine as an answer to the Russian pogroms. The play's aristocratic hero, on discovering his Jewish origins and witnessing a pogrom in Odessa, leaves the bloodstained soil of Russia for a new life, not in America, but in Palestine. Once there, the hero sets as his task the training of Jewish youth to till the soil and to work for the national regeneration of the Jewish people. As assimilation gained ground in the United States, and Zionism saw emigration to Palestine as the countermeasure to it, Goldfaden's play – it was the last that he wrote – held a particular resonance.
Somewhat later there were Yiddish films and part-time as well as full-time radio stations. It was here that many Jewish performers and actors got their start. For example, the Hollywood film star Theda *Bara (born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio) appeared in more than 40 films between 1914 and 1919 including A Fool was There (1915), in which she was cast as a vamp and acquired her signature role as an object of intense sexual desire. Another significant Jewish celebrity in this period was Fanny *Brice, who immigrated to the United States from Hungary with her family at the turn of the century, and made her debut in 1916 performing in the Ziegfield Follies. She launched her career dressed as an American Indian speaking English with a heavy Yiddish accent, a routine she would later develop and make famous in her role as Mrs. Cohen, a gossip who ordered her husband around. Years later, reflecting on her career in show business, Brice explained her comic strategy in the following terms: "In anything Jewish I ever did, I wasn't standing apart, making fun of the race. What happened to me on stage is what could happen to them. They identified with me, and then it was all right to get a laugh, because they were laughing at themselves as well as at me."
Most Yiddish-speaking Jews were secular and abandoned religious practice, but they retained strong ethnic attachments and folk loyalties. Except for the small socialist Zionist groups, they were generally indifferent or opposed to Zionism, although such attitudes waned after the 1920s as Palestine Jewry grew and concretized many socialist ideals. They were divided bitterly and irreconcilably in their attitude to Soviet Russia.
Very few Jewish immigrants, especially before 1900, were highly educated; they were mainly from the poorer working classes. Virtually all knew the rudiments of Jewish law and ritual, Hebrew Bible, and frequently some talmudic and rabbinic literature. Very few women, however, possessed any formal education. Only a minority maintained a brand of East European orthodox Judaism unswervingly against the overpowering force of the urban, industrial, and secular life into which they were cast. Another minority, mostly of younger intelligentsia, embraced socialism in one of its numerous contemporary forms, and in smaller numbers Zionism, Hebraism, or literary modernism. The mass of immigrants, it appears, retained a measure of outward signs of religious observance while, for example, neglecting the Sabbath rules and other daily stringencies. Only a tiny minority had time or inclination for pious study before or after work. Characteristically, they flocked to the synagogues on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and were diligent in matters of filial piety like the recitation of yizkor (the traditional memorial service) and the mourner's kaddish (memorial prayer). The bar mizvah of the sons of East European immigrants, symbolizing generational and ethnic continuity, was all but universally desired.
The most widespread immigrant organization was the ḥevrah (society), usually founded on a *landsmanshaft (hometown) basis. In New York City alone at least 1,200 landsmanshaften (pl.) existed in 1915. In addition to providing a fraternal social atmosphere for their members who knew each other still from Europe, the landsmanshaften invariably provided funeral arrangements and burial rights. Sick benefits and occasionally unemployment help were also granted. The societies probably reached their peak during the World War i era, when assistance to the war-smitten Jews of the native town became another major activity. A large proportion of such landsmanshaften affiliated with the Arbeter Ring, the Federation of Galician Jews, and other central organizations. Many maintained synagogues, all of which were Orthodox and Yiddish-speaking and preserved East European habits of worship. The little houses of worship known as shtieblakh (pl.) – New York City alone numbered over 500 in 1916 – were generally transitory venues and few of them survived the immigrant founders and the shift to areas of second settlement.
The entire immigrant milieu thus described was largely a generational experience. Sons and daughters generally did not follow their parents into the Jewish trade unions, so that the proportion of Jews in their ranks fell below half by the 1920s. The Yiddish press, theater, and literature steadily declined, for the next generation's language was English. They could care little for the ancestral town and its landsmanshaft and preferred other voluntaristic forms of Jewish life in the New World including Americanized synagogues, fraternal orders, membership societies, and institutions that offered benefits for death and illness. Indeed, the entire immigrant environment – problem-ridden, colorful, and dynamic – existed by grace of the stream of arrivals that continued until the restrictive legislation of the 1920s took full effect. Lacking replenishment from overseas, the Yiddish-speaking immigrant milieu contracted and shriveled; by the 1940s it was a relic.
neighborhoods, occupations, and the jewish labor movement
The East European Jewish immigrants clustered in distinct urban neighborhoods, which were generally older or slum districts close to downtown. The streets where they lived became all but exclusively Jewish in population, and the stores, the Yiddish heard on the streets, and the festive atmosphere on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays reflected the character of the inhabitants. Every American metropolitan center had such an area between the 1890s and 1920. The largest of them, the Lower East Side of New York City, sheltered an estimated 350,000 Jews in 1915 in less than two square miles. These neighborhoods were very seriously congested with dangerous problems of health and sanitation. Yet their prevailing atmosphere was one of hope and confidence, with a rich and varied cultural life. As material circumstances improved families quit the immigrant district for more attractive neighborhoods – resettlement locales referred to by historians as "areas of second settlement."
The immigrants' prime motive in coming to the United States was to improve their material and economic conditions. European fables about the "goldene medine" (golden land) notwithstanding, their lot was a hard one. They made their living among a vast variety of trades, although hardly any Jews worked on railroads, docks, or in mines and large factories. As was true of American occupations generally, habits of ethnic concentration could be found among the Jews. Petty trade proliferated as Jewish immigrants opened small stores throughout booming metropolises and in smaller cities as well. The venerable peddling trade, however, lost its luster. As a nationwide network of retail trade and mail order companies spread – the greatest of which, Sears Roebuck, was built by the Jewish entrepreneur Julius Rosenwald – the peddlers' status declined from an important agent of commerce to a marginal tradesman.
The Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrant generally joined the working class, working mainly in the ready-made clothing industry that was growing with remarkable rapidity. The number of Jews employed in it as workers, entrepreneurs, salesmen, and so forth may have reached 300,000 around 1915. The ready-made garment industry was composed mainly of shops where workers labored on one or two parts of the total product. In such important centers as Rochester, Cleveland, and Chicago, clothing was produced in substantial factories, owned mostly by Jews. On the other hand, in 1910, in the Borough of Manhattan within New York City, there were 11,172 clothing firms employing 214,428 persons; 78 percent of them, in 1913, averaged five employees each. These were the notorious sweatshops – tiny, crowded, dirty, unventilated, often the petty employer's dwelling – where the employee often worked for 16 hours a day during the busy period of this highly seasonal industry. Despite all their evils, the workshops did enable thousands of immigrant wage workers to enter the garment business on their own. Failure only meant that the unsuccessful entrepreneur returned to wage work, while success in the ferociously competitive industry might lead to independence and wealth. New York City was the great center of the clothing industry; its East Side and then lower West Side, and finally midtown Seventh Avenue were the foci of manufacturing. Chicago was a second major center, especially for men's clothing. Philadelphia, Baltimore, Rochester, Boston, and Cleveland were also important in this regard. After 1900 successful East European immigrant entrepreneurs moved into the leadership of the industry as the earlier German Jewish capitalists tended to quit it. In Cleveland, by contrast, the earlier families held sway.
Highly decentralized, low-cost ready-made clothing production was as nearly Jewish an industry as ever seen in the United States, although large numbers of Italian, German, and Irish workers, especially women, also held jobs. It inspired the Jewish trade union movement, beginning in the 1880s. The Jewish labor movement spoke in revolutionary tones during early years, but made little headway before 1900. The seasonal fluctuations of the industry, the virtually unorganizable mass of puny workshops, the relation of employer and employee who might be relatives and landsmen (fellow townsmen from Eastern Europe) and could readily exchange places under the conditions of the industry, the failure of the early unions to organize solidly, the legal obstacles and public hostility to trade unionism, especially when it was professedly socialist and revolutionary – were all factors which hindered the development of the Jewish labor movement before 1900. However, larger clothing factories became more common after 1900, and their size and overhead tended to reduce seasonality and sever personal relations between worker and employer. The downfall of the revolutionary movement in Russia in 1906, moreover, caused a considerable number of able labor organizers to flee to the United States. In this period, American public opinion also began to sympathize with trade unionism.
The period of the successful organization of Jewish labor, from 1909 to 1916, coincided with the great drive by American trade unionism at large. In New York City the surge of trade unionism began with the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, in which 146 Italian and Jewish workers, almost all girls and young women, perished. It was followed by the bitter "revolt of the shirtwaist [blouse] makers," an unsuccessful six-week strike which drew widespread public sympathy but failed nevertheless.
The most important labor event of the period was the three-month strike of 60,000 cloakmakers in 1910 under the direction of the previously ineffectual *International Ladies Garment Workers Union, founded in 1900. In this largest sustained strike in the city's history up to that time, the main demand was for recognition of the union as the exclusive bargaining agent for the workers, and it was on this point, rather than those which concerned wages, hours, and subcontracting, that employers' resistance was bitterest. Such acculturated American Jews as Judah L. *Magnes, Louis *Marshall, and Jacob H. *Schiff intervened in the struggle, but the settlement was worked out by Louis D. *Brandeis, making his first appearance in the Jewish public arena. The "Protocol of Permanent Peace" provided for a system of joint employer-employee-public boards to deal with grievances, sanitation, and other issues, while the contest over union recognition was settled by "the preferential shop," i.e., preference in employment given to union members. The success of the protocol attracted countrywide attention in labor and governmental circles. As well, both the American and Jewish press helped to spread the word of Brandeis' skill and authority as an arbitrator. In a carefully crafted letter written in 1912 to Lincoln Steffens, the era's leading muckraking American journalist – copies of which were forwarded to several major newspapers and their editors – Brandeis spelled out his Progressive vision of employee-employer relations.
In my opinion the time is ripe for a great advance in the scope and influence and the quality of trade unionism.
On the one hand, the disclosures incident to the labor policies of the strong trusts and particularly the hours of labor, wages, and conditions in the steel industry are making many Americans recognize that unions and collective bargaining are essential to industrial liberty and social justice.
On the other hand, the abuses of trade unionism as we have known them during the last twenty years with their violence, restriction of output, and their lack of constructive policy, are in large part the result of the fact that they have been engaged in a bitter struggle for existence. When public opinion is brought actively to the support of labor unions these abuses will, I believe, tend rapidly to disappear. But the American people should not and will not accept unionism if it involves the closed shop. They will not consent to the exchange of the tyranny of the employer for the tyranny of the employee. Unionism therefore cannot make a great advance until it abandons the closed shop; and it cannot accept the open shop as an alternative. The open shop means the destruction of the union.
The advance of unionism demands therefore some relation between the employer and the employee other than the closed or open shop, and I feel confident that we have found a solution in the preferential union shop.
…This seems the time to commence the campaign of education. Much hammering will be necessary; for the employers will be loath to enter into so comprehensive an agreement with unions; and unions will be loath to give up the closed shop. But the preferential shop seems to be a way out of our present serious difficulty; and we must pursue it unless a better can be found.
Though Brandeis' letter to Steffens ostensibly deals exclusively with the question of the preferential union shop, it also provides a glimpse of the amalgam of political liberalism and sensitivity to the rights of disenfranchised groups that would become a hallmark of the American Jewish community in the 20th century. Meanwhile, the size, duration, and the unprecedented settlement of the cloakmakers' strike made it a milestone in the history of American labor and a pivotal event which turned the Jewish labor movement into a powerful force. The episode also elevated the visibility and underscored the political capital of other Jewish participants, most notably the union lawyers Morris *Hillquit and Meyer *London. In fact, London subsequently won election in 1914 to the U.S. House of Representatives as the standard bearer Socialist Party for the Lower East Side; he was reelected in 1916.
The cloakmakers' strike was followed by several other successful ones, including in 1912–13 the strike of the furriers, men's tailors, and ladies' waist- and dressmakers. Surveying this turbulent period, the historian Jonathan Frankel has observed that "at one point in 1912, an estimated 175,000 workers in the 'Jewish trades' were out on strike." Another important strike that followed was the Chicago men's clothing strike in 1914 and 1915. Here leaders of the United Garment Workers, whose preponderant ethnic elements were not Jewish and did not work at ready-made clothing, made an unauthorized deal with the employers which brought about the secession of the Jewish and other ready-made tailors and the founding of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, led by Sidney *Hillman. The new union conducted a series of victorious strikes in Chicago and then in other major centers of the trade. However, neither they nor the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ilgwu) were uniformly successful. Thus in Cleveland the factory employers defeated strikers and union organizers until 1917. By 1920 at least 250,000 Jews belonged to the Jewish unions.
American Jewish women lived under a set of unique circumstances at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In stark contrast to their counterparts in much of Europe, Jewish women in the United States enjoyed increasing freedom of individual movement and expression, and some even possessed funds for philanthropic activities. Such liberties and assets were almost totally lacking in Eastern Europe, where traditional gender-differentiated Jewish values and systems prevailed and where the possibility for Jewish participation in the host society was marginal. In many situations, Jewish women experienced double oppression – as Jews in an antisemitic milieu and as women in a patriarchal society. The lack of birth control, opportunities for education, and a secure income severely restricted the lives of Jewish women in Eastern and Central Europe. In the United States, these forces were muted.
In late 19th century America, Jewish women expanded and deepened their participation in American Jewish life. The mass waves of East European Jewish immigrants, including many thousand radicalized young Yiddish-speaking women, helped create the American Jewish labor movement and some of the most important American labor entities including the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union. They also became involved in the anti-prostitution movement, the Settlement House movement, the suffrage movement, and in the birth control movement.
Women leaders of the early American Jewish labor movement included Clara Lemlich (*Shavelson), Pauline *Newman, and Rose *Schneiderman, who served as president of the New York Women's Trade Union League. These women proved especially adept at negotiating the delicate relationship of women workers, the male-dominated labor establishment, and various progressive and middle-class allies of the labor movement. The significance in this regard became evident in the wake of the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, in which more than 140 women workers perished as result of inhumane sweatshop conditions on the Lower East Side of New York City. Following the tragedy, these and other women campaigned for the regulation of safety standards, sanitary conditions, wages, and working hours. Meanwhile, the establishment of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was due, in large measure, to the organizational talents of political activist Bessie Abramowitz (*Hillman), who shortly thereafter married American labor leader Sidney Hillman. At its peak between World Wars i and ii, approximately 40 percent of all Jewish laborers could be found in the American garment industry, including a sizable quotient of women, the majority of whom belonged to International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. In this period, Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca, Fannia *Cohen, and Rose *Pesotta assumed national prominence as influential American labor leaders. The importance of Jewish rank-and-file participation in the American labor movement and the impact of Jewish workers' activity on American Jewish life is indicated by the ringing editorial endorsement of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union by the Yiddish-language daily Forverts, which at the time had a circulation of well over a quarter million.
In Chicago a convention of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union opens today [May 3, 1920] at which there will be present about three thousand delegates from the entire length and breadth of the country.
For the first time in the history of this powerful labor organization, the most important trade in the general women's clothing industry comes to the convention one hundred percent organized. The cloak makers have, during the past two years, captured the last stronghold of the employers, who have always been considered invincible. Cleveland fell; the last factories in Canada were captured; cities in the far West were organized; and the cloak trade comes to the convention entirely under the flag of the union.
Of great significance is the recommendation of the executive committee that the union should organize cooperative shops. This plan reflects the spirit of the new tendencies in the union movement of the world, the spirit which leads workers to control industries themselves.
The ilgwu stands now in the foremost ranks of the American labor movement, both materially and spiritually. It is one of the most important unions in the country. It has won for its members such conditions that very few of the real Americans may compare with it. Spiritually it is in every respect one of the most progressive. It responds to every movement for justice, for light. It is always prepared to help the workers in other trades in their struggles to help the oppressed and the suffering.
The International Ladies Garment Workers' Union is a blessing to its members, a pride to the general labor movement, and a hope for the progress of humanity at large.
The twin themes of female and Jewish liberation also impelled many thousands – and later hundreds of thousands – of American Jewish women to view the new Jewish community in the Land of Israel as a model. This Jewish country could embody, they believed, a reflection of what modern society ought to be: pluralistic, healthy, welcoming, egalitarian, and accessible to all Jews. The fact that very few American Zionist women expected to actually set foot in Palestine did not represent a contradiction for them. It simply meant that their ideology would remain romantic and insulated from the harsh reality of Jewish life in Ottoman and then British Palestine. Zionism for these women became a way of fighting their own assimilationist tendencies, rather than a way of addressing the ideological imperative of emigration.
The groundswell of popular interest in Zionism in the United States, especially among East European Jewish immigrants, led to the creation of a diverse array of Zionist women's organizations and groups by the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, women's Zionist organizations in the United States were frequently stronger and more effective than their male counterparts. For example, since its inception in 1897, the *Zionist Organization of America (zoa) purported to be the representative body of the American movement. Though the rank and file was comprised of men and women, the organization's leadership was entirely male. Relegated to conventional and secondary roles, female zoa members performed social functions rather than substantive ones, and were shunted to the margins of political activity. In 1912, a few Jewish women had created their own Zionist organization, named Hadassah. As Hadassah grew and flourished, the zoa leadership demanded that it fold into the male-dominated zoa. In a remarkable instance of resistance, American Zionist women decided to take matters into their own hands and establish a separate independent organization, rather than allow Hadassah to become the zoa's female auxiliary. The new American women 's Zionist organization determined to assume a full range of social, financial and political roles.
Not only did the zoa stand to lose a significant portion of its membership and the women's services, it was also threatened with stiff competition. In the event, the zoa leadership sought to compel Henrietta *Szold to merge Hadassah into the organization's ranks. Szold refused. She was interested in mobilizing American Jewish women and foresaw the potential and power of a distinct Zionist women's organization. Indeed, American women's colleges, medical schools and other institutions had already successfully employed a similar strategy. A crisis ensued, but Szold held firm. Since that time, Hadassah has grown to become the largest Jewish women's organization in the world. It remains a powerful and, arguably, the most significant Zionist group in the United States. By contrast, the zoa has enjoyed only sporadic organizational and political success.
With some variation, the scenario described above was repeated in other Zionist quarters. For example, *Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion), the American wing of the Russian socialist-Zionist party, opposed the establishment of a separate women's organization. Similarly, when *Pioneer Women was created in 1925, it too became more successful than its male counterpart. But Pioneer Women is instructive in an additional way: it demonstrates the impact of Jewish women from Palestine on the mobilization of American Jewish woman. In this case, American women's Zionist activity and ideology were not exclusively a product of conditions in America, of Jews generally, or of women. Rather, these spheres were strongly influenced by female emissaries from Palestine, charismatic leaders such as Raḥel Yanait *Ben-Zvi and Manya Wilbushewitz Shohat.
Last, American Zionist women leaders like Irma *Lindheim and Henrietta Szold traveled back and forth between Palestine and the United States, bringing with them compelling descriptions and instructive reports of life in the Yishuv and forging a bond between the two communities. In general, Hadassah appealed to a new generation of middle-class English-speaking American Jewish women, while Pioneer Women attracted working-class first- and second-generation Jewish women from the Yiddish-speaking immigrant milieu. There were also American female Zionist organizations within the Orthodox community. In all cases, ranging among the varied classes and religious spheres, American Jewish women understood their Zionist activities both in terms of aiding the Jewish community in Palestine, and in retaining their own Jewish identity through self-education. The focus of the women's organizations was on fundraising and social projects, particularly projects that would aid women and families. In short, American Zionist women's groups – whether left-leaning, middle-class, or religious – emerged as a loosely constructed coalition that emphasized a residual national consciousness in American Jewish life and worked alongside other women's groups who sought to participate in and shape the larger public conversation about the Americanization of Jewish identity and culture.
clash between "greenhorns" and "natives"
Unlike the many other immigrant groups that reached the United States at the same time as the East European Jews, the latter had the important patronage and protection of their established German Jewish predecessors. By this time, settled Jews had largely fallen away from Germanism and were beginning to feel the impact of systematic social and political exclusion from mainstream American culture – a phenomenon that reached an abrupt climax during World War i with the swift rise of nationwide anti-German sentiment. Feelings between New York City's uptown "native" Jews and downtown "greenhorns" – and those in Jewish communities elsewhere where German and East European Jews also derisively referred to each other, respectively, as yahudim and yidn – were none too fond. Meanwhile, strong anti-immigrant sentiment was to be found especially among working-class native Jews, such as cigar makers and skilled tailors. Notwithstanding irritation over the allegedly "clannish" and "backward" character of the Yiddish-speaking immigrants, their political radicalism, and their presumed ingratitude for the philanthropy they received, the native Jews regarded the East European newcomers as their wards, to be helped, chided, and guided. Writing in 1915, Israel *Friedlaender, a Polish-born, German- and French-educated Jewish public intellectual and professor of Semitics and Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary, described the American setting and the cultural clash between German and East European Jews in the following terms:
America has, in less than one generation, become the second largest center of the Jewish Diaspora, and bids fair to become the first, instead of the second, within another generation. No other country in the world offers, even approximately, such a favorable combination of opportunities for the development of Diaspora Judaism, as does America: economic possibilities, vast sparsely populated territories, freedom of action, liberty of conscience, equality of citizenship, appreciation of the fundamentals of Judaism, variety of population, excluding a rigidly nationalistic state policy, and other similar factors. It is no wonder, therefore, that in no other country did Reform Judaism [brought from Germany], as the incarnation of Diaspora Judaism, attain such luxurious growth as it did in America. It discarded more radically than in Europe, the national elements still clinging to Judaism, and it solemnly proclaimed that Judaism was wholly and exclusively a religious faith, and that America was the Zion and Washington the Jerusalem of American Israel.
On the other hand, the emigrants from Russia brought the antithesis on the scene. They quickly perceived the decomposing effect of American life upon Jewish doctrine and practice, and they became convinced more firmly than ever that Diaspora Judaism was a failure, and that the only antidote was Palestine and nothing but Palestine. The nationalists among them beheld in the very same factors in which the German Jews saw the possibilities of Diaspora Judaism the chances for organizing Jewry on purely nationalistic lines. Nowhere else, except perhaps in Russia, can be found a greater amount of Palestinian sentiment, as well as a larger manifestation of a one-sided nationalism, than is to be met with in this country.
This conflict of ideas became extraordinarily aggravated by numerous influences of a personal character. The division between the so-called German Jews and the so-called Russian Jews was not limited to a difference in theory. It was equally nourished by far-reaching differences in economic and social position and in the entire range of mental development. The German Jews were the natives; the Russian Jews were the newcomers. The German Jews were the rich; the Russian Jews were the poor. The German Jews were the dispensers of charity; the Russian Jews were the receivers of it. The German Jews were the employers; the Russian Jews were the employees. The German Jews were deliberate, reserved, practical, sticklers for formalities, with a marked ability for organization; the Russian Jews were quick-tempered, emotional, theorizing, haters of formalities, with a decided bent toward individualism. An enormous amount of explosives had been accumulating between the two sections which if lit by a spark might have wrecked the edifice of American Israel while yet in the process of construction.
The ubiquitous Hebrew Relief Societies that arose in different parts of the country in this period rapidly transformed into social agencies dedicated to the relief of economic distress and family aid. Most changed their names between 1910 and 1925 to reflect the American sensibility of self-help and became known as Jewish Social Service Associations. Such institutions as the Educational Alliance in New York, the Council Educational Alliance in Cleveland, the Jewish People's Institute in Chicago, and the Abraham Lincoln House in Milwaukee all demonstrated the interest of native Jews in bringing social and cultural amenities to immigrant Jews, particularly the youth, hastening their "Americanization." The founders' and directors' frequent indifference or antagonism to the cultural heritage and aspirations of their clientele generated an undertone of tension that occasionally broke into open conflict. However, the art, music, sports, health education, mothers' classes, lectures, and other activities of these institutions proved of enduring value. The Jewish immigrant districts also developed numerous social services, including hospitals and medical clinics, as well as non-Jewish institutions such as (in New York City) Cooper Union, the Rand School, and the Labor Temple.
A subtler issue between natives and immigrants was religious life. The Reform temples of native American Jewry were uninviting, while the ḥevrot and landsmanshaft synagogues could only attract their own devotees. Several prominent communal leaders and religious figures worried about the young generation who rejected the religion of their forebears in favor of secularism and radical social doctrines. In the eyes of some, a modernized form of traditional Judaism was required for the rising generation of Jews of East European ancestry who were raised or born on American soil. Against this background, the moribund *Jewish Theological Seminary of America was revived in 1902 for the training of modern rabbis (and from 1909, teachers for Jewish schools). It was substantially endowed by a group of German Jewish patrician leaders and under the direction of Solomon *Schechter, a distinguished scholar-theologian, an outstanding library and faculty were quickly assembled. The growth of the seminary was slow, but its professors deeply influenced many of the younger religiously oriented intelligentsia.
For their part the immigrants had unflattering perceptions of the native "uptown" Jews, whom they regarded as snobbish and patronizing, excessively assimilated, and lacking Jewish kindness and sympathy. Yet the natives did provide the immigrants with a model for being American and Jewish. Immigrants and their problems were the main content of Jewish communal life and concerns from the 1880s until the 1930s. The intellectuality and Jewish fervor common among the newcomers, and such achievements as their labor movement and the New York City Kehillah, showed some natives – of whom Louis D. Brandeis might be cited as the outstanding example – a more authentic, passionate way to be a Jew. Quite a few native Jews were thus drawn into the cultural life and social movements of the Yiddish-speaking immigrant milieu, including Zionism.
East European Jewish immigration brought about the establishment of Orthodoxy in the United States, although only a minority of immigrants and few of their children actually remained Orthodox Jews. Several hundred East European rabbis settled throughout the country, but their influence was far more limited than it had been in their native lands. Before the 1930s most Orthodox synagogues were immigrant ḥevrot. At the other end of the spectrum Reform Judaism reached its greatest distance from Jewish tradition at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Proposals were considered at length for a Reform synod to settle matters of belief and practice, but they were not accepted. Extensive discussion took place over shifting the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and several large congregations did so. The Reform rabbinate began to take an active interest in contemporary social problems and its strong anti-Zionism slowly softened so that it was able to countenance the *Balfour Declaration of 1917. There was also considerable preoccupation with the inroads made by Christian Science, *Ethical Culture, and New Thought. If Orthodox Judaism was hampered by its intimate identification with Old World life and customs, and Conservative Judaism lacked a strong congregational constituency and depended for recruits upon acculturated immigrants, Reform after the 1890s tended to lose contact with the mainstream of American Jewish life and affairs. Its layleaders, who included many significant leaders of American Jewry, participated in Jewish life mostly outside the framework of Reform Judaism. During the 1920s Reform interest in tradition and Jewish peoplehood revived largely as a result of the developments in Palestine and the widening influence of East European forms of secular Jewish life.
communal structure and education
Before the finde-siècle, American Jewry as a body consisted essentially of dozens of local communities. The de facto communal leaders were lawyers, substantial merchants, bankers, and some political activists in the large metropolitan centers. Such elites were often the pillars of the Reform temples, the B'nai B'rith lodges, the Hebrew Relief Societies, the Jewish social clubs, and the emerging Jewish labor movement. The most significant countrywide organizations were B'nai B'rith (and several other internally oriented fraternal bodies), the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the National Council of Jewish Women. Mass immigration and increasing manifestations of antisemitism, however, brought charity and the defense of Jewish rights to the foreground of American Jewish concerns, while the development of nationwide transportation and communications provided the means of making Jewry an organic, nationwide body. Beginning in 1895 with the creation of Boston's Combined Jewish Philanthropies, local Jewish charities set up federations for unified fundraising and allocation purposes. This federation method was soon taken up by every larger community, and essentially covered the United States with the founding in 1917 of the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies (see *Philanthropy) in New York City. These bodies tended to assume local Jewish leadership, developing a quasi-ideology that philanthropy was the one tie uniting Jews of all kinds. The most influential national Jewish spokesman from its founding in 1906 was the American Jewish Committee, which drew its membership by invitation from the leading Jews of every city but was centered in New York City. The elitist viewpoint of the American Jewish Committee frequently conflicted with such movements as Zionism and Jewish trade unionism, which drew their strength from East European Jewish immigrant mass followings. However, the wealthy, well-connected, and extremely able leadership of the American Jewish Committee, notably Jacob H. Schiff, Mayer *Sulzberger, and above all Louis Marshall, exhibited a talent for compromise and enjoyed prestige which gave the committee's membership of bankers, merchants, lawyers, and politicians its leadership.
Well before massive East European immigration began, American Jews were committed to the public school for the education of their children. With the firm establishment of free, state, compulsory, universal elementary and then secondary schools, Christian, i.e., Protestant influence, was largely removed. Catholics rejected religiously neutral public schools and erected a parochial school system, but Jews gladly saw their children educated in the public schools. Jewish education in the specific sense became the responsibility of synagogues, most of which maintained Sunday schools attended by their own children and some others. In these schools the course of study lasted three years, and the teaching usually involved a moralistic interpretation of Bible stories and an inculcation by catechism of the principles of Judaism.
When East European immigrants first undertook to educate their sons in Judaism – virtually nothing was done initially for daughters – they merely copied traditional ḥeder instruction with its shortcomings. After about 1905 a new direction became prominent in Jewish education as a synthesis of religion, modern Hebraism, and Zionism, came to prevail in the afternoon Hebrew schools, known as Talmud Torahs. A new curriculum emphasized the study of the Hebrew language by the "natural method," Hebrew Bible, music, and Jewish customs and ceremonies. The new Hebrew pedagogues were often learned and devoted men, but they had to struggle against financial adversity even in prosperous times, and to overcome widespread parental indifference to Jewish education beyond sketchy bar mitzvah lessons. A variety of secular Yiddish-speaking supplementary schools also flourished in this period. Supported by the Arbeter Ring, the Labor Zionist movement, and other socialist groups, these schools – known as folkshuln (pl.) (people's schools) – emphasized a mix of classes on Yiddish and Hebrew language, Jewish history, culture, and literature, and contemporary Jewish society. They also sought to educate Jewish youth in the ideologies of Jewish socialism, Yiddishism, and Zionism. The swift adaptation of the East European Jews to American society is evident in the plethora of aforementioned institutions and the fact that the children of Yiddish-speaking immigrants frequently moved seamlessly between them. Thus, for example, in addition to the modernizing influence of American public schools, it would not have been at all unusual for a child to receive traditional instruction in an Orthodox shul (synagogue), regularly attend a Talmud Torah or folkshul which emphasized a variety of contemporary educational methods and concerns, and even belong to a Zionist or socialist group.
world war i and zionism
World War i (1914–18), which the United States entered in 1917, proved decisive in welding together the various segments of American Jewry and affirming their place in American society. When the war started there was considerable Jewish sympathy with Germany as the enemy of Russian tsarism, a bastion of socialist strength, and the ancestral land of a large proportion of American Jewry. In November 1914 early efforts for overseas relief were unified by the establishment of the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, led by Jacob H. Schiff, his son-in-law and partner Felix M. *Warburg, Nathan *Straus, Herbert H. *Lehman, and prominent personages from immigrant circles. As the war raged, Jewish opinion moved with American opinion generally toward a pro-Allied policy. Another by-product of this complex era was the waning of the decades old American Jewish attachment to German culture. But there were also dissident and pacifist voices heard amidst the din of battle and growing anti-Hun sentiment, including that of the socialist Zionist ideologue Nachman Syrkin, who resigned from the Poalei Zion party's central committee when the latter adopted a pro-war stance, and the radical anarchist Emma *Goldman, a brilliant orator who inspired audiences in Yiddish, English, Russian, and German. Sounding the clarion call of labor militancy, Goldman frequently exhorted striking workers to "demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. If they deny you both, take bread. It is your sacred right." As a result of her anarcho-syndicalist and anti-war activity, she spent two years in prison in the United States before being deported in 1919 to the recently established Soviet Union.
The critical year during World War i was 1917. The overthrow of Russian tsarism, the idealistic motivation of the United States' entry into the war, and the British conquest of Palestine, soon followed by the Balfour Declaration which recognized Palestine as the "national home" of the Jewish people, stirred a fever of enthusiasm. Approximately 250,000 Jews served in the United States Armed Forces in 1917 and 1918, a majority of them young immigrants. As a consequence, Zionism acquired influence in American Jewish circles that it had not previously enjoyed. The organized movement dated from 1897, but there had been proto-Zionist groups as early as 1882. The leadership was composed of several acculturated businessmen and Hebraic intelligentsia, centering on such persons as Richard J.H. *Gottheil, Harry *Friedenwald, Judah L. Magnes, Stephen S. Wise, Jacob *De Haas, Philip *Cowen, Henrietta Szold, and Israel Friedlander. Funds and outlets for activity were extremely limited, however, and membership was mostly young people of immigrant parentage, with modest means and connections. The coming of war and the neutrality of the United States, with the probability of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, stirred considerable interest in Palestine's Jewish society-in-the-making. In addition, Louis D. Brandeis entered the movement and in 1914 assumed active leadership of the Federation of American Zionists (later renamed the Zionist Organization of America). Brandeis' participation in Zionism brought the movement instant recognition and credibility. The Zionist idea began to elicit excitement among American Jews as it appeared to be a Jewish counterpart of the "self-determination of nations" propounded by President Woodrow *Wilson. It was adapted to the American Jewish outlook by stressing Palestine as a refuge for oppressed Jews and a place where an ideal society would be built. American Zionist ideology avoided interpreting all lands except Palestine as exile (galut). At one and the same time, Brandeis proved to be an especially eloquent spokesman for American Zionism as well as an exemplar of the rise of a new American Jewish consciousness. In a public address given to the Eastern Council of Reform Rabbis in 1915, he addressed the question of divided loyalties.
Let no American imagine that Zionism is inconsistent with patriotism. Multiple loyalties are objectionable only if they are inconsistent. A man is a better citizen of the United States for being also a loyal citizen of his state, and of his city; for being loyal to his family, and to his profession or trade; for being loyal to his college or lodge. Every Irish American who contributed towards advancing home rule [in the Irish Free State] was a better man and a better American for the sacrifice he made. Every American Jew who aids in advancing the Jewish settlement in Palestine, though he feels that neither he nor his descendants will ever live there, will likewise be a better man and a better American for doing so.
With the escalation of the war, American Jewish sentiment increasingly favored Russian Zionist leader Ze'ev *Jabotinsky's call to establish the Jewish Legion. In the United States, David *Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak *Ben-Zvi, and Pinḥas *Rutenberg, all three of whom were expelled from Palestine by the Turkish authorities and spent much of the war in exile, threw their support behind the idea of a Jewish military force and assumed the leadership of the American campaign. Marshaling the support of the fledgling Zionist group *He-Ḥalutz (The Pioneer), they organized the 39th and 40th Battalions of Royal Fusiliers, the American regiments of the British-sponsored *Jewish Legion. The He-Ḥalutz members formed the idealistic core of the legion's American recruits who, according to one member, were motivated by "the strong desire to participate in the liberation of the land of our forefathers and, if spared, to remain among its builders." One observer offered the following description of a Jewish immigrant recruit:
A Jewish driver entered the recruiting office and asked in uncouth Yiddish, "Do you take soldiers here for Palestine? I want to go myself." "Your age?" "Thirty-one." "Are you an American citizen?" "No." "Are you out of work?" "I make thirty to thirty-five dollars a week." "Why do you want to go?" He burst out in a rage and came near hitting the recruiting officer. "Are you a Jew? When they are fighting for Palestine will I stay here? I can kill twenty Turks for one breakfast."
In fact, a majority of the 5,000 legionnaires were not members of the Zionist movement. As a report to the American Poalei Zion convention of 1918 indicated, most were workers, clerks, students and individuals from white collar professions. Yet the groundswell of interest in the Jewish Legion illustrates the allure the notion of liberating the Jewish National Home held for a broad cross-section of American Jews. Public displays of support for the legionnaires were common. For example, as hundreds of young recruits traveled along the eastern seaboard en route to the legion's British military training camp in Windsor, Ontario, they evoked an enthusiastic response from the region's Jewish communities. One sympathetic witness observed:
At every town in New England where the train stops on the way to Canada crowds come out to wish God-speed to the men who are going to fight for the Jewish people, for them… Hatikvah [The Hope] takes on a new sound and a new meaning in gatherings such as [these]. It is not the wail of a people which protests that its hope is not yet dead. It is the triumphant battle-cry of a people whose hope is to be realized.
Of the American recruits, only 2,500 legionnaires actually fought during World War i. The 39th Battalion, together with the British 38th "Judean" Battalion, played notable roles in this regard. Both the 38th and 39th Battalions were stationed in Palestine near Jericho. On September 22, 1918, the Jewish Legion routed the Turks from a strategic ford of the Jordan River, north of the lake of Galilee, and opened the way to Damascus for the Australian and New Zealand cavalry. After the war's conclusion, a group of 280 American legionnaires provided the nucleus for the establishment of Aviḥayil, a moshav ovedim (workers cooperative) near the oceanside town of Natanyah. Although relatively few in number, the former legionnaires comprised a significant segment of the 600 American Jews who settled in Palestine during the 1919–23 postwar wave of Zionist immigration.
The Jewish Legion's task was defined in Wilsonian terms as making the world safe for democracy and in Zionist terms as establishing a Jewish foothold in Ereẓ Israel. Although the Jewish Legion's contribution to the total Allied war effort was minimal, the unit had great symbolic value for American Jews. American Jews relished the image of a Jewish military force that would combat the stereotype of immigrant Jews as rootless, cowardly, and defenseless. The Jewish Legion thus assumed an importance in the public sphere disproportionate to its actual wartime role. The legionnaires themselves sustained this myth; they were credited with and took credit for successes in which they played only a part. Military experience was an intensive acculturation to the larger American scene for a sizable number of Jews who came from urban immigrant districts.
Under Brandeis, Zionist membership and influence in this period grew rapidly. Significant headway in this regard was made when the American Jewish Committee's dominance in American Jewish affairs was challenged by the Zionist-inspired movement for an American Jewish Congress which, it was rightly supposed, would include the realization of the Zionist goal among postwar Jewish demands. The congress movement succeeded in calling a countrywide Jewish election on June 4, 1917, at which pro-Zionist delegates were chosen. By this time the American Jewish Committee compromised, and soon thereafter the Balfour Declaration, endorsed by the United States, appeared to settle the Palestine question. After the war, the delegation sent to the Paris Peace Conference by the American Jewish Congress was headed by the Zionist leader Julian W. *Mack and non-Zionist leader Louis Marshall, both distinguished jurists, who collaborated with other European Jewish representatives in acquiring national minority rights for Jews in the newly created states of Central and Eastern Europe. Another important American Jewish figure to attend the conference was Bernard *Baruch, a senior advisor to President Woodrow Wilson and outspoken opponent of Zionism. In the event, Baruch helped design the Versailles Treaty's economic sanctions, which ultimately imposed heavy reparations payments on Germany and contributed to the instability of the Weimar Republic. American Jewry thus made its debut at the center of world Jewish affairs, like the United States itself – at the very moment when postwar withdrawal from European involvements was reflected in decreased American Jewish interest in foreign matters and a drastic drop in the funds raised for overseas purposes, with the notable exception of Palestine.
the turbulent twenties
Flanked by the swift rise of new ethnic and immigrant groups, on the one hand, to which entrenched American elements responded with a mixture of xenophobia and racism, and the collapse of America's economy, on the other, historian John Higham has dubbed the interlude between World Wars i and ii as "The Turbulent Twenties." In this period, the American Zionist movement entered into prolonged decline after Brandeis, who Wilson in the meanwhile elevated to the United States Supreme Court, and his well-connected leadership group withdrew from Zionist activities following their defeat in 1921 by the *Weizmann wing of the Zionist Organization. The conflict at hand arose from whether Palestine was to be developed by large-scale public corporate enterprise or by mass contributions to the new *Keren Hayesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) general development scheme. It also derived from a lack of personal chemistry between Brandeis and Weizmann. Thereafter deprived of access to large givers, the principal Zionist funds could raise no more than $15,000,000 during the 1920s. Meanwhile, Hadassah, founded by Henrietta Szold in 1912, continued to raise increasingly substantial sums for health services projects in Palestine, as did the Labor Zionist movement – the Poʾalei Zion (Workers of Zion), Zeiʾrei Zion (Youth of Zion), Pioneer Women's Organization, and Farband (Labor Zionist fraternal order) – in the name of the Geverkshaften campaign for Palestine labor institutions.
The United States' turn toward isolationism, the "Red Scare" of 1919–21, and the surge of nativism and anti-urbanism during the 1920s bore serious consequences for American Jewry. A great wave of anti-foreignism and fervor for "Americanization," as propagated in the press, books, and the public schools, bore down hard on Jewish cultural distinctiveness. Jews were prominent among political radicals of all shades, few of whom felt anything but indifference or hostility to their Jewish origins, but antisemitism in the United States in lurid tones tied Jews as a body to Bolshevism and political radicalism. The canard of an international Jewish plot to overthrow Western civilization spread countrywide. At the same time doctrines of the inferiority of specific racial types became widely accepted in academic as well as popular thinking. This philosophy had a vigorous proponent of unlimited financial means in the automobile magnate Henry Ford, who published the Dearborn Independent and The International Jew in millions of copies until forced by a lawsuit in 1927 to cease and to retract his statements. Louis Marshall spearheaded the latter effort and succeeded in extracting a public apology from Ford. The hooded southern society of the Ku Klux Klan, re-founded about 1915, spread far beyond its original locale in the South to the Middle West and even the East, propagating antisemitism alongside its racism and anti-Catholicism. It gained short-lived political power in some states. Public revulsion at the Klan's corruption and weariness with its antics caused the organization virtually to disappear by 1927.
By far the most important result of these movements was the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 restricting immigration, which took effect in several stages beginning in 1925. An earlier immigration act of 1921 established the principle of the national origins quota, by providing that the number of immigrants to be admitted in any year was not to exceed three percent of their respective native lands' stock (i.e., immigrants and their children) residing in the United States in 1910. Following vigorous agitation by racist intellectuals like Prescott F. Hall and Madison Grant, and their ally Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, and by Southern and Western nativist opponents of foreign immigration, the Johnson-Reed Act was passed in 1924. Its provisions were founded on a belief in "Nordic" (Northern and Western European: English, Irish, German Scandinavian) superiority over Mediterraneans, Slavs, Orientals, and Jews, for it not only limited yearly immigration to 154,000 but also gave overwhelming preference to immigrants from Northern and Western Europe. This was accomplished by setting the quota at two percent of the foreign stock living in the United States in 1890, a census year before "undesirable" Slavic and Mediterranean elements were heavily represented in the population. Thus, only 5,982 immigrants could be admitted yearly from Poland, 2,148 from Russia, and 749 from Romania. A prospective immigrant was categorized for quota purposes by his/her land of birth so that, for example, a Jew born in Poland who spent his/her life in England was a Pole under the Johnson-Reed Act. The only means of reaching American shores outside the quota was by affidavits guaranteeing support submitted by relatives in the United States. The quota system, worked out in detail during the late 1920s, closed off the great stream by which almost 2,500,000 Jews came to the United States between 1880 and 1925. The effect of the Johnson-Reed Act, therefore, was to hasten the day when the majority of American Jews were native born, which was around 1940.
Racist and nativist movements became rife during a period of massive movement of Jews out of the immigrant quarters into newer, more attractive urban districts, and out of immigrant trades into commercial, clerical, and professional occupations. During the prosperity of the 1920s large numbers of young Jews, children of immigrant parents reaching maturity, tended to enter the professions of law, medicine, dentistry, teaching, and to some extent social work. As far as can be reckoned, the largest trend was toward small, independent business and clerical, managerial ("white collar") employment. It was in this connection that antisemitism in the United States assumed the most directly injurious forms. Large insurance companies, banks, retail chains, law firms, and large companies generally did not employ Jews, with the exception of a few who had no chance of advancement in the positions they held. Private colleges and universities habitually imposed quotas on Jewish student admissions, usually between five and ten percent. Most rigorous were antisemitic restrictions in almost all medical schools that forced many intelligent and capable young Jews to study abroad. Antisemitism in the medical profession also applied to opportunities for specialty training and appointment to hospital staffs, even in public institutions. The Jewish hospitals founded late in the 19th century for the needs of Jewish patients became devoted from the 1920s to alleviating the plight of the Jewish physicians. College and university faculties were with few exceptions closed to Jews, and Jewish teachers could usually secure employment in public schools only in the largest cities.
These occupational trends into clerical, managerial, entrepreneurial, and professional employment coincided with the gradual departure of Jews from the heretofore Jewish trades, mainly in the garment industry. By the 1930s Jews constituted only two-fifths of the membership of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the number in the Amalgamated Clothing Workers dropped, although the leadership continued to be Jewish. A similar Jewish union arose during the 1920s, the Fur and Leather Workers Union. These unions were torn by factional disputes between Communist and anti-Communist groups.
The 1920s were the ripest years of Yiddish culture. There were eleven Yiddish theaters in New York City and seventeen elsewhere in the United States which, during a one-month period in the fall of 1927, presented 645 performances of 85 plays, many of high artistic quality. The Yiddish school system also reached its peak during these years, enrolling approximately 12,000 children, while such a Yiddish organization as the Workmen's Circle (Arbeter Ring) attained its maximum membership of about 80,000. Symptomatic of future decline, however, was the lowered circulation of the Yiddish press from its 1915 peak. Hebrew culture attracted a devoted but much smaller following, organized in the Histadruth Ivrith of America and publishing the weekly Hadoar ("The Mail"). Hebraists were particularly prominent in the rabbinate and Jewish education.
During the 1920s Jews began to appear in American literature. Several semi-autobiographical novels about Jewish immigrant life appeared in English – two noteworthy examples are Ludwig *Lewisohn's Up Stream (1922) and Anzia *Yezierska's Bread Givers (1925) – while persons like Gertrude *Stein and Maxwell *Bodenheim were literary modernists. Other gifted American Jewish writers, whose work reached a broad Yiddish and English readership in this period, were Sholem Asch, Moshe Leib Halpern, Anna Margolin, Joseph *Opatoshu, I.J. Schwartz, and Yehoash (Yehoash-Solomon Bloomgarden). Such publishers as Alfred A. *Knopf and Horace *Liveright specialized in issuing the best of contemporary literature. The first American Jewish literary magazine, the *Menorah Journal, began publication in 1915 and enjoyed its most distinguished years of "fostering the Jewish 'humanities'" during the 1920s. The door was thus opened for the rise of other Anglo-Jewish journals of high quality, many of which focused on questions of literature, art, religion, and contemporary politics. Consequently, the emergence of *Commentary, the Contemporary Jewish Record, Jewish Frontier, the Jewish Spectator, New Palestine, the Reconstructionist, and others in the 1930s and 1940s – and their success as a platform for vigorous Jewish public debate – can be traced to the pioneering efforts of the Menorah Journal.
At a different cultural level, the advent of mass film entertainment in the United States was largely the work of Jewish producers and entrepreneurs who made Hollywood the world's film capital after 1920. Poor immigrants like Adolph *Zukor, Carl *Laemmle, Louis B. *Mayer, Lewis J. *Selznick, Jesse L. *Lasky, and the *Warner brothers eventually developed motion pictures into a worldwide entertainment industry in the 1920s and 1930s. They virtually dominated the new industry for several decades and in the meantime made themselves and others multimillionaires. In turn, these "moguls" attracted a rich cadre of Jewish immigrant talent that helped shape Hollywood's golden age and set 20th-century American culture on a new path.
In fact, the first "talkie," The Jazz Singer (1927) – the story of a Jewish boy struggling to escape his Yiddish-speaking immigrant background and make it as a show business entertainer – was produced by Warner Brothers and featured the vaudeville singing and dancing star Al *Jolson. The film ushered in the new mixed technology of celluloid photography and synchronized sound and quickly became a countrywide sensation. It also promoted a positive and liberal view of the Americanization process and introduced a variety of theater audiences to East European Jewish culture and life, including traditional Jewish rituals, liturgical music, and the Yiddish language. In the story, the protagonist Jakie Rabinowitz (played by Jolson), runs away from home, adopts the non-Jewish stage name Jack Robin, and works hard to achieve success and acclaim. He is eventually reconciled with his dying traditionalist father, honors his parents' wishes by chanting the *Kol Nidrei service on Yom Kippur eve, and then resumes his Broadway career. The film ends with Jolson singing "Mammy" in blackface, while his adoring widowed mother looks on. "If God wanted him in His house," she reasons, "He would have kept him there."
Notwithstanding The Jazz Singer 's unapologetic use of Jewish subject matter and its commercial and artistic success, the story line serves to illustrate the trajectory of many Jews in the growing American film industry. From the producers and movie makers behind the scenes to the box office celebrities who became iconic figures of the silver screen, Hollywood offered many Jews the opportunity to jettison their East European ancestry and remake themselves fully as Americans. They distanced themselves from the organized Jewish scene and played nary a visible role in the wider community. "When I arrived at Paramount [movie studio] as a contract writer," Abraham Polansky later reported, "another Jewish writer told me to change my name. He told me it sounded Jewish and that movies were seen all over America. I didn't change my name… but many actors did." Thus, following in the tradition of many German Jewish immigrants, including Erich Weiss, the celebrated escape artist of the early 20th century who became Harry *Houdini, Israel Iskowitz became Eddie *Cantor, Julius Garfinkle became John *Garfield, Emanuel Goldberg became Edward G. *Robinson, Melvyn Hesselberg became Melvyn *Douglas, and Marion Levy became Paulette *Goddard. Among other especially popular Jewish performers in this period were the radio comic Jack *Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky in Chicago, Illinois), who later became a pioneer of television comedy, and Julius Henry (Groucho) *Marx and his brothers Chico (Leonard), Harpo (Adolph), Gummo (Milton), and Zeppo (Herbert) whose wild antics in films like Animal Crackers (1930) and Duck Soup (1933) quickly made these sons of German Jewish immigrants a household name. Younger Jewish aspirants, including Jerry *Lewis who in the 1940s would get his start doing vaudeville sketches in the Catskills and go on to become a major comic celebrity in the 1950s and 1960s, followed in their wake. Meanwhile, George *Gershwin's American operetta Porgy and Bess (1935) appeared in the same year as the virtuoso clarinetist Benny *Goodman (born Benjamin David Gordon), the son of poor East European Jewish immigrants in Chicago's Maxwell Street neighborhood, established himself as the "King of Swing." The stage was now set for the future participation of Jews in American culture on a major scale.
the great depression
The Great Depression which began in 1929 and did not fully end until World War ii struck Jews and other Americans very hard. Mass unemployment severely affected the Jews with their distinct economic stratification, although precise statistics are not available. Thousands of small Jewish businesses, many established a few years earlier by ambitious immigrants, were ruined, and established businessmen and Jewish communal leaders often fared no better. One result of these economic disasters was the abandonment by Jewish philanthropies of the claim that "Jews take care of their own," for the numbers requiring relief were far too great for any but governmental support. Against this background of unemployment and business crisis, the Jewish community suffered severely as the income of its institutions drastically declined. Saadia Gelb, a Labor Zionist youth leader, later recalled the impact of these uncertain times on left-leaning Jewish youth like himself:
It is difficult to conceive what a sense of helplessness engulfed the country after the crash. Not only the headlines of tycoons turned paupers, news of millionaire suicides, confusing government statements, but gnawing doubts about the very foundation of our society upset every American. Those of us who were then in the Young Poalei Zion had the answers. We knew that Zionism would solve the Jewish problem; socialism the problem of society as a whole.
During the Depression, the income of charitable institutions dropped by more than half, campaigns for overseas aid were virtually given up from 1930 to 1935, and synagogues and schools fell far in arrears of pay to their employees. The occupational distribution of the Jews at this time was summarized by Benjamin M. Selikman:
Jews are not widely represented on the farms or in manual jobs. The needle trades have employed large numbers, although even here other nationalities have been supporting them in recent decades. The heavy industries engage few Jews either among employers or workers. Banking, stock brokering, moving pictures and other forms of amusement, real estate and the distributive trades account for most of our Jewish wealth. The professions, small business, and white-collar occupations yield our large Jewish middle class.
Earlier discrimination against Jews in employment became much sharper as jobs became fewer. Many Jews entered expanding governmental service, which offered extensive employment to professional and technically trained Jews on terms of equal opportunity. Widespread Jewish communal concern that under conditions of depression and antisemitism American Jewry would presently consist of a few large businessmen, many independent salesmen, a large proletariat drifting unwillingly into factory labor, and an element of restless, bitter intellectuals prompted much talk and a few efforts to "balance" Jewish occupational distribution, none of which came to anything. Jewish youth, aided by their often impoverished families, continued to go to free colleges, especially in New York City, and to somewhat more costly state universities, while the prosperous went to private institutions. Proportions in this regard continued to be far higher among Jews than the general population. For example, in the mid-1930s approximately 49 percent of all college students in New York City were Jewish, while the 105,000 Jewish college students in the entire country were just over nine percent of total college enrollment. Student ambitions were toward business and the professions, and this foretold the Jewish economic future in the 1950s more accurately than the predictions of the sociologists and economists of the 1930s.
As the Democrats became the party of urban-oriented reform, exemplified in 1928 by the presidential candidacy of Alfred E. Smith, Jews moved into its ranks en masse and away from their earlier Socialist or Republican affiliation. The New Deal and its leader, President Franklin D. *Roosevelt, attracted enthusiastic Jewish loyalty. Roosevelt, who had strong ties with New York City reformers, many of them Jews, was greatly admired. Throughout his presidency (1933–45) 85 to 90 percent of Jewish votes were cast for him and candidates who supported him. In this period, Jews appeared in politics with unprecedented prominence: one cabinet member (Henry *Morgenthau, Jr. who served as secretary of the treasury), three United States Supreme Court justices (Louis D. Brandeis, Benjamin *Cardozo, and Felix *Frankfurter as Brandeis' successor), five governors (Ernest *Gruening of the Alaskan territory, Herbert H. *Lehman of New York, Arthur Seligman of New Mexico, Julius L. *Meier of Oregon, and Henry *Horner of Illinois), and several hundred assistant secretaries, mayors, judges of lower courts, and high appointive officials. Such New Deal legislation as bank deposit insurance, the protection of trade unionism, work relief, establishing wage and hour standards, and social security, directly benefited the mass of working-class and lower-middle-class Jews. In the final analysis, however, vigorous Jewish support for Roosevelt and the unprecedented number of elite Jewish officials – antisemites spoke of the "Jew Deal" – yielded very little governmental aid for Jews imperiled abroad beyond sympathetic presidential statements.
In addition to the overwhelming support among Jews for the New Deal, the vogue of "popular front" Communism during this period attracted many Jews. Troubled by seemingly insoluble economic crisis and menaced by antisemitism, the security of employment in Soviet Russia and its "prohibition" of antisemitism made that country appear a utopia to thousands. Communism appealed especially to some segments among garment workers and to professionals, like teachers and social workers, who were sensitive to social ills and encountered great difficulty in establishing themselves. Outside the Communist Yiddish enclave, the movement was indifferent to Jewish needs and problems. In fact, it was favorable to the Arab cause in Palestine. Communists claimed that their triumph would solve all Jewish problems. A rapid deflation of their popularity occurred with the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939.
If the liberal American Jewish Weltanschauung of the 1930s and 1940s was buoyed by the twin visions of the Roosevelt administration in the United States and the Zionist movement in Jewish public affairs, it is also true that the social realities in both instances tested American Jewry's political resolve and the durability of its attachments. Like Roosevelt's New Deal coalition (in which American Jews played an important role), the Zionist Organization's prevailing Labor-led coalition (in which American Zionist groups played a crucial part) consolidated its power and authority around grand strategies and the global Realpolitik of the 1930s. Roosevelt persuaded the country to accept the proposition that the national government is responsible for the welfare of its citizens and that the New Deal would provide social and economic security for all Americans. Meanwhile, David Ben-Gurion, who emerged as Labor Zionism's undisputed leader in 1935, articulated a similar set of priorities: "Zionism means the growth of a state, and a state does not build itself, nor is it built by those who seek their own interests and survival. Only through mobilization of mass strength and movement, with pioneer training and a readiness for self-sacrifice can this be made a reality." In sum, the Labor-Centrist coalition that dominated Zionist politics in Palestine and world affairs from the mid-1930s onward – and which came to power as a result of the achievements in Palestine of the Histadrut, a countrywide socio-economic infrastructure organized along cooperative and nationalist lines – also captured the hearts and minds of broad array of American Jewish socialists, progressives, and liberals. This remained true even after the outbreak of World War ii, when both Roosevelt and Ben-Gurion led their respective nations into the international arena as part of the Allied fight against the Nazi Germany.
impact of nazi germany and antisemitism
American Jews were profoundly shocked and frightened by Germany's turn to Nazism in 1933 and its unprecedented treatment of the Jews, and to a lesser degree by official antisemitism in lands such as Poland and Romania. Against this backdrop, antisemitism in the United States was therefore particularly disturbing, although its major sources were Catholic and populist rather than Nazi in origin and focused in the person of the notorious "radio priest," Father Charles E. Coughlin. Probably more significant, however, was that every political leader and virtually every intellectual and cultural figure opposed antisemitism, led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt who earned strong Jewish support in part for his unconcealed detestation of Nazism and antisemitism.
The Nazi regime drove increasing numbers of its Jewish victims to the United States. However, owing to severe economic conditions, a rise in xenophobia, the hostility of the State Department, and the intransigence of United States consuls empowered to grant visas, total Jewish immigration to the United States, most of it from Germany, did not exceed 33,000 from 1933 through 1937. With the extreme worsening of the situation, 124,000 refugees arrived from 1938 through 1941, mostly from Germany and the lands conquered by the Nazi regime. Refugee immigrants encountered great difficulty in adjustment owing not only to the trauma of their readjustment but also to Depression conditions. Indeed, most Jewish refugees experienced significant downward mobility and had to start and long remain at a socio-economic level beneath that which they enjoyed in Europe. They concentrated in New York City, focusing on particular neighborhoods, and tended to establish their own congregations, welfare organizations, and social clubs. A coordinating body, the National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees and Emigrants Coming from Germany, was established 1934, and in 1939 it became the National Refugee Service, a functional agency.
Several thousand of these refugees were scientists and academic intellectuals. Their symbolic leader was Albert *Einstein, who received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921 for his work on the photoelectric effect of quantum mechanics and who now assumed a post at Princeton University. A few hundred of these refugee scholars wielded tremendous intellectual influence on research and teaching in the United States in such fields as music, art history, psychiatry and psychoanalysis, history, sociology, and incomparably in nuclear physics. This intellectual migration, nearly all Jewish, ensured the transfer of much of the world's intellectual leadership from Europe to the United States, including many well known figures such as the composers Arnold *Schoenberg and Kurt *Weill, the conductors Otto *Klemperer and Bruno *Walter, the writer Stefan *Zweig, the piano virtuoso Artur *Rubinstein, the theatrical producer Max *Reinhardt, and the architect Erich *Mendelsohn.
religion and education
Few of the 3,728 known congregations flourished financially or spiritually. Synagogue membership and contributions sharply declined, and many congregations were burdened by mortgages on buildings erected during the 1920s. Reform Judaism became quite vigorous in its espousal of liberal political program, emphasizing trade unionism and international peace, and the Conservatives spoke likewise. The Orthodox were disorganized and inarticulate, losing strength as their immigrant constituents passed on without leaving replacements. Jewish education was hit hardest, as enrolled students failed to pay tuition and communal sources of funds dwindled and disappeared. Large arrears were owed to teachers, especially in traditional Hebraic and Orthodox schools. About 1940 communal interest began to rise as the Jewish Education Committee of New York was founded to improve schooling in that metropolis and the American Association for Jewish Education was established in 1939.
The Jewish communal structure was profoundly shaken by the Great Depression as the mood of Jewish life changed. The old leaders, many of them of German Jewish origin, were dying out and their children were for the most part disinterested in the Jewish community. Many leaders' personal wealth and status declined sharply. The Depression, the New Deal, and the Jewish crisis in Germany and Europe shook established Jewish values and practices and opened the way for communal restructuring and a newer leadership, drawn from East European immigrant origins, which was strongly pro-Zionist. Jewish labor and socialist groups decisively joined the community after decades of abstention on account of class differences.
The Jewish Labor Committee, established in 1934 to combat totalitarianism and aid labor refugees, collaborated with other Jewish bodies. Many of them gave up their anti-Zionism on account of the socialist character of Jewish Palestine and disillusion with international socialist brotherhood. The Zionist movement was weak during the 1930s. The combined income of its two fundraising arms, the Keren Hayesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) and the *Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet), dropped as low as $339,000 in 1933. The raising and allocation of philanthropic funds was in fact the key issue in American Jewish communal life. Zionists waged a prolonged campaign to increase the proportion given to Palestine from the welfare fund drives conducted in most cities. In their attempt to increase the allocations to Palestine, Zionists encountered consistent opposition from the controlling oligarchy of large givers who generally favored European relief and distrusted Zionist projects. In 1939 the United Palestine Appeal (upa) began independent national campaigns with Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver as its principal tactician and orator. In 1939 it reached an agreement with the Joint Distribution Committee and its allied National Refugee Service, which led to the creation of the United Jewish Appeal (uja). The uja raised $7,000,000 in 1939 and $14,500,000 in 1940, but the diminishing allocation to Palestine caused a rupture in 1941 which was healed by a 63:37 division of funds. During the 1940s, the uja raised $638,000,000, and ultimately as much as 75 percent of its income went to Palestine. These sums established the uja as one of the greatest voluntary fundraising organizations ever known.
These developments at the national level were made possible in many cities by the newly founded Jewish community councils. (There was a General Jewish Council of Jewish defense organizations from 1938 to 1941 which subsequently became the National Community Relations Advisory Council.) Synagogues, B'nai B'rith lodges, and Zionist societies were heavily represented and the tone was decidedly pro-Zionist. The Jewish community councils were heavily involved in the overseas philanthropic campaigns, or Jewish welfare funds as they were known locally, in addition to their functions of promoting Jewish education, settling internal disputes, and watching over Jewish rights in their cities. They thus became the representative local Jewish organizations during the 1940s and strongly influenced philanthropic allocations toward Palestine.
world war ii and zionism
Well before the outbreak of World War ii, American Jewish public support crystallized around the anti-Nazi movement, which was organized in 1935 and among whose earliest and most outspoken leaders was Stephen S. Wise. The anti-Nazi boycott served as an organizational hub for American Jewry in the years leading up to the war and America's fateful decision to enter the fray. On the eve of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, for example, Wise gave one of his many anti-Nazi addresses to the Inter-American Jewish Conference meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference included delegates from Diaspora Jewish communities in North, Central, and South America. Anticipating the sea change in the postwar composition of world Jewry, Wise called for unified action by the free Diaspora Jewish communities of the Americas.
We are gathered in part in order to bethink ourselves touching the infinitely mournful fate of our fellow Jews, who have dwelt in European lands. Addresses other than my own will deal with the oceanic tragedy which has befallen the peaceable and loyal populations of many European lands, who were the first and will be the last victims of Nazism until the day of liberation from the monstrous calamity of Nazism. And that day is not far off…
But even though, not if, Hitlerism or Nazism is to be banished from the earth… there will still remain a number of the most difficult and taxing Jewish problems. The economic basis of Jewish living has been willfully destroyed by Nazism. Jews who, like you and like us, are free must give to the succor of Jews who for nearly a decade have been enslaved and dispossessed. Even though after the war, inter-governmental programs must have special reference to a people in many lands deprived of the basic possibilities of self-support, the fate of our brother Jews in European lands cries out to us for immediate succor. When peace shall have come, as it will, demands will be made for ultimate and permanent redress from the nations which will have it in their power to bring about the organization of a new world.
Woe betide us, if amidst the comparative plenty and prosperity of American life, we forget our brother Jews, whose agonies and suffering have come about largely, if not solely, because they are Jews…
Another outstanding expression of American Jewish idealism as well as fidelity to the United States was Irving *Berlin's "God Bless America." Written and composed by Berlin (born Israel Baline in Russian Siberia) – a gifted secular Jewish musical artist who also wrote the wildly popular "White Christmas" – and first broadcast on Armistice Day in November 1938, "God Bless America" swiftly attained the elevated status of a secular national prayer.
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in solemn prayer.
God bless America, land that I love.
Stand beside her and guide her,
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America, my home sweet home.
In the public debates that raged over American foreign policy between September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded and conquered Poland, and December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed the American naval base located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, American Jews were generally found on the side favoring maximum foreign and military aid to England and France, and later Russia. American Jewish sympathies were less with Great Britain per se, whose imperialism and White Paper of 1939 essentially brought to a halt European Jewish immigration to Palestine and whose anti-refugee policies were deeply resented. But as American Jewry's fear and loathing of Nazi Germany increased, so too did its growing sympathy (along with mainstream American society) for the Allied cause in general, including the besieged British Isles. Quite apart from this consensus stood the America First Committee, which attracted a large following of antisemites and even some Jews. As late as 1941, the America First Committee sponsored a speech by Charles A. Lindbergh charging that Jews were attempting to draw the United States into war. The coming of World War ii ended the debate over isolation and also proved a blow against such antisemitism, which was now identified with the Nazi enemy. Jews served in all branches of the United States armed forces, their numbers reaching approximately 550,000. About 10,500 lost their lives, 24,000 were wounded, and 36,000 were decorated for gallantry. Jewish refugees from Germany furnished many American soldiers, while refugee scientists played an indispensable role in the development of atomic and other advanced weapons. Jewish soldiers in the American armed forces were served by 310 Jewish chaplains holding military rank, and the National Jewish Welfare Board provided for some social and religious needs.
While battles raged throughout the world, European Jewry was being systematically murdered by Nazi Germany. Information about the destruction of European Jewish life became public during the fall of 1942, and subsequent stages in the Nazi "final solution" were widely known. Notwithstanding private and public efforts by various Jewish leaders and groups, including the vigorous public criticism of the right-wing Zionist Bergson group, American Jewry as a whole, uncertain of its own situation and fearful of appearing to ask for "special treatment" or of encouraging propaganda that the country was engaged in a "Jewish war," shied away from demanding direct United States intervention to save Jews under Nazi rule. In general, the prevailing view was that early victory was the sole means to rescue European Jewry. Nevertheless, public controversy abounded and many American Jewish leaders expressed despair of the powerlessness of American Jews to alter the Allies wartime priorities. Among the most poignant statements in this regard was a speech delivered by the Labor Zionist leader Hayyim Greenberg in February 1943. His summation, reprinted at length below, illustrates the profound anguish, self-recrimination, and anger of the American Jewish leadership in this cataclysmic period.
The time has come, perhaps, when the few Jewish com munities remaining in the world which are still free to make their voices heard and to pray in public should proclaim a day of fasting and prayer for American Jews. No – this is not a misprint. I mean specifically that a day of prayer and of fasting should be proclaimed for the five million Jews now living in the United States. They live under the protection of a mighty republic governed by democratic laws. They move about freely through the length and breadth of the land. The vast majority of them have enough food to eat, clothes to wear and roofs over their heads. And if any wrong is committed against them, they are free to protest and to demand their rights. Nevertheless, they deserve to be prayed for. They are not even aware what a misfortune has befallen them, and if they were to look at themselves with seeing eyes they would realize with shock how intolerable this misfortune is. This misfortune consists of the vacuity, the hardness and the dullness that has come over them; it consists in a kind of epidemic inability to suffer or to feel compassion that has seized upon the vast majority of American Jews and of their institutions; in pathological fear of pain; in terrifying lack of imagination – a horny shell seems to have formed over the soul of American Jewry to protect and defend it against pain and pity.
At a time when the American Jewish community is the largest and most influential in the world, at a time when the eyes of millions of Jews in Europe who are daily threatened with the most terrible and degrading forms of physical extermination are primarily turned to American Jewry, this American Jewish community has fallen lower than perhaps any other in recent times, and displays an unbelievable amount of highly suspect clinical "health" and "evenness of temper." If moral bankruptcy deserves pity, and if this pity is seven-fold for one who is not even aware how shocking his bankruptcy is, then no Jewish community in the world today (not even the Jews who are now in the claws of the Nazi devourer) deserves more compassion from Heaven than does American Jewry…
The basic fact is evident to any Jew who has the courage to look at the situation as it is: American Jewry has not done – and has made no effort to do – its elementary duty toward the millions of Jews who are captive and doomed to die in Europe!…
Quite some months have passed since representatives of Jewish organizations have even met to engage in earnest discussion whether and what can still be done for European Jewry. The President made his statement, and then came the declarations of some governments of the United Nations regarding the punishment to be meted out to the guilty after the victory, and most, or is it all, the Jewish organizations were satisfied and appeared to be calmed by it… Everyone knew that this declaration had little effect on the situation. And now we are informed that both Warsaw and Vienna are completely Judenrein ….
The murder of two million Jews with the most inhuman methods of torture and degradation which sadistic fantasy has ever devised, still has not sufficiently impressed those among us who have donned the shtreimels of Jewish guardianship, those who have assumed re sponsibility for Jewish interests so that they could sit down around one table and look into each other's eyes and together try to do something to rescue at least one percent of the doomed millions. There have even appeared some Zionists in our midst who have become reconciled to the thought that it is impossible to stay the hand of the murderer, and therefore, they say, it is necessary "to utilize this opportunity" to emphasize to the world the tragedy of Jewish homelessness and to strengthen the demand for a Jewish National Home in Palestine. (A Home for whom? For the millions of dead in their temporary cemeteries in Europe?) And there have arisen sages in our midst who have reached the pro found conclusion that the sole response to the mass extermination of our people should be the earliest possible opening of a second front. The delegation of the Bund in America has satisfied the demands of its conscience both as Jews and as human beings, by organizing a protest conference of European socialist leaders, and is now boastfully claiming "sole credit" for its own little clique for this great achievement. And only some days ago the Revisionist-controlled Committee for a Jewish Army, succumbing to its own ambitions and hunger for prestige, has put other Jewish organizations in an uncomfortable position by publishing huge ads in the newspapers – ads which also seek "to utilize the opportunity" – calling for the establishment of a Jewish armed force of 200,000, knowing very well that this is a mythical figure concocted for purposes of cheap and irresponsible propaganda…
Every "Committee" cherishes its own committee-interests, its sectarian ambitions, its exclusively wise strategy and its "power position" in the teapot of Jewish communal competition…
No less characteristic is the fact that such a highly reputable organization as the American Jewish Committee could hold its annual conference one week ago, at the end of which there was issued a declaration dealing with all the bakers' dozen areas in which they differ from the Zionists or from other Jews, but not mentioning with even a single word the extermination of the Jews in Europe and what the American Jewish Committee proposes to do now, today, without delay, so that after the victory there should remain someone across the ocean whom the Committee could defend in accordance with its own program and ideology, someone whose rights and human dignity they could protect.
The only Jewish organization which, formally at least, remained on guard and tries to create the impression that it does something, is the American Jewish Congress. But it would be criminal negligence to conceal from the public the fact that at a time when the Angel of Death uses airplanes, the American Jewish Congress employs an oxcart-express…
I confess that I am unable to draw concrete, practical conclusions from the above. If it is still objectively possible to do anything, then I do not know who should do it and how it should be done. I only know this, that we are all – all five million of us, with all our organizations and committees and leaders – politically and morally bankrupt. And I refuse to understand how and why all of us here have fallen to such a state of shameful degradation.
In all, roughly a year and a half elapsed until in 1944, following a direct approach by Treasury Secretary Henry *Morgenthau, Jr., who was profoundly disturbed by State Department's ongoing indifference and hostility to all rescue proposals, President Roosevelt established the *War Refugee Board. The board energetically attempted, with some success, to work through neutral countries and third parties to prevent further Nazi murder of Jews and others. The efforts in this regard were ultimately realized in the rescue of some 100,000 Jews. Within the American Jewish community, the American Zionist Emergency Council, the Vaʾad ha-Haẓẓalah (Rescue Committee) under Orthodox leadership, and other Jewish and Zionist groups also worked to rescue as many Jews as possible, mainly by ransom. By this point, the sole remaining community of any significant size was that of Hungarian Jewry.
In the spring 1942 Zionist leaders, headed by David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, set their postwar program as Jewish control over immigration to Palestine, leading to the founding of a Jewish commonwealth. This vision was embodied in the *Biltmore Program of May 1942 (named after the New York City hotel where the conference was held) and it gradually won over American Jewry by vigorous Zionist public relations efforts, and above all by the widening realization of the full fate of European Jewry. Under Rabbis Stephen S. Wise and Abba Hillel Silver, the American Zionist Emergency Council, which conducted Zionist political affairs in the United States, continued the traditional method of winning sympathy and good will from American political, religious, and intellectual leaders. Wise was supplanted in 1944 by Silver and more aggressive tactics of converting American public opinion to the Zionist program and applying continuous pressure to the makers of American foreign policy were adopted.
The representative *American Jewish Conference in 1943, swayed by Silver's oratory, rejected a compromise demanding only free Jewish immigration to Palestine and adopted the Biltmore Program. The scales were tipped when Silver gave an unexpected address during the general debate on Palestine. By all accounts, his forceful argument reversed the moderate trend of the Conference. His speech laid the groundwork for the final resolution on Palestine. "There is but one solution for national homelessness," Silver declared. "That is a national home!"
Not new immigration opportunities to other countries for fleeing refugees, for new colonization schemes in other parts of the world… The only solution is to normalize the political status of the Jewish people in the world by giving it a national basis in its national and historic home…
…The reconstitution of the Jewish people as a nation in its homeland is not a playful political conceit of ours, a sort of intellectual thing of ours calculated to satisfy some national vanity of ours. It is the cry of despair of a people driven to the wall, fighting for its very life…
I am for unity in Israel, for the realization of the total program of Jewish life: relief, rescue, reconstruction and the national restoration in Palestine. I am not for unity on a fragment of the program, for a fragment of the program is a betrayal of the rest of the program and a tragic futility besides. We cannot truly rescue the Jews of Europe unless we have free immigration into Palestine. We cannot have free immigration into Palestine unless our political rights are recognized there. Our political rights cannot be recognized unless our historic connection with the country is acknowledged and our right to rebuild our national home is affirmed. The whole chain breaks if one of our links is missing…
Silver's eloquent case for an immediate political solution based on wartime realities and his assertion of the critical role to be played by the Zionist enterprise in any plans for postwar reconstruction cut across ideological and philosophical lines. The Palestine vote was carried with only four dissenting votes. The delegates resoundingly called for "the fulfillment of the Balfour Declaration" and the reconstitution of Palestine as the Jewish Commonwealth. Next, the assemblage spontaneously "rose, applauded, and sang Hatikvah [The Hope]."
By contrast, on three other occasions – early in 1944 and late that year as well as early in 1945 – the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee stood poised to pass resolutions endorsing the Jewish commonwealth. Nonetheless, despite every prospect for early passage in both houses of Congress, the War Department, at the request of the State Department, succeeded in having the legislative proposals tabled as "prejudicial" to the war effort.
As American Jewish support for Zionism and the Yishuv intensified, anti-Zionist views became more isolated and aggressive. The American Council for Judaism was founded late in 1942 upon an ideology of classical Reform opposition to Jewish nationalism. It conducted an assiduous anti-Zionist propaganda campaign that was vigorously countered by Zionists. The American Jewish Committee turned in a similar direction and advocated free Jewish immigration to Palestine under a rather vague international trusteeship. However, much of its once great influence and public stature was lost over this issue.
The American Jewish community's domestic affairs remained in relative suspense during the war. Jews shared in American prosperity as unemployment almost vanished, charitable aid became superfluous, and business flourished. However, antisemitism continued in sectors of public opinion and manifested itself in petty street molestations of Jews, especially in Boston and somewhat in New York. President Roosevelt's alleged remark to "clear it with Sidney [Hillman]" was used with special malice by antisemites against him during the 1944 election. A strong wave of postwar antisemitism was expected, especially if there were an economic depression, during the difficulties of conversion from wartime to peace.
During the five years following the war's end in 1945, American Jewish communal life was dominated by developments among Jewish refugees in Europe and by the Jewish struggle in Palestine. Mass public meetings were frequently convened, while gentile political and religious leaders were won over by persuasion or pressure, and funds raised for overseas needs reached levels previously unknown. Thus, the Zionist Organization of America (zoa) raised its membership from 49,000 in 1940 to 225,000 in 1948, while Hadassah numbering 81,000 in 1940, multiplied more than threefold. As the United States exercised a dominant position in international affairs, American Zionist leaders became important in framing world Zionist policy and played an increasingly important role vis-à-vis the Palestinian leadership on the international scene. Several thousand American Jewish volunteers participated in Aliyah Bet efforts, the Jewish Agency's clandestine immigration scheme, some helping to navigate *illegal immigrant ships across the Mediterranean, and eventually many joined the *Haganah and fought in Palestine in 1948–49. With the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and its War of Independence until 1949, American Zionism reached an organizational peak that quickly declined. Membership in Zionist organizations dropped drastically, in the case of the zoa to less than 25,000 in the mid-1950s, and monies raised, as well as the proportion of them actually allocated to Israel, slid slowly downward. Paradoxically, the development and security of Israel now became a pervasive philanthropic, political, and cultural concern of American Jewry as a whole.
In common with American citizens generally, Jews enjoyed an era of prolonged prosperity during the post-World War ii years. Homecoming soldiers found jobs or attended college en masse under the liberal terms of the "gi Bill of Rights." Antisemitism in the United States all but disappeared from public view. Father Charles Coughlin had been silenced by his church, and a few agitators, notably G.L.K. Smith, were practically ignored. Active and largely successful efforts were made by American Jewish defense organizations to root out antisemitic and every other form of religious and racial discrimination in employment, housing, and higher education. Legislation to these ends in many states was spearheaded by the Jewish community, often in alliance with African American bodies such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp), the Urban League, and a variety of church organizations. On the other hand, efforts to eliminate the exclusion of Jews from upper-level social clubs and from the management of major banks and corporations proved less successful. The basic trend for two decades following the end of World War ii was the decline of antisemitism to the point where its disappearance was widely predicted. Even the feverish atmosphere of the anti-Communist fright from about 1947 to 1954 and the hunt for alleged Communists in government and strategic positions, during which a high proportion of the accused were Jews, did not significantly stir antisemitic sentiment.
the postwar setting
For American Jews, the Cold War era centered around a paradox: The astonishing success and rapid upward mobility of the American Jewish community in the post-World War ii era was accompanied by America's growing fear of the Soviet Union and potentially subversive anti-American elements, including instances in which Jews played a highly visible role. On the one hand, the postwar decades, as historian Lucy Dawidowicz has noted, were something of a "golden age" in which Jews became thoroughly acculturated, Americanized, economically prosperous, and professionally successful in virtually all quarters of American society. The self-confidence of organized American Jewry was perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the 1954 commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Jewish settlement in North America. The tercentenary committee deployed the inoffensive and patriotic branding message of "Man's Opportunities and Responsibilities under Freedom." Indeed, there was nothing particularly Jewish about this theme which (after months of deliberation and counsel with a variety of Jewish communal leaders and scholars) was noteworthy for its scrupulous neutrality. Rather, as the tercentenary committee explained, the anniversary was intended to celebrate the presumed congruence of American ideals and Jewish values:
The theme should express the outstanding fact of the past 300 years of our participation in America; that it should describe the significance of the present day for American Jews, and that it should express the hopes and aspirations and objectives of the future for ourselves and for all Americans – indeed, for all human beings throughout the world.
Despite the note of triumphalism sounded by the committee – a recurring feature of the American Jewish experience termed the "cult of synthesis" by historian Jonathan D. Sarna – American Jewish society was in fact also shaped by the discordant social, cultural, and political realities of the Cold War era, including the Red Scare. Joseph McCarthy's persecutorial anti-Communist witch hunt, fbi director J. Edgar Hoover's ruthless subversion of numerous left-leaning American individuals and groups, and the widespread fear of Communist insurgency in American society leavened the American Jewish experience. Thus was Jewish communal success tempered by collective anxiety about the group's social status, lingering doubts about the promise of acculturation, and fear for the fragility of the liberal political enterprise.
Some outstanding examples help to illustrate this paradox. The case of communal leader Philip M. *Klutznik, for instance, is in many ways emblematic of American Jewish success in this period. Rising through the ranks of B'nai B'rith to become the fraternal organization's national president, Klutznik's professional career in public service led him from commissioner of Federal Public Housing under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. *Truman, to United States representative to the United Nations in the *Eisenhower, *Kennedy, and *Johnson administrations, and finally to the position of secretary of commerce under President Jimmy *Carter. Likewise, Henry *Kissinger, a refugee from Nazi Germany and Harvard-trained scholar, rose to become President Richard M. *Nixon's national security advisor in 1969 and was appointed secretary of state in 1975. The ending of the war in Vietnam, the normalization of relations with China, the conclusion of the Yom Kippur War, and the attempt to find a Middle East settlement were among the activities that made him the most iconic holder of this office in recent times. Speaking at a farewell luncheon given in his honor in 1977 by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Kissinger declared, "I have never forgotten that thirteen members of my family died in a concentration camp." His authority in the realm of foreign affairs was enhanced not only by his negotiating skill but also by the fact that for many months Nixon was entangled in the Watergate Affair. His authority was reaffirmed when Gerald Ford, on succeeding Nixon, retained him in office. The meteoric trajectory of Klutznik, Kissinger, and other Jewish figures – for which there are precious few equivalents among other ethnic minorities in mid-20th century American society – was truly astonishing.
Meanwhile, a darker side of American society is reflected in the spectacle of three widely publicized episodes of anti-Communist activity in the United States in the 1950s, all of which centered on Jewish protagonists. First, the arrest in 1950 of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Jewish Communists alleged to have passed on atomic secrets to the Soviets, their highly controversial trial, and subsequent execution for treason in 1953 sent shock waves through the American Jewish community. Second, the vigorous campaign conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission to strip the credentials of German Jewish physicist J. Robert *Oppenheimer, the "father of the atomic bomb" and first director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, garnered considerable public notoriety. In the event, Oppenheimer aroused the ire of scientists and politicians alike with his outspoken concern about the bomb's potential for mass destruction. Lewis L. Strauss, who served as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and was himself a prominent Republican and national leader of the American Jewish Committee, spearheaded the effort to discredit Oppenheimer as a Communist sympathizer and opponent of plans to develop the hydrogen bomb. The Oppenheimer affair proved to be a high water mark of the Red Scare; Oppenheimer's reputation was tarnished and Strauss resigned under fire. Subsequently, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Strauss to be secretary of commerce, his appointment was narrowly rejected in a Congressional showdown between U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans. Finally, an excellent example of the complexity of this period is the case of The Goldbergs, a comedy about an American Jewish family that aired over radio from 1929 to 1947 and became a nationally popular television program from 1949 to 1956. Starring the actor Philip Loeb as Goldberg, the show became a target of the McCarthy witch hunt when Loeb was blacklisted after the right-wing anti-Communist magazine Red Channels accused him of being a Communist. Loeb denied the accusation, but the climate of fear induced by the McCarthy era and the hearings conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities caused him to lose his job and the cbs network soon dropped the show. Although Loeb continued to eke out a living as an actor thereafter, he succumbed to depression in 1955 and committed suicide.
Suspended between the antipodes of success and marginalization, American Jews faced the Cold War with a mixture of self-congratulatory confidence and well-founded anxiety. The ensuing decades would be marked by these themes, even as American Jews continued to develop and strengthen the infrastructure of their communal life.
population, demography, and economic activity
The size of the American Jewish population increased rather slightly in the decades immediately following World War ii. However, Jewish population estimates, while comparatively accurate for many cities, were unreliable for the country as a whole. The Jewish population, probably overestimated at 5,000,000 in 1950, stood at close to 5,500,000 in 1960, and then peaked at approximately 6,000,000 in the 1970s and 1980s. In comparison, the general American population numbered 140,000,000 in 1950 and rose to over 250,000,000 by the 1990s. In other words, Jews comprised slightly more than 3.5 percent of the American population at mid-century, but barely more than 2 percent by the close of the century. The reasons underlying the small Jewish population increase are strongly suggested by the median Jewish household size and the mean number of children born per 1,000 women, both lower than that of other religious or ethnic groups. With no more than about 12 percent of Jewish families having four or more children, Jewish natural increase was well below that of the U.S. as a whole.
Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, immigration provided little of the Jewish increase in this period. From the end of World War ii through the 1950s, for example, over 191,000 Jews settled in the United States, of whom nearly 120,000 arrived between 1947 and 1951. The large majority were Holocaust survivors, over 63,000 of whom entered under the provisions of the Displaced Persons Act of 1949. Otherwise, the quota system of the Johnson-Reed Act and its successor McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 remained intact until practically abolished by new legislation in 1965. In the late 1950s and 1960s about 73,000 Jewish immigrants arrived, most of whom tended to be Israelis (frequently of European birth), Cubans leaving the Castro regime, and Jews from Islamic lands. The United Service for New Americans, a descendant of the previous National Refugee Service together with the *Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (hias), and local community organizations aided the immigrants. Some "new Americans" were professionally trained, but most tended to enter traditional Jewish occupations, such as garment cutters, salesmen, or shopkeepers.
Until the close of the 1960s, American Jewry retained a largely metropolitan character. Approximately 40 percent of American Jews dwelled in the New York City area, as had been the case since 1900. Meanwhile, the sum total of Jews living in the greater New York City region, northeastern New Jersey, and the nine next largest communities (Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Washington, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Detroit) comprised 75 percent of American Jewry. The most notable demographic phenomenon in these and other urban centers was movement to the suburbs. As income and aspirations rose, large numbers of Jews quit the ever more congested and aging cities seeking greater space, more relaxed living, and a more affluent social environment. By the 1960s, 85 percent of Cleveland Jews lived beyond the city boundaries, and the same happened to virtually the entire Jewish population in Detroit, Newark, and Washington, d.c., within the decade. Every large city saw a considerable proportion of its middle class, including the Jewish community, relocate to the suburbs, while African American migration to many formerly Jewish neighborhoods precipitated formidable social tensions and problems between Jews and blacks.
Coincidental with the suburban movement, was the migration of large numbers of Jews within the United States. The increase of the Los Angeles Jewish population from 150,000 at the end of World War ii to over 500,000 in the 1970s, and of Miami from 40,000 in the late 1940s to roughly 150,000 in 1970, was almost wholly the result of internal migration. Much of it came from the Middle West whose Jewish population failed to increase after the 1920s. Thus, Chicago, with 333,000 in the city at the end of World War ii, actually declined to 285,000 for its metropolitan area by the 1970s. Milwaukee also lost – 30,000 to 24,500 – and centers such as Cleveland and Detroit did not increase. Boston's Jewish population increased from 137,000 in 1948 to over 176,000 in the 1970s, apparently owing to heavy Jewish participation in that area's scientific and technological growth.
In the decades following World War ii a new occupational pattern of American Jewry also became evident. No systematic nationwide surveys were conducted until the 1970s, but until then many studies of individual communities made clear that employment in the professions was rising greatly, and proprietorship and management somewhat less so; skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled labor was sharply decreasing, and clerical and sales employment somewhat declining. Forestry, mining, and transportation in all forms hardly employed any Jews, as in the past, and the small contingent of Jewish farmers slowly decreased in size. The ascent of Jewish professionals in these decades was also a general phenomenon. In addition to the continuing prominence of Jews as physicians, lawyers, accountants, and teachers, they were prominent as scientific professionals in such new industries as electronics. Earlier occupational patterns lasted longer in New York City where a concentration of skilled and unskilled workers comprised about 28 percent of the Jewish labor force until the early 1960s.
In such professions as law, medicine, dentistry, and teaching Jews formed a clear majority of those employed. Industries in which they had once been the labor force, especially the garment industry, remained Jewish only at the higher levels of skill and in entrepreneurship. As entrepreneurs, Jews were extensively represented in urban retail trade, the building of homes and shopping centers, and in metropolitan real estate. The same could be said of such mass media areas as television, films, and advertising, and of cultural enterprises like book publishing, art dealing, and impresarioship in music and theater. Stock brokerage and other spheres of finance continued to involve Jewish firms and brokers, setting the stage for the return to prominence in subsequent decades of Jewish financiers, as was previously the case in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In sum, for the country as a whole the "baby boom" of the post-World War ii era was followed by a steep decline in the birthrate. The American Jewish community shared generally in this trend. Ḥasidic Jewish communities were an exception in this regard; traditional values and attitudes prevailed and large families with an average of 6.5 children were the norm. Nonetheless, reinforcement of American Jewish life in this period came from unexpected sources. Estimates of the number of Israelis who settled in the United States in the 1970s and early 1980s vary between 300,000 and 500,000. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the Jews allowed to leave the Soviet Union between 1972 and 1981 chose to immigrate to the United States – more than 75,000 – and an additional 100,000 Jewish immigrants arrived from other countries in these years. By the end of the Cold War era, American Jews comprised 43 percent of world Jewry and 60 percent of diaspora Jewry.
Economic prosperity, the gradual neutralization of once sharp internal ideological differences, the diminution of antisemitism, the waning of the cultural rift that once separated native-born and immigrant Jews, and growing social homogeneity resulted in a lengthy period of Jewish communal consensus that extended from the post-World War ii years to the 1970s. In this period, the State of Israel became a unifying rather than divisive force. Funds were ample for generally agreed communal purposes in the United States and overseas. Communal interests focused primarily on local matters as Jewish suburbia built its institutions, while in older urban areas they had to struggle to survive or relocate. Nearly every city, except New York and Chicago, conducted a combined campaign for overseas and domestic needs and had some form of central Jewish community organization. The Jewish community councils, founded during the 1930s, generally merged with the older federations of Jewish philanthropies and were governed by an executive board and a none too potent community assembly of representatives from organizations. In some cities, however, contributors to the combined campaign above a minimal level (usually $10) were enfranchised to vote for a fixed proportion of the delegates to these assemblies. These central Jewish communal bodies promoted equal rights through their community relations committees, which coordinated the local efforts of the leading American Jewish membership organizations – e.g., American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, B'nai B'rith, Hadassah, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans, and the National Council for Jewish Women. They also sponsored the local bureaus of Jewish education, settled intra-communal disputes, in some communities supervised kashrut (Jewish dietary law), and generally functioned as the recognized Jewish spokespersons in the general community. The social service agencies affiliated with the antecedent federations enjoyed far-reaching autonomy. The most important activity by far was the annual campaigns, whose proceeds were allocated, after negotiations, by carefully devised formulas.
At the national level, ideological groupings and specialization of activities evolved, but no stable central body developed. The aforementioned organizations coordinated some of their activities in the National Community Relations Advisory Council. The American Zionist Council did likewise for Zionist groups, especially on political issues related to Israel and the Middle East, and the Synagogue Council, with little power or religious authority, obtained occasional consensus among the denominational federations of synagogues. The military functions of the National Jewish Welfare Board were largely replaced by its peacetime activity of providing coordination and program assistance to approximately 300 Jewish community centers, and their 645,000 members, affiliated with it by 1960. The Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds guided and counseled its constituents by means of nationwide meetings, through intensive studies of Jewish philanthropic policy, of the role of government in education and social service, and through the activities of various beneficiaries. In 1954 the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (the "Presidents' Club") was established to consult informally in matters concerning Israel and overseas Jewish problems. By virtue of its age, size, prestige, and non-partisan Jewish character, B'nai B'rith tended to play a central role in such efforts. In 1963, in response to grass roots activity and pressure, the *National Conference of Soviet Jewry was established. With some variation, these groups and agencies defined the infrastructure of American Jewish life for the remainder of the 20th century.
social and cultural life
By mid-century the Jews as an overwhelmingly native-born group, extensively college-educated, and heavily concentrated in the mercantile and professional classes, with widespread social and cultural interests, began to assume a remarkable degree of prominence in American society. Their previously notable position as physicians, scientists, lawyers, psychoanalysts, and musicians not only continued but increased exponentially. As well, Jews began to excel in fields once closed or inaccessible to them. General estrangement from the American academy's longstanding preoccupation with British literature and the relative inattention of American Jews to the thematic content of American literature had tended to make Jewish writers in English very few. But beginning in the 1950s and 1960s a considerable number of American Jewish writers attained importance and true distinction. In this period, significant works were produced by the writers Saul *Bellow, Meyer *Levin, Norman *Mailer, Bernard *Malamud, Tillie *Olsen, Cynthia *Ozick, Grace *Paley, Chaim *Potok, Philip *Roth, Isaac Bashevis *Singer, Leon *Uris, and Elie *Wiesel, the playwright Arthur *Miller, the poets Delmore *Schwartz, Allen *Ginsberg, and Karl *Shapiro, and the critics Lionel *Trilling, Leslie *Fiedler, Alfred *Kazin, and Irving *Howe. (Interestingly, Kazin, originally an East European Jewish immigrant, helped to define the field of American literature with On Native Grounds (1942), one of the first systematic and comprehensive studies of literature by native-born American writers.) The wave of post-war literary creativity opened the door to many other successful American Jewish writers in the 1970s and 1980s including the poets Allen *Grossman, Joseph *Heller, Robert *Pinsky, and Adrienne *Rich, the novelists E.M. *Broner, Melvin Jules *Bukiet, E.L. *Doctorow, Howard *Fast, Allegra Goodman, Marge Piercy, Kate *Simon, and Art *Spiegelman, the playwrights Tony *Kushner and Wendy *Wasserstein, and the critic Harold *Bloom.
As Jewish subjects surged to the forefront of literary interest, novels and short stories of extremely varied quality on themes including the Holocaust, Israel, and middle-class American Jewish life, sold in the millions to gentiles as well as Jews. Plays and television programs on Jewish themes attracted vast audiences and were eventually produced on nationwide television. Many of the writers mentioned above contributed to this movement, and "Jewish" became a literary genre that now competed commercially with the "Southern" and "Middle Western" genres in popularity. Occasional voices, questioning its integration into American literature and even alleged domination by a New York Jewish circle, surfaced in Commentary, Partisan Review, and the New York Review of Books. Whether literary politics or legitimate criticism, there was no doubt that Jews were among the principal purveyors of American culture – as impresarios of music, theatrical producers, editors, book publishers, and film and television producers.
Another major trend was that of Jews into the arts and sciences on university faculties. During the 1930s and earlier only a few hundred Jews held academic positions, mainly in the municipal colleges of New York City, but at the close of the 1960s an estimated 30,000 Jews composed about one-tenth of all college faculty members. They were distributed in all fields, although physics, sociology, and psychology particularly attracted a high proportion of Jews. No field of study, however, lacked notable Jewish contributors. Jewish professors could be found in almost all colleges, but especially in public research universities and in the "Ivy League."
By and large, Jewish contributors to American cultural life, at least until the middle 1960s, continued to be the liberal left, with echoes of earlier radicalism. To the wider Jewish community its Jewish public intellectuals were somehow a source of concern. Could they be made to demonstrate positive interest in established American Jewish life and American Judaism, and why did most of them shy away from participation in the communal infrastructure of American Jews? A symposium on "Jewishness and the Younger Intellectuals," published in Commentary in 1961, strongly suggested that under the cultural consensus and religiosity of the 1950s lay the alienated restlessness of many of the highly acculturated, talented younger generation.
Especially visible in the postwar decades was the rise of an elite cohort of Jewish artists around whom the world of American musical theater grew and flourished. It is difficult to overstress the profound impact in this period on American culture of musical figures Leonard *Bernstein, Marvin *Hamlisch, Oscar *Hammerstein ii, Sheldon *Harnick, Larry *Hart, Jerome *Kern, Alan Jay *Lerner, Frank *Loesser, Jerome *Robbins, Richard *Rodgers, Stephen *Sondheim, and other lesser known figures. Like Irving *Berlin, Aaron *Copland, George *Gershwin, and Ira *Gershwin before them, whose impact on the decades prior to mid-century was profound, the second-generation of American Jewish composers, conductors, lyricists, and choreographers left an indelible imprint on the Broadway musical tradition with such classics as South Pacific (1949), Guys and Dolls (1950), The King and I (1951), My Fair Lady (1956), Gypsy (1959), The Sound of Music (1959), Camelot (1960), West Side Story (1961), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962); Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Company (1970), A Chorus Line (1975); Sweeney Todd (1979), and Into the Woods (1987).
Parallel to the Broadway musical tradition was the arena of American popular music, whose ranks swelled throughout these decades to include a variety of influential Jewish musical artists and record producers. Even a cursory review in this regard illustrates the diverse wealth of American Jewish talent that helped shape this dynamic aspect of American culture. Some singers and entertainers openly identified with American Jewish life while others, like the diva Beverly *Sills (born Belle Miriam Silverman), one of America's greatest opera sopranos, did not and remained virtually indistinguishable from the larger canvas of American popular music. Any list in this regard must include artists as diverse as band leader Herb *Alpert, the singer-entertainers Sammy *Davis, Jr. (a convert to Judaism), Eydie *Gorme, Bette *Midler, Allan *Sherman, Dinah *Shore, and Barbra *Streisand, the singer-songwriters Neil *Diamond, Art *Garfunkel, Billy *Joel, Carole *King, Barry *Manilow, Linda *Ronstadt, Neil *Sedaka, Carly *Simon, and Paul *Simon, and the folk singers Theodore *Bikel, Bob *Dylan, Arlo *Guthrie, Janis *Ian, and Phil *Ochs.
Likewise, the world of modern American art was enriched and shaped by an array of Jewish artists including the painter-sculptors Boris *Aronson, Leonard *Baskin, Judy *Chicago, Helen *Frankenthaler, Marc *Rothko, George *Segal, Richard *Serra, Ben *Shahn, Raphael *Soyer, and Max *Weber as well as the influential art critic Clement *Greenberg and even the comic book creators Jack *Kirby and Stan *Lee.
As noted previously, Hollywood, too, played an increasingly central role in the complex relationship between Jews and American culture. Among the most visible and important Jewish actors, television stars, and film makers from mid-century forward were Woody *Allen, Alan *Arkin, Milton *Berle, Matthew *Broderick, Adrien Brody, Mel *Brooks, George *Burns, Sid *Caesar, Billy *Crystal, Tony *Curtis, Kirk *Douglas, Michael *Douglas, Richard *Dreyfuss, Peter *Falk, Marty *Feldman, Tova *Feldshuh, Harvey *Fierstein, Fyvush Finkel, Harrison *Ford, Jeff *Goldblum, Elliot *Gould, Harold Gould, Joel *Grey, Charles Grodin, Goldie *Hawn, Judd Hirsch, Dustin *Hoffman, Madeline *Kahn, Danny *Kaye, Alan *King, Jack *Klugman, Harvey Korman, Lisa *Kudrow, Hal Linden, Jackie *Mason, Walter *Matthau, Zero *Mostel, Jerry Orbach, Sarah Jessica *Parker, Mandy *Patinkin, Gilda *Radner, Tony *Randall, Carl *Reiner, Rob *Reiner, Adam *Sandler, Roy *Scheider, Jerry *Seinfeld, Peter *Sellers, Joan Micklin *Silver, Ron *Silver, Steven *Spielberg, Ben *Stiller, Barbra *Streisand, Chaim *Topol, Gene *Wilder, and Henry *Winkler.
The broad range of Jewish participation in American culture and, likewise, the integration of American themes, rhythms, and modalities into the work of Jewish artists in the 20th century, defies easy explanation. Reflecting on the complexity of this phenomenon, the historian Stephen J. Whitfield has observed that "like religion, culture should not be regarded as the stable expression of a people with an immutable set of attributes. The features that are more evident are borrowing, adaptation, and inventiveness as well as continuity." In the process of negotiating the dynamic and creative tensions that link their Jewish and American identities, Jewish artists from all walks of the contemporary scene – music, sculpture, painting, theater, and literature – have imbued American society with important and unparalleled cultural achievements.
In the 1960s and 1970s, against the backdrop of the counter-culture movement that spread across the country, there emerged a wave of feminism that sought to refashion the place of women and introduce new ways of considering gender in American society. Among the outstanding early leaders of the feminist movement were two Jewish activists, the theorist Betty *Friedan (born Bettye Naomi Goldstein in Peoria, Illinois) and political maverick Bella *Abzug. Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique (1963), which depicted the repressed domestic lives of middle-class American women in the decades following World War ii, became a national bestseller and is often credited with energizing the women's movement in this period. Abzug, a daughter of poor Russian Jewish immigrants, who grew up in the Bronx where she joined the socialist Zionist youth group Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir as a teenager, went on to become active in New York State and national Democratic politics. In 1970 Abzug garnered countrywide attention while campaigning for election to the U.S. House of Representatives with the statement, "This woman's place is in the House – the House of Representatives." Friedan, a co-founder of the National Organization for Women in 1966, and Abzug were both outspoken advocates for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and public opponents of the Vietnam War. In 1979 they were among the founders of the National Women's Political Caucus.
A figure of equal importance to the emergence of American feminism in this period was Carol (Friedman) *Gilligan, who single-handedly transformed the field of psychology with the publication in 1982 of her pathbreaking study In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Gilligan, who as a child participated actively in the Reconstructionist movement's flagship Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York City, has described herself "a Jewish child of the Holocaust era." Her strong moral and political convictions, which soon found expression through her participation in the civil rights movements, were ultimately manifest in her scholarship. In 1964 she completed a Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University. After teaching at the University of Chicago, she returned to Harvard, where she worked closely with Erik Erikson and Lawrence Kohlberg, two eminent psychological theorists. At this juncture, Gilligan began to closely examine the ways female identity and experience were virtually ignored by mainstream psychology. In a Different Voice, which stemmed from research conducted at the Emma Willard girls school in Troy, New York, provoked a national debate and catapulted Gilligan to the forefront of the American feminist movement and utterly revolutionized the fields of education, psychology, and women's studies. Subsequently, Gilligan was named "Woman of the Year" in 1984 by Ms. magazine and in 1996 Time magazine named her one of the 25 most influential figures in American society.
While Jewish female activists such as Friedan, Abzug, and Gilligan swiftly became household names in wider American society, an equally explicit albeit more subtle Jewish brand of feminism emerged in this period, too – with profound implications for the future of American Jewry. The burgeoning of American Jewish publications in these years throws light on this trend as well as a pervasive desire to reorient perceptions of women in modern Jewish life generally. Consider, for example, a few disparate works that illustrate significant shifts on the American Jewish scene. First, The Jewish Catalog (1973), an enormously popular do-it-yourself guide to Judaism and Jewish life in American society, contained a chapter on Jewish women emphasizing "consciousness-raising" and suggesting new "areas of priorities for interested Jewish women." Second, Women in the Kibbutz (1975), a controversial multi-generational study by the sociologists Lionel Tiger and Joseph Shepher, focused attention on the unique experiment of Israeli communal living and, in the words of the publisher, raised "new questions about the goals of the Women's Liberation Movement." Third, Anne Lapidus Lerner's "'Who Hast Not Made Me a Man': The Movement for Equal Rights for Women in American Jewry," published in the American Jewish Year Book of 1977, accurately pointed to the vitality and durability of feminism in contemporary American Jewish life. The sentiment of the period was summed up in Lerner's bold assertion that "Queen Esther no longer reigns supreme in the hearts of young Jewish women. More and more of them are admiring Vashti's spunk instead." In the final analysis, she optimistically intoned, as "the image of Queen Esther is becoming less persuasive … the new Jewish feminism must be confronted and accommodated to ensure the survival of American Jewry."
As participants and observers alike created a new literature and public arena about Jewish women and for feminist discourse – e.g., Trude *Weiss-Rosmarin's "The Unfreedom of Jewish Women" (1970); *Lillith magazine, established in 1976 by Susan Weidman Schneider and Aviva Cantor; Blu Greenberg's On Women and Judaism (1979); etc. – some female scholars turned to history in order to discern "models from [the] past." "From them we learn," explained Elizabeth Koltun in The Jewish Woman: New Perspectives (1976), "that we are not the first Jewish women discontent with 'women's place' and that, concomitantly, Jewish feminism does not, in fact, represent the total break with our past which our critics would have us believe."
It was not by chance that of the four role models featured in Koltun's anthology, two were Zionists: Henrietta Szold, the American founder of Hadassah and head of Youth Aliyah, and Raḥel Yanait Ben-Zvi, a Labor Zionist leader and founder of the *Ha-Shomer self-defense organization in the Yishuv (prestate Israeli society). Likewise, a bibliographic "Guide to Jewish Women's Activities" in The Jewish Catalog begins with five autobiographical works written and edited by Zionist women activists: Raḥel Yanait Ben-Zvi, Geula *Cohen, Irma L. Lindheim, Raḥel *Katznelson-Shazar, and Ada *Maimon. It also contains numerous references to women in the Zionist movement, the Yishuv, and contemporary Israel. In another instance, a slim volume titled Sisters of Exile (1974), published by the American Zionist youth movement *Habonim, focused on the lives of significant women in Jewish history and elevated Zionist activists to the pantheon of modern Jewish heroes. It also found its way into many Jewish studies classes on American college campuses in an era when such information was still largely ignored and inaccessible. Finally, it is worth noting Golda *Meir's bestselling autobiography, My Life (1975), which enjoyed a mass distribution in the United States.
Viewed historically, the developments described above are not surprising. As sociologist Sylvia Barack Fishman has observed, the close identification of Jewish women with Zionism and Israel in the 1970s and 1980s – despite the checkered track records of both vis-à-vis the equality and empowerment of women – was a self-defining characteristic of American Jewish feminism in this period. In fact, despite external pressures many Jewish feminists refused to sever their links to Zionism. The scholar Paula *Hyman explains the strong similarities between Jewish feminism and Zionism from a historical perspective:
Like Zionism, Jewish feminism emerged from an encounter of Jews who were deeply concerned with the fate of their group with secular Western culture… Jewish feminism, too, did not spring in an unmediated way from Jewish tradition… It took secularized Jews, influenced by the rise of feminism in America in the 1960s, to establish a Jewish feminist movement that provided a radically modern form to strivings for gender equality.
The profile of American Jewish feminism in this period reveals a mélange of secular, spiritual, modern, radical, and feminist impulses as well as a broad range of perspectives on women, Judaism, Zionism, and Israel. In the words of historian Judith R. *Baskin, "expanding our knowledge of Jewish women not only enlarges what we know about Jewish history and the Jewish experience but redefines our very conceptions of what Jews and Judaism were and continue to be about."
American Jewish religious life broadened considerably in the decades following World War ii as Judaism was all but officially recognized as the third religion of American society. Will Herberg's celebrated polemic Protestant, Catholic, Jew (1960) and the widespread use of the term "Judeo-Christian" illustrate this trend. Public commissions habitually included a Jewish member alongside Protestants and Catholics, and official ceremonies, including presidential inaugurations, arranged for Jewish as well as Christian clerical participation. The 1950s was a period of unprecedented interest in Jewish religious life and thought, as part of the "revival of religion" in American culture during those years. The writings of such figures as philosopher Martin *Buber and theologian Abraham J. *Heschel received widespread attention. Numerous interfaith institutes and assemblies were held. It is no accident that among the ideologues who had the most impact on the various denominations of American Judaism – Abraham J. Heschel, Joseph *Soloveitchik, Menachem *Schneersohn, and Emil *Fackenheim – all, with the exception of Fackenheim, were scholars with deep roots in Eastern Europe who spent some of their most formative years pursuing higher education in Western Europe, primarily, Berlin, and then emigrated to the United States where they quickly emerged as the most creative authorities for their disciples on how to relate to the Jewish religious tradition in a pluralistic, technological, and open society.
Although it is customary to divide American Judaism in this period according to the tripartite model of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogue movements, each with central institutions and recognized leaders, the reality resembled more a spectrum in which the membership, beliefs, and practices, and even the rabbinate of one group shaded into the next. The number of denominationally identified congregations grew rapidly. In the early 1950s there were nearly 500 Reform congregations, 100 more than in the previous decade, while the Conservative movement added more than 150 synagogues in the same period and rose beyond 500 congregations. (Many had been Orthodox and evolved into Conservatism.) There were more than 700 affiliated Orthodox congregations, but many were inactive leftovers from immigrant days. The increase continued, so that in the 1960s the congregations numbered more than 550 Reform, 600 Conservative, and 700 Orthodox. The organized American rabbinate in 1955 counted 1,127 men in the two large Orthodox professional bodies, 677 Reform, and 598 Conservative. In 1960 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reached similar conclusions when it identified 2,517 congregational rabbis, 944 in "specialized Jewish community service," and 148 at temporary work or unemployed. To these 3,609 rabbis the Bureau of Labor Statistics added some 650 retired or out of the profession, and there were probably others privately ordained not functioning as rabbis. A 1950 estimate placed total synagogue membership at a maximum of 450,000 families, besides about 250,000 persons who occupied seats in the synagogue on the High Holy Days. Perhaps 1,485,000 Jews were thus synagogally affiliated, and this figure apparently increased during the 1950s. Thus around 1960 there were over 450,000 families in Conservative and Reform congregations. The number of Orthodox Jews could not be properly determined, but a 1965 study suggested 300,000 committed Orthodox individuals. Altogether, the largest institutional and membership growth was found in the Conservative movement, which counted over 800 congregations affiliated with the United Synagogue of America in 1970 as compared with some 700 in the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in that year.
A wave of synagogue construction illustrated this increase of affiliation, as did the burgeoning of Jewish communities in new suburban districts. In the decade following World War ii an estimated $50–60 million was spent on synagogue building, and the ten-year period that followed may have seen twice that amount expended. Many synagogues, especially in the suburbs, accommodated not only worship and study but also quite elaborate social functions and even sports and social recreation. The tendency of synagogues to act as Jewish community centers sometimes brought them into rivalry with non-synagogal Jewish centers and Young Men's Hebrew Associations and Young Women's Hebrew Associations, which were professionally equipped for such work. The latter were engaged in reorienting their outlook and activities toward a more explicit Jewish program, as recommended in the influential Jewish Welfare Board survey (1948) directed by Oscar I. *Janowsky. The synagogue-Jewish center rivalry had some ideological basis: synagogal claims to primacy as the embodiment of Jewish religion and tradition, versus the centers' emphasis on their broadly Jewish character accommodating secular as well as religious members.
Notwithstanding great material growth, Jewish religious life hardly became more intensive. Although American Jews in surveys tended to describe themselves as "conservative," this no doubt indicated a general preference for traditional religious rituals rather than actual Conservative religious belief or synagogue affiliation. There was widespread well-documented interest in Judaism on college campuses, and numerous instances occurred of young people adopting traditional religious life and beliefs. Altogether, however, only small minorities, estimated variously between 10 and 20 percent, observed the Sabbath scrupulously, maintained the dietary laws in full, and observed daily prayer. Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox religious groupings were found in every Jewish community of any size, but some were strong in particular cities. Thus, the centers of Orthodoxy in the 1950s and 1960s were in Boston, Baltimore, and above all New York City. Philadelphia and Detroit were strongholds of Conservative Judaism, while Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Milwaukee were especially favorable environments for the Reform movement.
The denominations had their struggles over internal issues. The Reform majority, now pro-Zionist, moved toward increased ritual and traditionalism, over the opposition of a vigorous "classical Reform" minority, and congregations leaned in either direction. The majority of Reform rabbis attempted to utilize the classic sources of Jewish law in religious problems. Among the Conservatives differences tended to be muffled in loyalty to the central institution, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and its profoundly traditionalist faculty. The main issue was Jewish law and the extent to which it could be modified and by whom. Yet while Conservative rabbis and scholars debated the halakhic problems of change, the lay membership proceeded in its own un-ha lakhic way of life.
Orthodoxy meanwhile shed its status as the Judaism of Yiddish-speaking East European immigrants after the number of acculturated, middle-class congregations with modernist American-trained rabbinic leadership sharply increased. There was also a large accretion to Orthodoxy from post-1945 immigration, among whom ḥasidic and yeshivah leaders were prominent. Tensions arose between these two segments for the latter tended to be non-Zionist or anti-Zionist and considered the secular world and non-Orthodox forms of American Jewishness to have improperly influenced American Orthodoxy. As well, Orthodoxy became intellectually active and vibrant in this period as religious and philosophic writing was produced, including American reprintings of the Talmud and nearly the entire corpus of rabbinic classics.
Nonetheless, the National Jewish Population Survey of 1970 revealed that American Jewish life was marked by substantial acculturation among young people and the break up of family cohesion. These findings aroused considerable concern among American Jewish leaders from across the social, religious, and political spectrum and reinvigorated the longstanding public debate over the maintenance of a separate Jewish identity and the wholehearted acceptance of the Jews by a society that stands for the elimination of barriers based on race or creed.
The prospective decline of American Jewish religious life prompted some rabbis and congregational lay leaders to call on the synagogue movements to review their traditional reluctance to accept proselytes. Small groups encouraging converts had been at work for some time but the idea took on a new dimension in 1978 when Alexander *Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (uahc), proposed that American Judaism (or at any rate its Reform wing) actively seek converts from among the religiously unaffiliated: "I believe that it is time for our movement to launch a carefully conceived Outreach Program aimed at all Americans who are unchurched and who are seeking roots in religion." The uahc board of trustees responded positively to Schindler's proposal.
Renewal efforts were manifest in other areas of the Reform movement as well. The most dramatic illustration in this regard was the ordination in 1972 by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion of America's first woman rabbi, Sally *Priesand.
As I sat in the historic Plum Street Temple [in Cincinnati, Ohio], waiting to accept the ancient rite of smikhah [ordination], I couldn't help but reflect on the implications of what was about to happen. For thousands of years women in Judaism had been second-class citizens. They were not permitted to own property. They could not serve as witnesses. They did not have the right to initiate divorce proceedings. They were not counted in the minyan [quorum]. Even in Reform Judaism they were not permitted to participate fully in the life of the synagogue. With my ordination all that was going to change; one more barrier was about to be broken.
Priesand's ordination represented not only a major departure from Reform's institutional culture but also portended a sea change in the American rabbinate and, in time, American Judaism as a whole. Meanwhile, Reform liturgical innovations resulted in a triad of new prayer books: Gates of Prayer (1973), the Union Haggadah (1974), and Gates of Repentance (1978). In direct line of succession to the Union Prayer Book (1892), the volumes retained traces of Reform's earlier radicalism, but exhibited in style and content important theological changes and an emphasis on ceremonial tradition. Likewise, Shaare Mitzvah (Gates of Observance) (1979) encouraged Reform Jews to "return" to personal observances. Moreover, as a consequence of the rise of intermarriage, the ccar called upon its members not to participate in such ceremonies. The New York Board of Rabbis subsequently resolved to bar those who did so from membership. In 1975 the Rabbinical Council of America passed a similar resolution.
Conservative Judaism underwent a significant paradigm shift in this period. In 1972 the Rabbinical Assembly published a new High Holiday maḥzor (prayer book). It departed from earlier versions in its modern translation and the incorporation of new material, including an alternative to the silent amidah (personal recitation). The martyrology for Yom Kippur was revised considerably to include non-liturgical texts and commemorative material related to the Holocaust. The question of women's rights, which for opposite reasons excited no significant discussion in either Orthodoxy or Reform, was a matter of vigorous debate in the Conservative movement. In 1972 the Rabbinical Assembly of America determined it should be left to individual congregations whether or not to include women in the minyan (religious quorum). The ordination of women to the Conservative rabbinate also came under discussion at the Assembly's 1974 convention, where it was rejected. The issue caused deep division within the seminary faculty and the Conservative rabbinate. In the meantime, however, one Conservative congregation appointed Sandy Eisenberg *Sasso, who was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary.
A survey of Conservative movement members presented to the 1979 biennial convention of the United Synagogue of America generated pessimistic conclusions as to the future of that body. The findings were based on age composition, the low proportion of members among third-generation American Jews, and the failure to bring about a commitment to Conservative Judaism among the majority of the children of Conservative synagogue members. Moreover, despite the enthusiastic efforts of a group of young Israel-oriented activists, the United Synagogue of America refused to endorse the establishment in 1977 of Mercaz (Hebrew for "Center"), a Conservative Zionist group that claimed an enrollment of 10,000 members. Ironically, the American Zionist Federation accepted Mercaz as an affiliate. In 1979 Mercaz announced plans for the creation of a moshav (collective settlement) in Israel. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5740 (September 1979) the chief rabbis of Jerusalem issued a statement vigorously denouncing Conservative Judaism. In connection with this it was revealed that there were 29 Conservative congregations in Israel.
The twinning of the Reform and Conservative movement's positions vis-à-vis Israel became apparent in this period. In 1977 Reform and Conservative representatives together met Israeli Prime Minister Menahem *Begin and sent a deputation to the Jewish state in an effort to prevent an alteration in the *Law of Return called for by the Orthodox. In addition they worked together in 1978 to secure from the Twenty-Ninth World Zionist Congress a resolution calling for equal rights for all quarters of Jewish life. The determination of the Orthodox to resist any encroachment on their special status in Israel generated a strong counterforce among American Jewish leaders, and the ambiguities of Reform in the matter of halakhah, particularly as related to marriage and conversion, made cooperation with the Conservative movement problematic.
Orthodoxy, too, increased its assertiveness in this period within and beyond the organized American Jewish community. The growth of Orthodoxy conformed to the climate of the times. Throughout the 1970s liberal churches in the United States lost support while fundamentalist Christianity (which developed a distinct political thrust) gained in strength. Of the several strata of Orthodox Judaism, the ḥasidic sector became the most conspicuous. Among the Ḥasidim those adhering to the Lubavitcher rebbe became the most widely known because of the missionary work they conducted among the non-Orthodox.
Ḥasidic strength was centered in Brooklyn, where identifiable groups settled in specific sections of the borough – the Satmar (see *Teitelbaum) in Williamsburg, the Lubavitcher (see *Chabad) in Crown Heights, and the *Bobover in Borough Park. In 1977 the serious differences between the Lubavitcher and Satmar sects deteriorated to the extent of an inter-ḥasidic riot in Brooklyn. In 1979 differences between the *Belzer and Satmar Ḥasidim in Jerusalem spilled over in violence between them in New York. Though they maintained complete independence of the organized American Jewish community, the ḥasidic leaders developed an important web of contacts in the world of politics. An expanding group of followers (owing to a high birthrate and proselytism), well-defined communal goals, and high voter turnout gave them considerable political leverage, resulting in increased government aid for their projects.
education and culture
The relation between church and state, especially in the field of education, was a sensitive issue in this period. The Jewish community maintained its historic opposition to religious observances in governmental functions and particularly in the public school system. This stand was put to the test, especially over Catholic demands for government aid to their parochial school system. A series of United States Supreme Court decisions that permitted private schools to receive school buses, lunches, and textbooks from the government was generally regretted, while decisions that barred school prayers and any active role for schools in sponsoring outside sectarian religious instruction were widely applauded by Jews. The passage of the Education Act of 1964 and subsequent legislation, providing limited federal aid for private schools, tended to quiet the issue.
American Jews also opposed school programs that aimed to inculcate "moral and spiritual values" in children. Local disputes frequently erupted, typically in predominantly Christian suburbs to which a substantial number of Jews had moved, due to Jewish opposition to Christmas observances in the public schools; combined Christmas-Hanukah observances were a syncretistic "compromise." Thus, the American Jewish community continued its historic affinity for the public schools provided they were religiously neutral. Among Jewish organizations the American Jewish Congress took the most rigorous separationist position, while the American Jewish Committee leaned toward a more pragmatic acceptance of the prevailing public policy. Orthodox Jewry, which had few children in the public schools, opposed rigorous church-state separation in education, partly in hopes of securing public funds for their hard-pressed day schools.
After 1950 Hebrew literary creativity in the United States nearly vanished as Israel increasingly monopolized talent and provided a mass audience for writers. Yiddish letters also continued their decline, largely on account of linguistic assimilation. Significant Yiddish writers continued to publish, however, including Chaim *Grade and Isaac Bashevis Singer, who in English translation became an American literary celebrity during the 1960s. Yiddish was no longer the language of the Jewish masses. In 1971 the Tag-Morgen Zhurnal (Day-Morning Journal) one of the two remaining Yiddish dailies in New York City ceased publication while the Forverts (The Forward) remained afloat only through philanthropic support. Only the Allgemeine Journal, a Yiddish weekly newspaper close to the Lubavitcher movement, enjoyed a measure of success. The remaining publications of note were the monthly Zukunft, scientific literature produced by the *yivo Institute for Jewish Research, and various organizational periodicals. Ironically, as the prestige of Yiddish seemed to peak in the 1970s, Irving Howe's celebrated World of Our Fathers (1976), an epic history of East European Jewish immigration to the United States, became a national bestseller, and in 1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In short, Yiddish as a living language – except among ḥasidic Jews – all but disappeared.
By contrast, American Jewish cultural activity in English surged throughout this period. The mainstay of the weekly Anglo-Jewish press, whose news came from the *Jewish Telegraphic Agency, were Jewish monthlies and quarterlies like American Jewish Congress Monthly, Commentary, Hadassah Magazine, Jewish Frontier, Judaism, Midstream, Moment Magazine, the Reconstructionist, Shma, and Tikkun – some of which were of the highest standard. Nor was it longer unusual to read of Jewish affairs in the general press, and television and general magazines also frequently presented Jewish material from which unpleasant stereotypes had long been eliminated.
University presses and commercial publishers issued serious works on Jewish subjects, in addition to the best-selling novels. Jewish scholarship, while still concentrated in seminaries and yeshivot, slowly began to find a place in universities with the establishment of academic chairs in Jewish studies and the rise to national prominence under its founding president Abram *Sachar of *Brandeis University, a Jewish-sponsored non-sectarian university which was established in 1948. To the generation of mature, European-trained scholars was added a new one educated in the United States and frequently in Israel. Learned studies of outstanding merit in Bible, theology, and homiletics, medieval and modern Jewish languages and literature, and Jewish philosophy, history, political science, sociology, anthropology, and folklore were produced by elder scholars and their younger American-born colleagues. Notwithstanding a new, respectful attitude toward Jewish scholarship, the relatively low Jewish educational level of much of American Jewry often made such works inaccessible.
Meanwhile, participation in Jewish educational institutions surged as school enrollment increased, owing particularly to the post-1945 "baby boom" from some 268,000 in 1950 to over 589,000 in the 1960s. In this period, an estimated 80 percent of American Jewish children received Jewish education at some time during their school years. Over half went to Sunday schools, which were generally attached to Reform congregations, and perhaps one-third to weekday congregational schools, usually branches of Conservative synagogues. A striking and somewhat controversial increase was that of day schools, most of them under Orthodox auspices, which enrolled approximately 80,000 children in 1970. The lesser expansion of yeshivah high schools and of yeshivot for full-time talmudic study was also conspicuous. As these schools grew the communally supported Talmud Torahs of earlier decades sharply declined owing to changing religious trends within the Jewish community and the change of urban neighborhoods. In this climate, secular Yiddish education barely survived. Local Jewish welfare funds began to appropriate more for Jewish education, mainly toward central bureaus and specialized services. Notwithstanding financial improvement and the desire of most parents to send their child to some Jewish school, Jewish education remained brief and superficial for most pupils, and was severely handicapped by a seemingly insoluble shortage of qualified teachers.
At the beginning of the 1970s, the National Jewish Population Survey reported that more than 80 percent of Jewish males received some Jewish education at some time in their lives, and about the same percentage of Jewish boys celebrated their bar mitzvah. For females the proportion receiving some Jewish education was less. Within this general framework, the picture of Jewish education exhibited some marked contrasts. A survey undertaken in 1979 by the American Association for Jewish Education estimated total student enrollment in Jewish educational institutions to be 357,107. Furthermore, the study noted the growth of the Jewish day school movement. Whereas in 1946 there were 69 Jewish day schools with 10,000 pupils, in 1979 there were 378 with 90,675 pupils. Total enrollment figures showed that 35.6 percent of all pupils attended Reform schools, 29.5 percent Conservative, 24.1 percent Orthodox, 7.1 percent communal, 3.6 percent independent, and 0.1 percent Yiddish. The proportion of Orthodox schools in greater New York was greater, amounting to 53.6 percent.
the convulsions of the 1960s
Toward the end of the 1960s, the American Jewish position seemed stable. Population held to predictable rates, immigration was minimal and readily absorbed, and demographic and occupational trends continued as they had from approximately 1950. Meanwhile, Israel attracted considerable political and financial support and tourism, and the institutions of the Jewish community were generally well financed and seemed capable of dealing with most of the problems coming up on their agendas. Late in the 1960s, however, quite unanticipated matters and issues arose which stirred unusual interest and anxiety.
The accession of Pope *John xxiii in 1958 and the Vatican ii Ecumenical Council, which he convened, inaugurated sweeping changes in the Roman Catholic Church. These included a major attempt to rectify the ancient anti-Jewish record of the Church and to meet belated worldwide criticism of the generally passive and indifferent attitude of Pope *Pius xii during the Holocaust. The movement within the Church to "exonerate" the Jews collectively of the charge of "deicide" and to formally recognize the theological legitimacy of Judaism was highly active in the United States, and stirred considerable American Jewish participation and enthusiasm. A period of Catholic-Jewish theological conversation and inter-faith dialogue commenced, in which Cardinal Augustine Bea and American prelates were leaders. The most prominent American Jewish spokesman in this regard was the theologian Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel. The final document issued by Vatican ii in 1965 disappointed high hopes. While Catholic silence (as well as that of Protestants) during the Arab preparations to annihilate Israel in May 1967 was very disillusioning, Catholic-Jewish dialogue continued, but in a subdued key.
The acquisition of equal rights by African Americans had long been a goal of legal and political action, as well as philanthropic endeavor, by Jews. Not only did such Jewish organizations as the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress possess considerable track records as supporters of legislation and litigants in court in order to secure black rights, but individual Jews since the days of Louis Marshall, Julius Rosenwald, and others had long been a source of activists and funds in these struggles, dating back to significant charitable gifts to historically black colleges in the South. During the Civil Rights era of the mid-1960s young Jews constituted, by some reports, as high as 50 percent of all the white student youth who participated in grassroots political activity aimed at the enfranchisement and improvement of the African American community's socio-economic conditions, particularly in the southern United States. A particularly cogent expression of the American Jewish perspective was voiced in 1963 by Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, at the March on Washington, where he stood together with the Rev. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel before the Lincoln Memorial:
I speak to you as an American Jew.
As Americans we share the profound concern of millions of people about the shame and disgrace of inequality and injustice which make a mockery of the great American idea.
As Jews we bring to this great demonstration, in which thousands of us proudly participate, a twofold experience – one of the spirit and one of our history.
In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, He created him as everybody's neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man's dignity and integrity.
From our Jewish historic experience of three and a half thousand years we say: Our ancient history began with slavery and the yearning for freedom. During the Middle Ages my people lived for a thousand years in the ghettos of Europe. Our modern history begins with a proclamation of emancipation.
It is for these reasons that it is not merely sympathy and compassion for the black people of America that motivates us. It is above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience.
When I was the rabbi of a Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.
A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality, and in the face of mass murder.
America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America, but all of America. It must speak up and act, from the President down to the humblest of us, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of the black community but for the sake of the image, the idea, and the aspiration of America itself.
Our children, yours and mine in every school across the land, each morning pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands. They, the children, speak fervently and innocently of this land as the land of "liberty and justice for all."
The time, I believe, has come to work together – for it is not enough to hope together, and it is not enough to pray together – to work together that this children's oath, pronounced every morning from Maine to California, from North to South, may become a glorious, unshakable reality in a morally renewed and united America.
An especially tragic illustration of the youthful Jewish commitment to this idealistic vision was the murder in 1964 of Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner (along with other voting rights activists) in Mississippi by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Against this backdrop, the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, and the legal and judicial prohibition of racial segregation in all forms, were viewed by American Jews with deep satisfaction.
After these victories, the black-Jewish alliance was gravely strained and broken at many points, largely owing to dynamic social, economic, and political trends. The presence within African American areas of numerous Jewish merchants and slum landlords – many of who were holdovers from earlier years when such districts were heavily Jewish – was a source of major friction. The whites with whom the masses of southern black migrants to northern cities came in contact were also disproportionately Jewish, including social case workers, communal service professionals, and, especially in New York City, public school teachers. The wave of riots that swept African American communities in northern cities between 1964 and 1968 compelled the departure of most of their white businessmen, including Jews, and violently shook the fragile urban setting. Militant groups espousing "black power," separatism, and nationalism denounced whites and repudiated their assistance in terms that were sometimes antisemitic. Proposals for social policy from some black and establishment white sources stirred deep Jewish fears that the economic and social gains of African Americans were to be at the expense of American Jews, with Jewish opportunities in higher education and broad areas of professional employment reduced to make room for African Americans. Other American ethnic groups shared similar fears.
A strike by New York City teachers in 1968, most of them Jews, arose from the intention of "school decentralization" to ease Jews out or reduce their opportunities for advancement in order to advance African Americans (and Puerto Ricans, in that city's situation) in the school system. Serious eruptions of antisemitism accompanied the strike, and the Jewish community was disturbed at white intellectual and upper-class indifference to them. Deep cleavages appeared within the American Jewish community as feelings emerged, especially among urban-working and lower-middle-class Jews, that the established Jewish organizations with their prosperous, suburban supporters were unconcerned with their plight and heedless of rising antisemitism. The rapid growth of the militant Jewish Defense League in New York and other cities, with its tactics of physical defense, public demonstrations, and retaliation, was, in part, an expression of this fear.
The Middle East crisis of May 1967 brought American Jewish concern for Israel to a peak. Some volunteers were able to leave for Israel before June 5, 1967, but the escalating political anxiety and subsequent astonishing military triumph by Israel in the Six-Day War found its main outlet in unparalleled charitable contributions – $232 million to the United Jewish Appeal and $75 million in State of Israel bonds. Hardly had the euphoria of victory dissipated when the New Left in shaky combination with militant black elements vigorously espoused the Arab cause. Like Soviet Russia and Poland, they used the term "Zionist" as an epithet and synonym for "Jew" in attempting to obscure the antisemitic character of their propaganda. Together with numerous Arab students on American campuses, they propagandized vigorously for their cause. The American Zionist movement – largely quiescent for almost 20 years as the vast majority of American Jews expressed their pro-Israel convictions outside its framework – somewhat revived after 1967. This was particularly noticeable at many colleges and universities, especially those swept by campus disturbances and the militant tone of leftist and black demands. Jewish students spontaneously founded Zionist organizations, which they named (in contemporary parlance) as "radical" and "liberation" groups, e.g., the Jewish Activist League (Boston), the Jewish Liberation Project (New York City), the Jewish Radical Community (Los Angeles), Jews for Urban Justice (Washington, d.c.), the Radical Zionist Alliance (New York City), etc. At a more sedate level, American business investment in Israel as well as tourism, both overwhelmingly Jewish, greatly increased despite the danger to Israel's security. Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel), long debated in American Zionist and Jewish circles, enjoyed a relative surge as approximately 17,000 American Jews settled in Israel between July 1967 and the end of 1970.
Antisemitic discrimination and the near-suppression of Jewish life in the Soviet Union, together with the Soviet regime's refusal to permit Jewish emigration, furnished the main cause for agitation and protest by American Jews at the end of the 1960s. The American Conference on Soviet Jewry, the Academic Council on Soviet Jewry, and especially the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry were the major organizers in this regard. The continued threat to the existence of Israel, urban problems weighing heavily on an overwhelmingly urban community, and the surge of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Israel sentiment, together with the well-publicized glorification of violence by some militant black demagogues and white followers, angered American Jews and tended to stimulate a siege mentality. Assertions were common that Jewish communal life and institutions were "useless" and "irrelevant," and the supposed revolt of American youth stirred concern. Nevertheless, American Jews continued to support liberal political programs and candidates and played a prominent role in American cultural and economic life.
the insecure 1970s
The 1970s brought many changes as well as insecurity and anxiety to the fore of American society. The Vietnam War's conclusion was as humiliating as its pursuit and the scars took time to heal. The Arab oil embargo of the period and subsequent price increases exposed the vulnerability of the world's most advanced technological society to Middle Eastern oil supplies. The Watergate scandal revealed a corruption of power that had eaten into the political structure and weakened public respect for government. Scarcely had this receded when the overthrow of the Shah of Iran again threatened oil supplies, and the humiliation of the prolonged detention of the occupants of the Teheran embassy underscored the extent to which the giant economies of the West did not control their own destinies. The manner in which their appetite for oil continued, despite the warning of the earlier crisis, made the West dependent on the whim of a handful of Arab countries, whose control over substantial portion of the world's oil reserves portended dramatic changes in the balance of Cold War geo-political power – in the Middle East and worldwide. All this was driven home by a background of seemingly unbeatable inflation, accompanied, as the decade drew to a close, by a depressed American economy – the effects of which provided the context for the work of Simon *Kuznets, a leading American economist of Ukrainian Jewish origins who won the Nobel Prize in 1971 for his empirical studies of economic growth and the socio-economic structure of society.
The impact of the economic and political climate on American Jews was complicated by the shock of the Yom Kippur War, and the ensuing concern that – quite apart from its decisive 1967 victory – Israel's long-term survival was far from certain. American Jews responded to the crisis of the Yom Kippur War almost reflexively and immediately undertook a dizzying campaign to lobby American policy-makers, coordinate a massive fundraising campaign on Israel's behalf, and activate local American Jewish communities to support Israel's war effort. Within hours of the outbreak of hostilities, American Jewish leaders mobilized to secure political support for Nixon's request for a $2.2 billion Congressional appropriation that allowed Israel to purchase American military supplies. Meanwhile, the United Jewish Appeal pledged to raise $900 million, while the Israel Bond's organization and a plethora of Jewish and Zionist groups initiated emergency fund raising initiatives. The Conservative movement alone raised a total of $82 million. Finally, some 35,000 prospective American Jewish volunteers barraged the offices of the Jewish Agency including a disproportionate number of doctors whose prior experience in Vietnam made them ideal candidates for service. Of the tens of thousands who offered their services, only a couple thousand were actually sent to Israel in the first weeks following the outbreak of the war. Most of the volunteers paid for their own passage to Israel.
The flurry of negotiations that followed the Yom Kippur War provided exhilaration and depression, satisfaction and resentment in quick succession, as did the involved discussions that followed Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem. For in spite of Israel's hard won victory and Egypt's momentous policy change, the majority of the Arab world remained implacably determined to crush Israel. Meanwhile, the 1975 United Nations resolution condemning Zionism as racism resounded like a thunderclap. The United States condemned the vote, but its impact on the American Jewish community and militant left-wing anti-Israel elements was significant.
Against this backdrop, two major ideological debates underscored a significant shift in the trajectory of American Jewish life. One centered on the role of pluralism in the American Jewish community. The other was, in effect, a political conflict waged in print, at the ballot box, and through various forms of activism, between Jewish liberals and conservatives who took sides over a variety of social, economic, and foreign policy issues. The net result proved to be a widespread trend toward communal decentralization, the increasing demand by constituents and donors for accountability on the part of local Jewish Federations and the agencies they supported, and the creation of new educational, cultural, political, and philanthropic institutions that arose alongside the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, B'nai B'rith, the Council of Jewish Federations, Hadassah, and other venerable institutions of American Jewish life.
The visibility of Jews in the American political process grew in the 1970s not merely by virtue of being openly courted in presidential elections but through their appointment to high office. Under the Nixon administration Herbert *Stein became chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisors, Arthur *Burns chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and Walter *Annenberg ambassador to Great Britain. Edward H. *Levi, president of the University of Chicago and descendant of a well-known rabbinical family, was appointed attorney general in 1975. The most noteworthy Jewish figure in the Nixon administration was Henry Kissinger. A refugee from Nazi Germany, he became the president's national security advisor in 1969 and was appointed secretary of state in 1975. Kissinger's authority was apparent not only in the critical diplomatic and foreign affairs role he played vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, Vietnam, the Middle East, and China but also by virtue of the fact that he was for many months the administration's most effective senior official as Nixon himself became deeply entangled in the Watergate Affair. Kissinger's authority was sustained and reaffirmed when Gerald Ford, on succeeding Nixon, retained him in office.
Although the Republican Party labored under the handicap of the Watergate scandal in the presidential election of 1976, it was clearly no longer the case that a liberal viewpoint crystallizing into support for the Democrats could be predicted of Jews. For example, despite a heavy concentration of Jewish voters in New York's Democratic primary, Jimmy Carter captured only 4 percent of the Jewish vote and succeeded in winning only 33 delegates as compared to 90 for Senator Henry M. Jackson, a conservative Democrat who was an ardent supporter of aid to Israel and the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate. Indeed, one report published after the presidential election estimated 54 percent of the Jewish vote going to Carter, as against 45 percent to Ford; another gave the proportion as two to one. Even this figure falls far short of the 83 percent preference for the Democrats reported in 1968.
In the Carter administration Stuart *Eizenstat and Mark *Siegal were appointed to responsible positions on the White House staff, and Marvin Warner became ambassador to Switzerland. Two converts from Judaism became members of the cabinet – W. Michael *Blumenthal, as secretary of the treasury, and James Schlesinger, as secretary of the Department of Energy. Both retired in 1979 when Carter reorganized his administration. Subsequently, Neil *Goldschmidt, mayor of Portland, Oregon, and a practicing Jew, was appointed secretary of transportation, and Philip M. Klutznick, long an active figure in Jewish affairs, was appointed secretary of commerce.
Despite the historic Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1978 brokered by President Jimmy Carter, the administration's open criticism of Israeli policy, which reached a climax in 1980 with support for a United Nations resolution calling on Israel to dismantle Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, alienated many American Jewish voters. In the end, the presumed Jewish disposition to support Carter's bid for reelection in 1980 did not materialize. It was estimated that Carter won approximately 40 percent of the Jewish vote and Ronald Reagan about 35 percent, with the balance going to independent candidate John Anderson. Because of the concentration of Jewish voters in large urban areas, the effect of the Jewish vote in the election remained disproportionate to its size in the body politic. This explained the attention drawn by even minor political shifts within the American Jewish community. A Gallup poll taken after Reagan's landslide reelection to a second presidential term revealed that while the number of Jewish Republicans had doubled to 16 percent, the number of Jewish Democrats was 50 percent.
Some observers viewed the American Jewish community's steadfast support for Israel as evidence of its parochial and increasingly conservative interests. This support was repeatedly demonstrated in public opinion polls. Meanwhile, an active, articulate, well funded, and growing conservative minority proved to be a force to be reckoned with in American Jewish life. The most popular forum for Jewish neo-conservative ideas was Commentary edited by Norman *Podhoretz and originally founded in the 1930s by Elliot *Cohen. It swiftly proved to be the most significant Jewish-sponsored intellectual journal of the period and featured many of the country's leading Jewish and non-Jewish neo-conservatives in its pages – a group dubbed the "New York intellectuals" that over the course of a few decades included political journalists Midge *Decter, *Irving Kristol, and Gertrude *Himmelfarb, literary critics Diana *Trilling, Lionel *Trilling, Leslie *Fiedler, Philip *Rahv, and William *Phillips, social scientists Daniel *Bell, Sidney *Hook, Seymour Martin *Lipset, and Nathan *Glazer, art critics and historians Hannah *Arendt, Clement *Greenberg, Harold *Rosenberg, and Meyer *Schapiro, and the novelist Saul *Bellow. This group also had a major impact on the quality and vitality of other influential political and literary journals including Dissent, Partisan Review, and The New York Review of Books. But it was Commentary in particular that emerged as an intellectual laboratory for neo-conservatism. It served as a training ground for many of the American right's most important thinkers and policymakers in the 1970s and eventually blossomed with the "Reagan revolution" in the 1980s. In the final analysis, however, as the voting behavior of American Jews demonstrated, neo-conservativism within the Jewish community, no matter how articulately formed, remained a minority view. The liberalism associated with the Roosevelt-Kennedy-Humphrey branch of the Democratic party was simply too much a part of the American Jewish ethos.
discrimination in reverse
The decline of antisemitism since World War ii and the lowering of the residential, occupational, educational, and social barriers that previously cast a shadow over Jewish life in the United States helped to sustain American Jewry's liberal orientation in the second half of the 20th century. Used to regarding themselves as "outsiders," Jews were surprised and dismayed to find that other minority groups regarded them as "insiders" whose entrenched position was standing in the way of their own legitimate aspirations. This turn in inter-group relations took place against a background of urban decay in areas in which important Jewish communities had lived for decades. In addition to crime and violence in the streets, Jews found themselves plagued by the wider problems of school integration, quotas, low-income housing, ethnic rights, and inter-group relations, as well as by antisemitism.
This situation faced the Jews with contradictions that made them highly uncomfortable. Their traditional liberalism had made them accustomed to the posture of strong supporters of the underdog; they were now suddenly forced to defend their own status, their neighborhoods, their safety and the adequate education of their children. Having fought for a society from which discrimination would be eliminated, they now found that society proposed to discriminate in favor of other less privileged groups. Now the priority given to the African American and Latino populations (along with other minority groups), forced them to reconsider their status as a minority, albeit, a neglected one. There were strong feelings of anger, of being at a disadvantage, of frustration, of a new insecurity.
These feelings were much more intense among the lower middle and working class than among the more affluent Jews, among those whose homes or whose occupations remained in the decaying cities than among those who lived in the suburbs under entirely different conditions. Whatever kind of pressure had been built up was felt much more directly by the poor shopkeeper, the schoolteacher, the Orthodox Jew whose life centered on his synagogue. They suffered from the changed composition of their neighborhoods. In many instances, they had to face the violence brought into formerly quiet, homogeneous areas by ethnic groups who had moved into what used to be Jewish territory. While the sheltered suburbanites, not exposed to these pressures to the same degree as the poorer Jews, tended to maintain their traditional liberalism, those in violence-prone neighborhoods began to feel less sympathy for those minorities who, while struggling to better themselves, were bringing a good deal of hardship into the lives of lower-middle-class Jews. The continuing migration from the city to the suburb by the more affluent contributed to the creation of a vicious circle: Jewish neighborhoods became poorer, and more space became available to minorities and low-income whites, exacerbating the already existing problems.
In addition to crime, the priority treatment of minorities and the quota system, both in education and employment, was a cause of concern. The necessity to provide blacks and members of other minorities with jobs, and giving them preference apart from their qualifications affected the rights of Jews as part of the white population. Still more important were the consequences of this preferential treatment in the field of education, especially higher education. Even where no discrimination against Jews was intended, any quota system prescribing an increased number of minority students without increasing the overall number of students meant that qualified white students, particularly high achieving Jewish students, were not admitted. In the event, many of those admitted under quotas did not meet the regular qualifications and the standards of higher education had to be lowered.
In 1978 the United States Supreme Court considered the issue of "discrimination in reverse" in the case of Allan P. Bakke, a white engineer who claimed the minority admissions of the University of California Medical School denied him his equal rights. The court ruled that the school's special admission program was illegal, though the university could consider race as one factor in choosing among applicants for admission. Jewish groups favored the ruling, while black and Hispanic groups were against it.
zionism and israel
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Israel-related matters held a critical place in American Jewish life. In 1977 the national conference of the United Jewish Appeal was held in Israel for the first time, with the participation of some 3,000 American Jewish leaders. Tourism to Israel continued at a high level and contact with a new generation of young people was fostered through participation in kibbutz volunteer programs and study at Israeli universities. Notwithstanding Arthur Hertzberg's statement that Zionism and Israel had become the "religion" of American Jewry, immigration to Israel actually declined during this decade. When Pinhas *Sapir, chairman of the Jewish Agency, toured the United States in 1974 in order to draw attention to the need for American immigrants, he received a lukewarm reception. The figure for 1970 was 7,658 American Jewish immigrants; by 1975 it had fallen to 2,964.
Occasionally voices were heard suggesting a desire to tone down the popular emphasis on the primacy of Israel. In 1973, for example, Jewish Theological Seminary chancellor Gerson D. *Cohen called for an equal partnership between the Jews of Israel and the diaspora. "The legitimate place of the Jewish people, of Jewish culture and Jewish religion," he asserted, "is not limited to a single geographic location." Meanwhile, however, so active politically and economically had American Jewry become in its support of Israel that it registered from afar every disturbance and challenge to Israel's situation. Scarcely a day passed but that the New York Times and other major American newspapers, by way of articles, news items, editorials or correspondence, did not contain information and discussions concerning Israel. At every level the engagement of the American Jewish community was demonstrated – from meetings of organizational delegations with the president, the secretary of state, senators and members of Congress to contacts with local politicians and news outlets. Financial aid to Israel, the supply of arms, economic aid given to neighboring Arab countries, recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization, diplomatic support for Israel's position on the occupied territories and Jerusalem, possible overtures to the Arab states, the involvement of American business in the Arab boycott of Israel – all drew vigorous responses from the American Jewish community.
Some viewed the flurry of American Jewish Israel-oriented activity as political maneuvering devoid of substantial impact, others as involving unusual danger and genuine opportunity to advance Israel's interests. The Yom Kippur War of 1973, which demonstrated the singularity of United States as Israel's chief ally, was recognized in the community as belonging to the latter category. Unremitting preoccupation with Israeli concerns brought into prominence the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Thus, in 1974 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met the leaders Conference no less than six times within a period of seven months. Another instance in this regard was the United Nations resolution of 1975, condemning Zionism as a form of racism, which raised the ire of Jewish groups across the country and provoked a storm of organized lobbying activity. The American Jewish community responded similarly a year earlier when plo chairman Yasser *Arafat was invited to address the United Nations General Assembly.
The general standpoint of the organized American Jewish community in this period was one of unqualified support for Israel's foreign policy. This was exemplified in an emphatic way by Hadassah president Charlotte Jacobson who in 1977 condemned Jewish personalities who criticized Israeli policies publicly because such criticism was used by anti-Israel factions to weaken support for Israel. Indeed, notwithstanding the criticism of groups like the American Council for Judaism on the one side and the Satmar Ḥasidim on the other, which stood far beyond the American Jewish mainstream, unqualified acceptance of the Israeli point of view was difficult to controvert in the atmosphere of deliverance that followed Israel's hard won victories in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Yom Kippur War of 1973. The policy of standing firm, based on the bargaining power of Israel's territorial gains, received general acceptance among American Jews. But even under the shock of the Yom Kippur War, questions began to be raised as to the validity of Israel's policies – particularly with respect to the treatment of the Palestinian Arabs and the continued occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai peninsula – that American Jews were being called upon automatically to support. The procedures of the organized American Jewish scene, which aimed at maximum publicity for lobbying purposes, but provided minimum access for arriving at community decisions – and the absence of an open Jewish press – meant there was no channel for the ventilation of these misgivings.
Against the backdrop of growing leftist Jewish political activity on college campuses across the country, including open questioning by student leaders of the American Jewish establishment and Israeli policy makers, this conflict surfaced in 1977 when the venerable Anti-Defamation League attacked a small organization known as Breira (Alternative). Established in 1973, the left-leaning Breira obtained considerable press coverage for its views and it was rumored that Nahum *Goldmann was helping to finance it. It advocated the creation of an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and negotiations with any Palestinian who would renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist. The attacks on Breira not only criticized this policy, but impugned the motives of its advocates. The Anti-Defamation League sought to prevent B'nai B'rith staff members from associating with Breira, especially rabbis associated with the *Hillel Foundation who were among its supporters on American college campuses. Shortly thereafter, Breira disappeared from the scene almost as quickly as it had attracted attention, due, it was said, to difficulty in raising funds. However, the countercurrent of disquietude it represented did not disappear.
In 1977 the electoral victory in Israel of the *Likud party, led by Menahem Begin, was received by leaders of the American Jewish community with surprise tinged with consternation. The rule of the Labor-led coalition, dominated by the elite founders of the Jewish state, had come to be regarded as one of the fixities of the Israeli scene, and their Likud opponents had been dismissed as extremists in whose hands such possibilities of peace as existed between Israel and her neighbors would be cast away. In short order, most American Jewish organizations publicly adjusted themselves to Israel's new right-wing political order. Begin's personality contributed to the smoothness of the transition. He related well to the rank-and-file members of the American Jewish community; his stubbornness and pertinacity quickly established his image as a fighter for whom no power was too formidable where the curtailment of Jewish rights was involved; and within six months of his accession to power Anwar *Sadat's visit to Jerusalem demonstrated his capacity for political leadership and compromise.
The news of Sadat's intention to visit Jerusalem was received by American Jews with elation, and they watched closely the diplomatic moves which led to the historic signing in 1979 of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty on the White House lawn and the three-way handshake of President Jimmy Carter, Sadat, and Begin. Meanwhile, one policy move foreshadowed by the Begin government created grave discomfort within the American Jewish community. To win the support of Israel's Agudat Israel party for support of the peace treaty, Begin promised an important extension to the privileges enjoyed by Orthodox Jews under Israeli law – namely, that for the purposes of the Law of Return only conversions to Judaism conforming to the requirements of Orthodoxy would be recognized. This proposal aroused concern on the part of the Reform and Conservative organizations in the United States, who promptly met with Begin and dispatched rabbinic delegations to Israel to interview the chief rabbis. No accommodation to the non-Orthodox viewpoint was announced, and more urgent matters supervened to delay the taking of decisive steps.
Many elements within the American Jewish community felt misgivings over the Begin government's announced policy to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Since 1967 successive Labor-led governments had implemented the unofficial "Allon Plan," which called for limited Jewish settlement in the Jordan Rift Valley, Golan Heights, and along the borders of the Gaza Strip. The settlements – deemed strategic expedients in the absence of a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel's Arab neighbors – were intended to secure Israel's border and ensure its safety. The Begin government's explicit policy of creating a durable Jewish presence throughout "Greater Israel" resulted in the establishment of scores of new Jewish outposts and communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Even as prominent leaders sought privately to persuade Begin to adopt a more moderate policy, others publicly voiced their support of Israel's growing "*Peace Now" movement, which called for an end to Israeli occupation of the territories and recognition of Palestinian Arab rights.
In the interim, a highly publicized struggle occurred in 1979 when the organized American Jewish community vigorously opposed the Carter administration's plan to sell $4.8 billion worth of jet warplanes to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. In the event, much to the dismay of American Jewish leaders and the community's pro-Israel lobbyists, the United States Senate approved the sale. The importance attached to the Jewish vote is illustrated by the application of emolients in the aftermath of the struggle. Carter and several members of his administration telephoned and met American Jewish leaders to inform them of Washington's continued support for Israel. At the same time expressions of satisfaction were heard in Washington that the pro-Israel lobby had sustained a defeat.
As early as 1949, the Jewish community had been aware of the presence of Nazi war criminals in the United States. However, interest in the subject remained generally low until the mid-1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. As a result of document research and field investigations performed by the *Office of Special Investigations, established in 1979 as a special unit within the Criminal Division of the United States Justice Department, it was revealed that in the years following World War ii over 1,000 Nazi war criminals or collaborators had found refuge in the United States. Many were actually brought to the United States through the efforts of the State Department, the intelligence branches of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the fbi, and the cia, having been recruited to serve as agents and consultants in anti-Communist operations during the late 1940s and the 1950s.
By the beginning of 1980, the Office of Special Investigations had collected documentation on 413 war criminals residing in the United States. Among the high profile cases prosecuted during this period were Valerian Trifa, a Romanian, who was expelled by the United States in 1983 and made his way to Portugal where he died; Feodor Fedorenko, a Pole, who was deported to the Soviet Union in 1984 and executed in 1987; Andrija Artukovic, a Croatian, who was extradited to Yugoslavia in 1986 and sentenced to death; Karl Linnas, an Estonian, deported to the Soviet Union in April 1987 where he died three months later in a hospital; and Ukrainian-born John *Demjanjuk, alleged to have been "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka, who in 1986 was stripped of his naturalized American citizenship and extradited to Israel to stand trial.
A major controversy erupted over President Ronald Reagan's 1985 visit to the military cemetery in *Bitburg, West Germany. The visit was planned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Nazi Germany's surrender and to symbolize the spirit of reconciliation between the United States and Germany. The controversy, which provoked an international response, lay in the fact that among the 2,000 dead soldiers interred were 47 members of the Nazi Waffen ss. Furthermore, at the time the president's itinerary was first announced, it included no visit to Bergen-Belsen, a nearby concentration camp. In spite of growing criticism and pressure, Reagan proceeded with his planned visit to the cemetery where he laid a wreath. He, however, also visited the site of Bergen-Belsen where in his speech he addressed the feelings of Holocaust survivors.
Holocaust Revisionism succeeded in drawing increased attention during the 1980s. The most active revisionist organization in the United States during this period was the California-based Institute for Historical Review (ihr), founded in 1978 by Willis Carto, a known antisemite. Other known Holocaust revisionists operating in the United States included Arthur Butz of Northwestern University, author of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (1976); David McCalden, a cofounder of the ihr; Bradley Smith, publisher of Prima Facie, a racist and antisemitic monthly newsletter; and Charles E. Weber of the University of Tulsa and author of The Holocaust: 120 Questions and Answers (1983).
One significant response to the pressing need for Holocaust education in the United States was the creation in 1988 of the bi-annual March of the Living program. The program was organized to bring together thousands of American and Israeli high school students in a week of workshops and lectures about the Holocaust, culminating in a procession beginning at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and ending nearly two miles away at the Birkenau crematoria. From Poland, participants flew to Israel in time to celebrate Israel Independence Day. The march recreated the first steps of the infamous Forced March of January 1945 toward Germany of 60,000 Jews who were still alive near the end of the war, of whom only some 6,000 survived. The results of social scientific surveys of Jewish teenagers who participated in the March of the Living indicated that by the 1990s the program was having a strong positive effect on all markers related to Jewish identity and identification with Judaism and Israel.
soviet and ethiopian jewry
An historic demonstration on behalf of Soviet Jewry was held in Washington, d.c., during the first week of December 1987. This mass rally, co-sponsored by some 50 national Jewish organizations and 300 local Jewish federations from throughout North America, brought over 200,000 demonstrators together on the eve of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit. It also marked a rare display in organizational unity. The Soviet Jewry movement in the United States had been split for years between the more moderate National Conference on Soviet Jewry, on the one hand, and the more confrontational Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry on the other.
With the advent of glasnost in the late 1980s, Soviet Jewish emigration figures soon began to climb. The American Jewish community now found itself confronted by two major issues, one ideological, but with very pragmatic implications, the other material. As the emigration of Soviet Jews continued, the American Jewish community found itself in a confrontation with the State of Israel over the émigrés' destination. The United States was willing to accept a fixed number of Soviet Jewish immigrants as refugees and was by far the émigrés' most popular destination. But Israel argued that its willingness to accept unconditionally all emigrating Soviet Jews belied their refugee status. Israel wanted cooperating authorities to direct virtually all emigrating Soviet Jews to its shores. During the first year of the Soviet Union's more liberal emigration policy, the monthly dropout rate, a figure that referred to those Soviet Jewish emigrants who changed their destination from Israel to another country (usually the United States) while in transit, often reached over 90 percent.
Most American Jews supported the policy of "freedom of choice." The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry criticized Israeli pressure on American Jewish organizations and the United States. The National Conference on Soviet Jewry and other major Jewish organizations, while upholding the principle of "freedom of choice," accepted a dual track compromise whereby the large backlog of Jews already holding Israeli visas would emigrate to Israel through Romania, while those as yet without visas and seeking to emigrate to the United States would have to apply for an American visa in Moscow.
The number of Soviet Jews who applied for and received exit visas grew significantly. In September 1988, as a result of the new dimensions of Soviet Jewish emigration, the United States became more selective in awarding refugee status to applicants. This status was now meted out on a more selective basis, so that by August 1989, nearly one quarter of all applicants for U.S. immigrant visas were being refused. In July 1989 the United States announced that its immigration budget for Eastern European refugees was exhausted and temporarily stopped processing visa applications for the thousands of Soviet Jews who were by now languishing in transit centers in Ladispoli, near Rome, and in Vienna.
In the fall, following negotiations with American Jewish groups, the administration of President George H.W. Bush announced that it was fixing a new annual immigration quota for Soviet Jews at 43,000 with priority extended to those with immediate, or first degree, family members already residing in the United States. It was also allocating $75 million to resettlement programs. As a result of this new policy, which also involved closing down the transit centers and requiring applicants to apply for immigrant visas in Moscow, the majority of Soviet émigrés gave up trying to seek entry to the United States. Even with the new, more stringent quota on Soviet Jewish immigration, the American Jewish community was faced with the huge task of resettling tens of thousands of new arrivals. In the last quarter of 1989, some 18,000 Soviet Jews arrived in the United States. The funds set aside by the American government for total Soviet resettlement were insufficient. In order to insure that the Soviet Jews coming to the United States were provided with all the means and opportunities for successful resettlement, defined to mean their material resettlement as well as their religious, cultural, and educational integration into the Jewish community, the Council of Jewish Federations (cjf) and the United Jewish Appeal (uja) launched a $75 million voluntary campaign called "Passage to Freedom," but its national goal was never reached. By the end of the year, only about two-fifths of the money had been collected.
The combination of stricter American immigration laws and the difficulties involved in resettling Soviet Jews locally gradually influenced American Jewish leadership to heed the government of Israel's calls for receiving the bulk of émigrés. In 1990 the uja and cjf announced "Operation Exodus," a $420 million campaign, whose goal was to bring directly to Israel and resettle the overwhelming majority of Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate. Operation Exodus was a financial success and 95 percent of the goal was reached within ten months, the majority pledged by the biggest givers in the largest Jewish communities. "Exodus ii," the worldwide campaign in 1991 to raise an additional $1.3 billion, was launched when the number of Soviet Jews coming to Israel turned out to be more than double the original estimate. From the results of the Exodus ii campaign, it became clear that the desire of American Jewry lay in assisting the emigrating Soviet Jews to resettle in Israel.
By the end of 1990 it was reported that over 181,000 Jews had left the Soviet Union. In response to this new situation, President George H.W. Bush, in December 1990, waived key agricultural restrictions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which since 1974 stood as a symbol of American Jewish opposition to the Soviet Union's disregard for human rights.
American Jews played an active role in bringing Ethiopian Jewry to Israel. The major airlifts in 1984–85 and 1991 were largely made possible by behind-the-scenes diplomacy by the United States government and through funds raised by the American Jewish community. The American Association for Ethiopian Jews was established in 1969 and the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry in 1982. The objectives of these activist groups included raising the awareness of Jews and the world to the condition of the Jews of Ethiopia and visiting Jewish communities in Ethiopia to demonstrate solidarity and to provide material assistance. The subsequent cost of resettling the Ethiopian Jews in Israel was absorbed into the United Jewish Appeal's Operation Exodus campaign.
These humanitarian activities on behalf of Soviet and Ethiopian Jews were representative of the efforts by American Jews on behalf of distressed Jewish communities worldwide. The International Coalition for the Revival of the Jews of Yemen, based in New York, was established in 1989 to offer assistance to Yemen's remaining Jews. The Syrian Jewish community of Brooklyn continued its own efforts to secure the emigration of kinsmen remaining in the Jewish centers of Damascus, Aleppo, and Qamishli. Other organizations, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, continued their contacts with these communities or remained otherwise involved on their behalf throughout the 1990s.
the future of american jewry
American Jewish life in the decades spanning the 20th and 21st centuries has been marked by a high degree of self-awareness, economic success, political engagement, institutional innovation, and globalization. Responding to a variety of social, cultural, and political changes and challenges, both internally and externally, the organized American Jewish community continues to display a remarkable capacity for adaptability and elasticity within an ever-changing and dynamic American setting. Even so, American Jewry's belief in pluralism and the promise of a free and open Western society has over time become intertwined with deep concern about the community's ultimate survival, its cultural vitality, and its ability to sustain itself into the future. All of the statistical data gathered since the start of the 1980s points to the Jewish community's heightened Americanization and a general weakening and diminution of its tribal identity. The astonishing success of Jewish life in the American setting, an experience without precedent in modern history, is in many ways a mixed blessing. Absent the binding forces of history that have sustained Jewish life in a variety of settings – namely, religious faith, antisemitism, ethnic cohesion derived from a shared immigrant past, or the social and political activism characteristic of American Jews in the 20th century – what will be the glue that holds American Jewish life together in the 21st century? Arthur *Hertzberg, a rabbi, scholar, and veteran observer of American Jewish scene, has argued "the essential crisis of the American Jewish community" stems from the fact that "it has essentially defined its Jewish experience without classic texts." Given the community's general affluence, he proposes:
The American Jewish community is capable of deciding to create a network of elite boarding schools and day schools which would educate many more, perhaps even most, of the American Jewish young. It is at least conceivable that American Jews might decide that activism and togetherness are running down as forces of cohesion and as sources of meaning. It is conceivable that American Jews might decide that they cannot be the only Jewish community in all of history in which Jewish learning is not a prerequisite for Jewish belonging and Jewish leadership.
Many analysts, scholars, and communal leaders share Hertzberg's perspective and concur with his diagnosis of the crisis facing contemporary American Jewish society. To this end, the organized Jewish community has in recent decades generated billions of dollars to support Jewish community centers, educational and communal training programs, highly subsidized Israel trips for high school and college students, and various academic and experiential models aimed at infusing future generations of American Jews with meaningful and substantive content. A handful of Jewish philanthropists led by Edgar M. *Bronfman, Sr., Charles and Andrea Bronfman, Harold Grinspoon, Ronald *Lauder, Felix Posen, Lynn and Charles *Schusterman, and Michael and Judy *Steinhardt have been especially influential in this dynamic and evolving project.
An alternate assessment, one decidedly more optimistic about the trajectory of the American Jewish experience in toto, has been offered by Jacob Rader *Marcus, the dean of American Jewish historians. "Most frequently the future is but an extension of the past," Marcus wrote in 1996. "Throughout the 19th century amateur prophets suggested that the Jew [in the United States] had no future. They were wrong…" Taking a long view of history, Marcus further argued:
Jewry in the twenty-first century will not experience substantial growth. Intermarriages eventuate in loss for the Jewish body politic, but then numbers are not really important: in the first quarter of the 20th century German Jewry counted but some 600,000 souls, yet it exercised spiritual hegemony over world Jewry, some 15,000,000 strong. From all indications – statistical surveys made in the 1990s – American Jewry is surviving and prospering in an open society. Jews are Jewish because they prefer to remain Jewish; they are blending Americanism and Jewishness. Because of the fusion of these two cultures they are content, if not happy; they strive to become enlightened human beings. For them, patently, the United States is still "the land of unlimited opportunity."
As the positions staked out by Hertzberg and Marcus illustrate, observers of American Jewish life in the contemporary period have engaged in an escalating debate over whether the proverbial glass is half full or half empty. This highly complex and sensitive issue, which in the 1990s quickly assumed the catchphrase "Jewish continuity," continues to dominate the board rooms, meetings, and conferences of a wide variety of American Jewish organizations, groups, and academics. Critics point to an unprecedented rise in the rate of intermarriage, an ominously low Jewish birth rate, the migration of younger professionals away from Jewish population centers, increasing Jewish cultural illiteracy, and the rise of anti-Zionism and militant Palestinian nationalism. Viewed from this perspective, it indeed appears that American Jewish communal life is fractured and its future is in jeopardy. On the other hand, optimists see a Jewish community that is the most materially secure in history, fully integrated into the surrounding society, and well represented in all branches of American science, art, academia, government, and commerce.
demography and population
The study of the contemporary American Jewish scene has benefited enormously in the last quarter of the 20th century from a veritable cottage industry of demographic analysis based at leading universities in the United States and Israel. In general, this effort is sponsored by the major Jewish communal agencies and philanthropies. Though not without controversy, the studies have nonetheless become central to the work of a wide variety of professionals, communal leaders, policy analysts, and scholars. Demographic, social, and attitudinal data gathered throughout 1980s and 1990s in several national surveys have had a profound impact on organized American Jewry's countrywide agenda and the implications of such studies for future of the community as a whole are considerable.
The generally accepted figure for the number of Jews in the United States in the present era varies between an estimated 5.5 million "core" Jewish population and approximately 6 million, making it the largest Jewish community in the world. (The global Jewish population is estimated to be approximately 13 million.) A 1993 report issued by Israel's Ministry of Education determined that while the largest concentration of Jews continues to reside in the Northeast (43.5 percent), the trend in population movement during the 1980s and 1990s continued to be away from the Northeast and Midwest (11.3 percent) to the South (21.8 percent) and West (23.4 percent). By comparison, in 1970 the National Jewish Population Survey had found 64 percent of the Jewish population living in the Northeast, 17 percent in the Midwest, and only 19 percent, combined, in the South and West. Other demographic studies produced in this period also noted the greater distribution of American Jews among smaller urban areas than in the past. The migration was characterized by Jews who had moved from the largest Northeastern and Midwestern cities, such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston, to smaller urban areas in the South and West such as Atlanta and Phoenix. As a result, the Jewish population in the New York metropolitan area had decreased since mid-century from about 2.6 million to 2.2 million. Likewise, Chicago's Jewish population decreased from 378,000 to about 250,000. By the mid-1980s the Jewish communities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis had all declined. By the 1980s there were six Jewish communities west of the Rocky Mountains whose populations had grown to over 100,000. Consequently, Los Angeles, with an estimated 604,000 Jews became the second largest Jewish community in the United States, followed by Miami/Ft. Lauderdale metropolitan region, with an estimated 367,000 Jews. The historian Deborah Dash Moore has examined this phenomenon and concludes:
In many ways, the Jewish worlds of Los Angeles and Miami and other Sunbelt cities can be seen as the offspring of the large urban Jewish settlements of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston, and of the more modest communities of such cities as Omaha, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Detroit. As Jewish New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia represent continuity with a European past because they were created by immigrants from cities and towns of Eastern Europe, so Jewish Miami and Los Angeles are the creations of the Midwestern and northeastern
cities, representing continuity with an American past. American Jews produced in the postwar era a second generation of cities, offspring of the first generation.
The findings of the National Jewish Population Survey in 1990 bear out Moore's assessment. The survey demonstrates that between 1985 and 1990, some 700,000 respondents, or 23.5 percent of the American Jewish population had migrated to at least one new out of state residence. Many of the migrants sought a residential area that included or was in proximity to a synagogue, Jewish school, or a Jewish community center. However, nothing comparable to the highly concentrated Jewish neighborhoods or post-World War ii suburbs were being recreated.
With respect to income, the aforementioned 1993 Israeli Ministry of Education study indicated that some 35 percent of American Jews were reported to have earned more than $40,000 a year, compared to only 17 percent of the general American population. About 40 percent of the United States' 400 richest families were reported to be Jewish. The study also revealed that more than half of the American Jewish population under the age of 65 had graduated college, while some 85 percent of young Jews were active in higher education programs, either as students, teacher or researchers. At the other end of the economic spectrum were American Jews living below the poverty line. In the 1980s it was estimated that approximately 250,000 Jews in New York City were living on annual incomes of less than $3,500. In Chicago, where the estimated number of poor Jews was thought to be around 35,000, the Jewish Federation during the mid-1980s created Project Ezra, an umbrella project that coordinated the skills and resources of its various agencies. The majority of the Jewish poor were elderly.
"The High Cost of Jewish Living," a report commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, examined the costs of an active Jewish lifestyle in the 1990s. It estimated that a family of four would have to spend between $18,000 and $25,000 in order to pay for enrollment in a Jewish day school, retain synagogue and Jewish community center membership, cover the cost of a Jewish summer camp or travel to Israel, and make respectable charitable donations to various Jewish philanthropic causes. Other expenses, such as kosher food, regular Sabbath and holiday observance, dues to one or more additional organizations, the purchase of Jewish books and a subscription to one or more Jewish magazines, necessitate "an annual income of $80,000 to $125,000, depending on the region of the country."
A 2001 Census of United States Synagogues sponsored by the United Jewish Communities (the umbrella organization formed in 1999 by the Council of Jewish Federations, the United Jewish Appeal, and the United Israel Appeal) revealed that at the close of the century American Jews remained a primarily urban population. "A remarkably high 50 percent of American Jews live in the top three metropolitan areas," it concluded, "and 94 percent in the top 50. Their synagogues are almost as concentrated, with 43 percent in the top three metro areas and 82 percent in the top 50." The study also suggested "Orthodox synagogues are highly overrepresented relative to the Orthodox population."
The 2001 study pointed to 11 regions which sustained communities with Jewish populations of over a hundred thousand: New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island (2,051,000); Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County (668,000); Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (331,00); Philadelphia-Wilmington-Atlantic City (285,000); Chicago-Gary-Kenosha (265,000); Boston-Worcester-Lawrence (254,000); San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose (218,000); West Palm Beach-Boca Raton (167,000); Baltimore (106,000); and Detroit-Ann Arbor (103,000). The study also identified eight regions with Jewish communities of over 50,000 inhabitants: Cleveland-Akron (86,000); Atlanta (86,000); Las Vegas (75,000); San Diego (70,000); Denver-Boulder-Greeley (67,000); Phoenix-Mesa (60,000); St. Louis (54,500); and Dallas-Ft. Worth (50,000). There are currently (2001) five regions with Jewish communities of over 40,000 inhabitants (Houston-Galveston-Brazoria; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh, and Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton); nine with Jewish communities of over 20,000 inhabitants (Hartford, Portland-Salem, Cincinnati, Rochester, Columbus, Sacramento-Yolo, Milwaukee-Racine, Orlando, and Tucson); 12 regions with Jewish communities ranging from 10,000 to 19,000 inhabitants; and five regions with greater than 8,000 Jewish inhabitants. In all, some 5,806,500 Jews (82.5 percent of the total American Jewish population) resides in the top 50 metropolitan areas in the country. Meanwhile, approximately 348,500 Jews (or roughly 17.5 percent) reside elsewhere in the United States.
changes in american jewish identity
Notwithstanding the wealth of data collected in the past 30 years, the results of various surveys offered analysts, at best, an imperfect picture of the American Jewish scene. The difficulty associated with measuring ethnic identification reflects, at least in part, the ambiguity of the surveys themselves. For example, synagogue affiliation or membership, a standard survey item, did not necessarily accurately reflect a respondent's attitude toward matters of religious observance. Nor was it at all certain that useful assessments could be made on the basis of tabulating behaviors such as attendance at Sabbath services, participation in a Passover seder, or the observance of dietary laws, since such practices meant different things to different respondents. The complexity in this regard is illustrated by the following figures, which compare responses to five religious observance survey items that appeared in national surveys undertaken in 1981 and 1990: (1) attend a Passover seder – 1981, 77%; 1990, 86%; (2) light Ḥnukkah candles – 1981, 67%, 1990, 77%; (3) belong to a synagogue – 1981, 51%, 1990, 41%; (4) light Sabbath candles – 1981, 22%, 1990, 44%; (5) maintain dietary laws – 1981, 15%, 1990, 17%. At best, the data show that, in general, infrequently practiced activities were more likely to be adhered to than those involving more regular participation.
Global measures of Jewish identification, a concept even more abstract than religious observance, were also evaluated in such surveys. The following comparison of three standard survey items suggests certain trends, namely: (1) most/all friends are Jewish – 1981, 61%; 1990, 45%; (2) contribute to uja/Federation – 1981, 49%, 1990, 45%; (3) have visited Israel – 1981, 37%, 1990, 31%. Although these items do not define the parameters of Jewish identity, it is significant that responses to all of these items in the 1990 survey had fallen to below 50 percent. Results such as these, combined with additional information from the National Jewish Population Survey of 1990, which indicated that only 28 percent of all intermarried couples were raising their children as Jews and over 70 percent were raising their children with no religion or as Christians, intensified expressions of pessimism. Another important trend that came into view by the beginning of the 1980s was that the postponement of marriage, high geographic mobility, a preference for small families, and a growing divorce rate, traits that typified the American middleclass, were now all becoming characteristic of American Jewish life. Indeed, a major finding of the National Jewish Population Survey of 1990 was that only 17 percent of all households containing a "core Jew" (a born Jew or a convert) reflected the stereotyped nuclear family consisting of two Jewish parents and children. Thus, the "alternative household," referring variously to a single parent household, a non-married, including same sex couple raising children, a couple that has chosen to remain childless, or a remarried couple raising the offspring of previous marriages together as siblings, was becoming more normative as American Jews continued marrying later, divorcing more frequently, and having fewer children.
The National Jewish Population Survey of 1990, the most comprehensive study of American Jewry undertaken since 1970, revealed not only that one-third of all American Jews were married to non-Jews, but among those who had married since 1985, the intermarriage rate had reached an unprecedented 52 percent. The National Jewish Population Survey study also reported that the American Jewish community had lost more members (210,000) through conversion than it had gained (185,000). Additional findings of the study, including an increasing divorce rate, greater geographic dispersion, decreasing ritual observance, minimal Jewish education, infrequent synagogue attendance, decreasing formal affiliation among college students and adults, and a decline in Jewish charitable giving, pointed to the further erosion of Jewish communal life. However, for most people it was the revelation regarding high intermarriage rates and low fertility rates that raised the fear of group extinction.
As speculation abounded about the future size of the Jewish community, "assimilationists" argued that the American Jewish community could soon lose the ability to biologically replace itself. To counter these fears "transformationalists" asserted that American Jewish women were openly following the trend of American women in general, who were registering a sharp increase in marriage and fertility between the ages 30–39. This, they argued, combined with an appreciable number of converts to Judaism, would contribute to the stabilization and subsequent growth of the Jewish population, assuming the American Jewish community maintained the minimum replacement average of 2.1 children per couple.
Such concerns about the future of American Jewish life did not dissipate in any appreciable way in the ensuing decade. Furthermore, studies like Charles E. Silberman's A Certain People: American Jews and Their Lives Today (1985), Jack Wertheimer's A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America (1993) and Samuel G. Freedman's Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry (2000) garnered considerable public and scholarly attention and helped to define and sharpen the parameters of the discussion about the future of American Jewry. After nearly three decades of systematic study and examination by social scientists, communal leaders, and policy makers, the chances for Jewish survival in the shape of ongoing acculturation resulted in a vigorous debate between two camps. The "transformationalists," as the first group became known, posited that American Jews were not abandoning Judaism, Jewish identity, and Jewish communal life, but were instead transforming the concepts associated with Jewish practice and affiliation. They tended to view American Judaism and the American Jewish community as being inclusive rather than exclusive in responding to the challenges of modernity. By contrast, the "assimilationists" interpreted contemporary trends as signifying an ongoing process of assimilation, i.e., the eventual integration beyond recognition of Jews into the general society, a process which, assuming similar ongoing social and economic conditions, they felt was likely to continue.
Among the most cited indicators of this process by analysts and scholars was the rate of intermarriage. By the start of the 1980s the national rate of intermarriage, estimated at roughly 30 percent, was becoming a serious concern within the organized American Jewish community. Studies showed that intermarriage was more common both among younger Jews marrying for the first time and among divorcees who had married for a second or third time. A Council of Jewish Federations/North American Jewish Data Bank report indicated that for the years 1982–87 the percentage of intermarriage among American Jews was 14 percent for first marriages and 40 percent for second marriages. In all studies on the subject, a significant difference was found between men and women in every age group with Jewish men constantly demonstrating a higher rate of intermarriage.
Concern over the high rate of intermarriage was compounded by evidence of the growing number of Jews who had either never married or had not begun a family by the time they had reached their mid-thirties. A 1983 survey of American Jews by the American Jewish Year Book estimated that 38 percent of the adult Jewish population of the United States was single. Twenty-one percent reported never having been married. The growing phenomenon of single Jews served as an impetus for the proliferation of Jewish dating services throughout the country. The venerable tradition of Jewish matchmaking was transformed during the 1980s and 1990s into a nationwide industry. Some services, established mainly in large urban areas, were operated on a private commercial basis. Others were run under the non-profit auspices of community agencies such as B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Community Centers, or a local synagogue. With the boom in internet usage, several Jewish dating services went on-line, where they became highly popular and accessible to Jewish singles across the country.
Coupled with gender, denomination was also found to play a role among Jews who had intermarried. While studies showed the intermarriage rate among Orthodox Jews to be negligible, the estimated intermarriage rate among Conservative Jews is about 10 percent and among Reform Jews it is roughly 30 percent. As pointed out by the American Jewish Identity Survey of 2001, those calling themselves secular Jews, humanist Jews, or "just Jews," had the highest rate of all groups, with an intermarriage rate of over 50 percent. The findings also indicated that the longer a Jewish family had been in America, the greater the chance that the youngest generation of that family would intermarry.
Another manifestation of such trends was the diminution in strength of several venerable American Jewish organizations. With the notable exception of traditionalist Orthodoxy, the synagogue movements and most of the national Jewish organizations suffered a considerable decline in membership. Zionist organizations that 50 years earlier boasted tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of members saw their memberships virtually erode and vanish. This did not necessarily mean that American Jews had become less concerned about Zionism and Israel, but rather that fewer American Jews found it necessary to join a Zionist organizations when they could just as easily express their loyalty to the Zionist cause through contributions to their local Jewish Federations, Israel Bonds, voting for political candidates who support Israel, Israeli tourism, alternative charitable groups like the New Israel Fund, and, in some instances, even urging their children and grandchildren to settle in Israel.
Another indication of increasing acculturation was the growth in the number of reported cases of Jews involved in gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse, and domestic violence, such as incest and rape. The rise in public awareness to these problems could be attributed either to a true increase in the number of incidents or more assiduous documentation by professionals and community officials. Estimates were that between five and ten percent of American Jews could be classified as alcoholics. A smaller percent suffered from drug addiction. The origins of these problems appeared to be unrelated to background, profession, or position in the community. As the seriousness of alcohol and drug addiction within the Jewish community became better appreciated, Jewish support groups were established as an alternative to the Christian-oriented Alcoholics Anonymous.
Cases of domestic violence in the Jewish community, although relatively atypical, became reported more frequently. In 1988 B'nai B'rith women began sponsoring events in chapters across the country geared toward heightening awareness of domestic violence within the Jewish community. The chapters also sponsored the establishment of kosher safe-houses for women in different parts of the country. Meanwhile, social workers reported the tendency of some rabbis to dismiss reports of domestic violence in their congregations because of the difficulty they had conceptualizing this phenomenon within a Jewish household. Nationally, the problem was estimated to affect from one-quarter to one-third of the community. Reported incidents involved physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as neglect of spouses, children, and older parents. Until the 1980s little was written about the occurrence of incest among Jewish families. As a result of greater openness and support for victims, the reporting of incidents became more frequent. Instances involving Jewish families were found to be without any relationship to socio-economic or denominational background.
A critical point in social and demographic analysis was reached with the publication of the results of the National Jewish Population Survey of 2000–01, which emphasized that "a continuing low Jewish fertility rate, the consequent aging in population composition, and continuing erosion in the willingness to identify with Judaism among the younger age groups [was] apparently [leading] to a significantly lower total core population size" of American Jews. Such findings were generally corroborated by the independent American Jewish Identity Survey, sponsored by the Posen Foundation and published in 2001 by the Center for Cultural Judaism. But the latter also went further than any previous study in its assessment of non-religious forms of American Jewish life. In fact, it determined that roughly half of the American Jewish population self-identified as "secular" in its orientation. "America's Jews are divided, perhaps as never before," the report explained, "over a question that would surprise most other Americans who are not familiar with the Jewish heritage or the Jewish community in any way. That question is, quite simply: 'Who is Jewish?' At a more subtle level, the questions asked are, 'What does 'Jewish' mean?' and 'Who gets to decide?' or 'How are those who call themselves 'Jewish' or are labeled as such by others signify that identity or social status to themselves and others?'" Deploying the "dispassionate tools of modern social science," the American Jewish Identity Survey analyzed these questions on the basis of a data set comprising a broad spectrum of individuals "who describe[d] themselves as Jewish when asked about their religious adherence or who might be reasonably labeled as Jewish by virtue of their family origins." In the final analysis, the survey produced the following profile of American Jewry:
- Nearly 4% of America's 105 million residential households have at least one member who is Jewish by religion or is of Jewish parentage or upbringing or considers himself/her-self Jewish.
- The number of such households has increased since 1990 from about 3.2 million to about 3.9 million.
- The number of persons living in a household that has at least one member who is Jewish by religion or parentage or upbringing or considers himself/herself Jewish has increased since 1990 from about 8 million to nearly 10 million.
- About 5.5 million American adults are Jewish by religion or of Jewish parentage or upbringing or consider themselves Jewish.
- About 3.6 million American adults (or just 65% of the 5.5 million total) have a Jewish mother.
- More than 1.5 million American adults have only one Jewish parent.
- The number of persons who regard themselves as Jewish by religion or say they are of Jewish parentage or upbringing but have no religion (the "core Jewish" population) has declined from about 5.5 million in 1990 to about 5.3 million in 2001.
- The number of persons who are either currently Jewish or of Jewish origins has increased from about 6.8 million in 1990 to nearly 7.7 million in 2001.
- The majority (73%) of America's adults who are Jewish by religion or of Jewish parentage or upbringing but say they have no religion believe that God exists. But nearly half of this population regards itself as secular or somewhat secular in outlook.
- About one million American households report affiliation with a Jewish congregation (synagogue, temple, or an independent havurah). That number represents an increase of some 15% over the 880,000 households reporting congregational affiliation in 1990.
- About 44% of America's adults who are Jewish by religion or say they are of Jewish parentage or upbringing report membership in a Jewish congregation (synagogue, temple, or an independent havurah).
- The Reform branch of Judaism is the largest in terms of the number of adult adherents: about 1.1 million or 30% of America's Jewish-by-religion adults or adults of Jewish parentage or upbringing identify with it.
- The other branches of Judaism in size order are Conservative Judaism with about 940,000 adult adherents (24% of the total), Orthodox Judaism with about 300,000 adult adherents (8% of the total), Secular Humanist Judaism with about 40,000 adherents, and Reconstructionist Judaism with about 35,000 adherents (about 1% each).
- Nearly one million American adults who are Jewish by religion or are of Jewish parentage or upbringing but say they have no religion are affiliated with some noncongregational Jewish community organization such as a Jewish community center or a Jewish fraternal organization.
- Nearly a third of America's adults who are Jewish by religion or say they are of Jewish parentage or upbringing but have no religion have visited Israel. That figure represents a modest increase from the roughly 28% reporting visiting Israel in 1990.
- Nearly 60% of adults who are Jewish by religion are married; of those who report being of Jewish parentage or upbringing but of no religion, just 45% are married. More of the latter group is likely to be separated or divorced or living in a non-marital couple relationship (cohabiting).
- Of all adults married since 1990, who say they are Jewish by religion or of Jewish parentage or upbringing, just 40% are married to a spouse who is also of Jewish origins; 51% are married to a spouse who is not of Jewish origins and an additional 9% are married to a spouse who is a convert to Judaism.
- Of all cohabiting adults who say they are Jewish by religion or of Jewish parentage or upbringing, 81% are living with a partner who is not of Jewish origins.
While observers and scholars of American Jewish society widely agree on the veracity of the American Jewish Identity Survey, there is considerable debate about the implications of its findings. It remains for different quarters of the organized American Jewish scene to come to terms with the trends underscored by the survey and develop policies that address the American Jewish community's short- and long-range needs. In the final analysis, although it is impossible to predict the future, a general observation drawn from an overview of American Jewry's past makes clear at least the general contours of future American Jewish policy: Rooted in a historical context shaped by a unique and open liberal environment, the American Jewish community's future very much depends upon its ongoing capacity for innovation, inclusion, and pluralism even as it faces new challenges and seeks new ways for strengthening the bonds of Jewish communal life.
The polarization of American Judaism's denominational groups became a major communal issue at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. A chief reason was that by the 1980s Orthodoxy in America had undergone a process of completely unanticipated revitalization. Its growth resulted in greater resources, new and bigger institutions, and subsequently more influence and greater assertiveness within the wider Jewish community. American Orthodoxy's new confidence was bolstered by its ties to the Orthodox establishment in the State of Israel. Traditional American Orthodoxy, in contrast to the modern, or moderate, Orthodoxy associated with New York's *Yeshiva University, was openly committed to reinstituting the type of religious Jewish community life that had flourished in Europe until the eve of World War ii. Its leaders reviled American society's emphasis on individualism and pluralism. They recognized as legitimate only their own interpretation of Judaism, which was based on the strict rigid interpretation of halakhah.
The historic 1983 decision by the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis to accept the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother as Jewish without need of conversion; its religious outreach program to families of mixed religions or the unchurched; the decision by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1983 to ordain Conservative women rabbis; and the announcement in 1987 to graduate women as Conservative cantors all served to exacerbate existing tensions within American Judaism. Although united with Reform Judaism over the legitimacy of religious pluralism, the Conservative movement's understanding of halakhah forced it to reject the Reform position on patrilineal descent. The decision by the Reform movement to recognize patrilineal descent was so controversial as to prompt the appearance in 1985 of Alexander Shapiro, president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, before the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Addressing his Reform colleagues, Shapiro cautioned that "if patrilinealism remains in place, then Conservative rabbis might have to question the Jewish status of someone from a sister movement," resulting in "a cleavage in Jewish life which would threaten the survival of the Jewish people."
Orthodox leaders were also outspoken on this issue. Haskel *Lookstein, a moderate Orthodox spokesman and president of the New York Board of Rabbis, characterized Reform's adoption of patrilineal descent as "a wedge… that fosters polarization, anger, resentment, bitterness, and divisiveness." Traditional Orthodox leaders went further and denounced what they viewed as the continuing erosion of Jewish life in America. In 1986 America's Agudat Israel and its Council of Torah Sages attacked Reform and Conservative Judaism, refusing to sanction any form of dialogue with any of its representatives.
The ongoing ferment within Conservative Judaism over the flexibility of Jewish law, especially controversy over the status of women, led to a major ideological fracture. In 1984 a breakaway organization calling itself the Union for Traditional Judaism (utj) succeeded in drawing rabbis and lay people who were disgruntled over the Rabbinical Assembly's 1983 decision to ordain women rabbis. In 1992 the utj incorporated the approximately 100 rabbis belonging to the Fellowship of Traditional Orthodox Rabbis. The latter group constituted the more liberal wing of the Orthodox rabbinate concerned about the growing strength and influence of its more right-wing elements. By the mid-1990s the utj had grown to include some 8,000 families and approximately 350 rabbis.
The increasing polarization between Orthodoxy's modern and sectarian streams beset communities throughout the United States and was both ideological and pragmatic. Modern Orthodoxy defended the legitimacy of combining the ethos of contemporary society and traditional Judaism. The more conservative, sectarian Orthodox, generally referred to as the "ultra-Orthodox," rejected this approach, preferring to minimize communication and social interaction with those outside their own groups. By the early 1990s, traditional Orthodox circles came to dominate Orthodox community life. Among younger Jews in particular, the religious stringencies associated with traditional Orthodoxy became more normative.
In the early 1990s the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim, based in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, received considerable media attention following the physical incapacitation of their leader Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. Lubavitch openly split between those who believed Schneersohn had the potential to be the messiah and those who were certain he had already been anointed. As Schneersohn's physical condition continued to deteriorate, a power struggle ensued over the control of the worldwide Lubavitch empire. Schneersohn's death in 1994 left Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim all over the world stunned and uncertain. His New York funeral was attended by tens of thousands of Ḥasidim and other admirers, including dignitaries from the United States and abroad.
Although the majority of American Jews shunned formal synagogue affiliation in the 1980s and 1990s, some sought religious expression in alternative settings. In 1992 the Reconstructionist movement, a branch of Conservative Judaism established in 1934 by Mordecai M. *Kaplan, claimed about 2 percent of American Jews and some 70 congregations. In 1994 the American Jewish Year Book called Seek My Face, Speak My Name by Arthur *Green, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, "the first serious attempt to arrive at a contemporary understanding of Judaism based not on rationalism, ethics, or halakhah, but on the Jewish mystical tradition." Green's personal interest in mysticism permeated the Reconstructionist movement. This paralleled the interest in mysticism and New Age philosophies expressed by many young Jewish adults. Though inconsistent with Kaplan's rational philosophical approach, Green's orientation reflected the movement's incorporation of current social and cultural trends.
While many "New Age" Jews turned to Reconstructionism for spiritual fulfillment, others opted for community-based havurot (Jewish fellowships). These groups, which spread throughout the country in the 1980s and 1990s, functioned either independently of or in association with a synagogue. Though not always spiritual or even prayer-focused (some centered on text study, politics, culture, or Jewish cuisine), havurot represented the informal and intimate Jewish community experience thought to be lacking in most established synagogues. Still other Jewish seekers after spirituality cultivated an interest in Jewish meditation. In 1993 the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that "for many meditators who were estranged from the Jewish community and traditional practices, and who have little Jewish education, contemplation has provided a port of re-entry." Among centers of practice were the Jewish Meditation Circle of Manhattan, the School of Traditional Jewish Meditation in Los Angeles, and a mountaintop retreat center located some 40 miles northwest of Boulder, Colorado.
In some cases, Jewish meditation served as a bridge back to Jewish practice for many Jews who had been involved with cults. Although the actual number of Jews in cults was not known, it was estimated that as many as 70 percent of participants in Buddhist and Hindu groups in North America were Jews. Among the cults in which Jews were believed to be disproportionately represented were Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church (Moonies), Hare Krishna, the Oregon-based followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Synanon, and Scientology. Contemporary observers attributed the latter phenomenon to (1) the openness of liberal minded Jews to alternative political and theological ideas; (2) the strong presence of Jews on college and university campuses where cults invested heavily in recruitment; and (3) the difficulty many young Jews had in forming independent adult identities as a result of coming from nurturing and secure families.
Surveying the dynamic role of women in American Jewish life and the impact of Jewish feminism on the American scene, the scholar Sylvia Barack Fishman offered the following perspective on the period under investigation:
Remembering that women comprise, after all, at least one-half of the Jewish people, it seems appropriate for Jewish survivalists of all denominations to reconsider the validity of feminist goals case by case and to search for constructive ways in which to reconcile Jewish feminism with the goals of Jewish survival. It is hard to imagine what communal good could be served by adhering to an automatic anti-feminist stance. On the other hand, it seems appropriate for Jewish feminists, to the extent that they are serious about Jewish survival, to weigh carefully the repercussions of proposed changes and to consider their responsibility to the community as a whole. Indeed, it is one of the achievements of American Jewish feminism that women are now in a position to examine these issues – and to make choices.
Of particular note in this period was the greater role of women in almost every area of communal leadership. In 1986 Peggy *Tishman became head of New York City's United Jewish Appeal-Federation, the largest in the country, while Shoshana *Cardin became chair of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. In general, however, Jewish women professionals working for the Jewish community found themselves victims of the "glass ceiling" phenomenon. At a Women's Economic Summit convened in 1993 by the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and the American Jewish Congress, a number of speakers suggested that Jewish communal agencies should begin addressing women's economic inequity by evaluating their own hiring, promotion, pay and benefits patterns and policies.
In a survey of 42 national Jewish agencies, including the American Jewish Congress, the Council of Jewish Federations, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it was discovered that 37 were run by men. Similarly, out of the 157 Jewish federations with paid professional leadership, the 30 run by women executive directors were almost all small or mid-size. Only the Jewish Federation of Hartford, Connecticut, one of 23 federations categorized as larger intermediate-size, was directed by a woman. In spite of the fact the 60 percent of employees at federations were female, none of the 18 largest federations employed a woman as executive director. A separate Council of Jewish Federations survey revealed that about one-third of the campaign directors in large and intermediate-size federations were women. While entry-level positions in Jewish federations offered equal remuneration to men and women, senior-level female staff earned between 67 and 92 percent of what men in comparable positions were earning; 80 percent of the respondents to an internal survey of senior professional women at federations cited the "old boys" network as the primary factor behind hiring and advancement discrimination.
In a parallel vein, although the Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative synagogue movements opened the doors of their respective seminaries to growing numbers of women, this did not mean that women in these streams of Judaism were free of harassment and sexism. The results of a survey conducted in 1992 by the American Jewish Congress revealed that 73 percent of the 142 women rabbis who responded claimed to have been sexually harassed by congregants and other rabbis; 54 percent claimed to have experienced sexual discrimination consisting of denial of equal pay, benefits, or differential treatment in hiring, firing or job responsibilities. The women reported that only one in five of the synagogues, organizations or institutions at which they worked maintained a sexual discrimination policy.
Even as traditional and mainstream Orthodoxy remained firmly opposed to the notion of women rabbis, a few voices from within the movement called for dialogue on the issue. The most vociferous advocate in this regard was author and community leader Blu Greenberg, who pointed out the extensive learning and erudition among American Jewish women, which, if they were men, would qualify them for Orthodox rabbinical ordination. "I believe the ordination of Orthodox women is close at hand," she wrote in 1993. "The cumulative impact – of a critical mass of students of Talmud and halakhah, a plethora of rising-star teachers, the support of educational institutions and the presence of respected women rabbis in the liberal denominations – will be to transform the expectations of Orthodox women. This will be a powerful agent for change." To this end, womens' tefillah (prayer) groups were organized in a number of Jewish communities in the United States. The groups followed an Orthodox prayer service, without men, that included a full Torah reading. In 1993 over a hundred women from around the country met in New York for the third Women's Tefillah Conference.
Additionally, Jewish women continued to play significant and visible roles in wider American society. A striking example in this regard is the case of the scientist Gertrude B. *Elion, who in 1988 won the Nobel Prize in medicine. The daughter of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants and descended from a line of distinguished rabbis, Elion's family immigrated to the United States before World War i. She graduated in 1937 from Hunter College in New York City, but was rejected by fifteen graduate school programs and research institutes owing to discrimination against women in the sciences in the 1940s and 1950s. After working as an unpaid lab assistant in order to acquire further research experience, she was hired by a pharmaceuticals company to work with nucleic acids. Her pathbreaking medical research led to the discovery of the drug, azathioprine, used to facilitate kidney transplants and treat rheumatoid arthritis, and the development of thioguanine and mercaptopurine, which is used in chemotherapy to treat children with leukemia. Her name is attached to some 23 honorary degrees and 45 patents, including a drug that can be used to treat chicken pox, genital herpes, encephalitis, and shingles. By the time of her death in 1999, she was regarded as one of America's most eminent scientist.
Homosexuality drew increased communal attention during this period as the different denominations either proclaimed or debated their official position on the subject. The position of Orthodoxy remained that such activity under any circumstances constituted, as stated in the Torah, a moral abomination. Abstinence in combination with therapy or medication was the only prescribed treatment. Nonetheless, by the end of the 1980s approximately 20 gay and lesbian congregations existed around the country.
In 1990 the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis endorsed a resolution accepting the view that "all rabbis, regardless of sexual orientation, be accorded the opportunity to fulfill the sacred vocation which they have chosen…" and that "all Jews are religiously equal regardless of their sexual orientation." Although the Reform rabbinate officially accepted homosexuality, including homosexual rabbis, it continued to affirm heterosexual relations as the ideal. This sent something of a mixed message, not only to Reform congregants, but also to the movement's clergy. As a consequence, some gay rabbinical students chose not to reveal their sexual orientation. Likewise, homosexual pulpit rabbis were confronted with the dilemma of "coming out" with the support of their colleagues while possibly offending their congregations.
It was the Reconstructionist movement that went the farthest in embracing homosexuality. In 1992 the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot issued a formal statement calling for an end to all distinctions between heterosexuals and homosexuals in Jewish life. Homosexual Jews, of both genders, were welcomed into the Reconstructionist rabbinate. The Reconstructionist position was that since homosexuality is a fundamental component of an individual's psychological makeup and not subject to change, it was natural and acceptable in the eyes of God. Same-sex relationships were considered as holy as those between a man and a woman and could, in the same manner, comprise a legitimate and stable Jewish family. To solemnize these relationships, Reconstructionist clergy performed "commitment" ceremonies. The Reconstructionists encouraged gay and lesbian Jews to develop their own rituals, to celebrate their own special life-cycle events, and to introduce the stories of gay and lesbian Jews into Jewish history.
Participants at the 1992 annual meeting of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly voted to allow their colleagues to be employed by gay and lesbian congregations. In addition, a commission was created to study human sexuality and to develop a Conservative perspective on the issue. That same year, the Jewish National Fund (jnf) and the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations resolved a dispute that had been ongoing for 13 years. The jnf agreed to affixing a plaque bearing the words "Fourth International Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jews" at Lahav in southern Israel. Members of this organization had planted a 3,000 tree forest at the site in 1979.
The May 1993 New York City Israel Day Parade was clouded by the controversy over the request for formal participation by Manhattan's Beth Simchat Torah, the nation's largest gay and lesbian synagogue. The main opponents were the heads of Orthodox primary and high school yeshivot whose pupils traditionally comprised at least half of the parade's marchers. The schools' principals would not allow their students to participate if the gay synagogue marched as an identifiable unit, reasoning this would sanction its legitimacy. In spite of protracted negotiations over a compromise formula, none was found and the parade's sponsor, the American Zionist Youth Foundation, excluded the gay synagogue from the event.
philanthropy and communal organization
During the 1980s and 1990s, there developed a complex web of regional agencies and institutions. The swift expansion of local bureaus of Jewish education, Jewish day schools and yeshivot, and the growing number of departments and programs of Jewish studies in colleges and universities across the country underscored a deepening commitment to matters of Jewish education and scholarship. In addition, the Jewish Welfare Board became the national umbrella group for the Jewish community center movement, providing guidance, personnel and other resources to the growing number of community centers, many of which expanded to include adult education programs, summer camps, Israel trips, and elaborate health clubs as well as other services of a recreational nature. In short, regional Jewish communities became, in many respects, autonomous. They no longer necessarily looked to New York or Chicago for leadership, but now set their own agendas and turned to local Jewish agencies, philanthropists, and scholars for support and guidance. A parallel phenomenon was the diminished role of volunteers and increased importance of permanent professionals in most organizations and philanthropic agencies.
The remarkable successes of American Jewish philanthropy in this period underscore the extent to which community affairs revolved around campaigns for charitable funds. By far, the Council of Jewish Federations, the United Jewish Appeal, and the United Israel Appeal – brought together in 1999 under the banner of the "United Jewish Communities" – was the single most effective vehicle for collecting funds for a variety of institutions, local, national, and overseas. In 1980 the United Jewish Appeal reported pledges amounting to $528 million; cash collected amounted to $301 million. Of this sum $245 million went to the United Israel Appeal. The United Jewish Appeal's Israel Emergency Fund, originally launched in 1967 in response to the Six-Day War, in 1970 received pledges amounting to $124 million, in addition to cash receipts of $180 million for its regular campaign. Again a crisis in the Middle East had its effect on the level of American Jewish giving. Following the outbreak in 1973 of the Yom Kippur War, the United Jewish Appeal results for 1974 (including the Israel Emergency Fund) rose to $481 million. In the 1980s and 1990s, the national trend was toward a decrease in the proportion sent to Israel. Thus, in 1983 national United Jewish Appeal received approximately 48 percent of the combined federation campaign, domestic needs received 29 percent, and the remaining 23 percent went to other overseas causes. By comparison, in 1991 the national United Jewish Appeal received 40 percent, 36 percent was retained for local agencies, and 24 percent was allocated overseas.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked the United Jewish Appeal first in fundraising contributions in 1992, "more than any other non-profit organization." The $668.1 million reported was not based on total income because government grants and other earning (such as income from endowments and investments) were not included. The death of billionaire Baltimorian Harry *Weinberg in 1991 resulted in the largest Jewish-oriented foundation in the world. With assets of $762.8 million, it ranked as the 22nd largest foundation in the United States. A quarter of its annual grants were reserved for Jewish groups, another 25 percent for non-Jewish causes, and the remaining 50 percent was not earmarked for any particular group.
Fund raising efforts for Israel outside the United Jewish Appeal or the Federation structure are also noteworthy. Sales of State of Israel Bonds in the United States which, when inaugurated in 1951 amounted to $52 million, reached $175 million in 1970, $295 million in 1978, and in excess of $350 million in 1981. By 2000 the leadership of Israel Bonds reported that over $20 billion in investment capital for the development of every aspect of Israel's economic infrastructure had been raised in the previous 50 years.
Further solidifying its role as the "central address of the Jewish community" during these years, the United Jewish Communities proved its ability to respond to various emergencies and natural disasters. At the turn of the 20th century, the organization developed a close working relationship with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema), the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other aid groups. Together with these agencies, it provided hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency relief to communities in the Miami area devastated by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, to the victims of the earthquake that shook Los Angeles in 1994, to the families of victims killed in the Al Qaeda terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, and to the communities of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Florida devastated in 2005 by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. While a sizable quotient of these monies specifically targeted Jewish communal needs, substantial sums were also raised for general rescue and relief purposes. Nonetheless, critics charged the United Jewish Communities – which by this period had a combined income of $2.2 billion – with exploiting crises affecting American society and the Jewish people in order to meet the organization's predetermined fundraising goals and solidify its centralized control of community resources. Allegations of impropriety were also raised concerning the United Jewish Communities' dependency upon political consensus as well as the generous salaries and benefits enjoyed by high-ranking Jewish Federation executives, especially some who earned six-figure salaries akin to America's leading corporate executives.
Parallel to the framework of the organized Jewish community, American Jews generally continued to be active on behalf of a wide variety of social, political, and philanthropic causes that exceeded the orbit of the community's specifically Jewish interests, including considerable grassroots support for the civil rights of homosexuals, assistance for the victims of the aids virus and support for medical research to find a cure for the disease, abortion rights, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and militant regimes around the globe, the nuclear freeze movement, protecting the environment, the feminist movement, support for the homeless, and putting an end to worldwide poverty and hunger. While many Jews comfortably opted for membership in social and humanitarian organizations at large, others felt the need to establish alternative organizations comprised solely of Jewish membership since they viewed their commitment to these causes as an expression of their Jewish identity. Specific examples of the latter included the Jewish Fund for Justice, which provided grants to fight poverty in America; the American Jewish World Service, which funded environmental development programs in the Third World; Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which supported anti-hunger programs among Jews and non-Jews in the United States and abroad; the National Jewish aids Project, an educational body created to raise the consciousness of Jewish communal leaders and organizations about the aids virus; the Jewish Fund for Justice, which disbursed money to both Jewish and non-Jewish housing and community revitalization projects; the Shefa Fund, which supported projects related to social and economic justice, the impact of gender and the arts; and the New Israel Fund, which disbursed money to a wide range of programs in Israel dedicated to social change, including civil rights, women's rights, and Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. Together these groups raised hundreds of millions of dollars.
American Jewish commitment to the commonweal was also exemplified by the Jewish Volunteer Corps (jvc), which sent Jewish professionals to assist in developing countries. The jvc, established in 1993, grew out of the American Jewish World Service, another worldwide relief organization operating under private Jewish auspices. Like the more established American Jewish World Service, the jvc dedicated itself exclusively to providing grass-roots level assistance to non-Jews in Third World countries. Participants were trained and dispatched for up to six months to remote areas of Nepal, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Senegal, Bangladesh and Honduras, as well as other countries. Modeled on the American Peace Corps, jvc volunteers were assigned to agricultural projects, rural medical clinics, nutritional programs, small business development schemes, environmental preservation and soil conservation efforts, and basic literacy programs.
By contrast, mainstream Jewish organizations suffered a serious decline in membership during this period. B'nai B'rith, the oldest national Jewish membership organization in the United States, saw its membership drop from a post-World War ii era high of some 200,000 in the 1960s to about 136,000 in the 1980s and then to under 100,000 in the 1990s. With an accumulated deficit of over $4 million, a largely middle-class and working-class membership whose average age was in the mid-60s, and a membership shrinking at an average rate of 9 percent a year, B'nai B'rith president Kent E. Schiner acknowledged in 1995 that the fraternal order had become "irrelevant to a new generation of successful, more assimilated Jews with no need or desire for their own private club." Likewise, the growing involvement of professional Jewish women in the workplace during this period made it more difficult for organizations like Amit, Hadassah, the National Council for Jewish Women, ort, and Naamat usa (formerly Pioneer Women), to recruit new members. As noted previously, the synagogue movements were also threatened by steadily declining membership and all studies pointed to the inescapable conclusion that in this period the majority of third- and fourth-generation American Jews were even less likely to join a congregation than their parents or grandparents.
A handful of national Jewish organizations experienced significant growth and development in the 1990s. The most successful was the Los Angeles-based *Simon Wiesenthal Center. By the end of 1992, it reported approximately 385,000 contributors, an annual budget of about $12 million, and a professional staff of 100. Another organization which grew in popularity toward the end of this era was American Friends of Peace Now (renamed Americans for Peace Now in 1989). Throughout most of the 1980s, American Friends of Peace Now was on the margins of American Jewish life, but its credibility was firmly established with the ascendancy of the Labor-led coalition government in Israel after the 1992 election. It reported 10,000 members divided among 21 chapters throughout the United States, and was accepted for membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Both as individuals and through the auspices of various organizations, American Jews continued to play a role in causes beyond the borders of the Jewish community. Some national Jewish organizations increased their Middle East activities. In 1992, for example, American Jewish Congress leaders made an unprecedented trip to Saudi Arabia for talks with King Fahd and senior Saudi officials. That same year, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc) was asked by the United States government to assist in the distribution of aid in the new republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States. This included an agreement that the jdc signed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute $7 million worth of food. The escalating inter-communal turmoil in Bosnia-Herzegovina took on special significance for many American Jews who reacted with alarm to reports of "ethnic cleansing" by Serbian troops. Television news coverage of skeletal figures languishing in Serbian prisoner-of-war and concentration camps evoked painful memories of the Holocaust. Against this backdrop, all the major American Jewish organizations adopted the cause of the former Yugoslavia. The jdc organized the rescue in 1993 of some 350 Jewish, Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian refugees under siege in Sarajevo. Such philanthropic and humanitarian activity continued unabated over the course of the decade. In 1999–2000 the jdc spear-headed a concerted effort by several leading American Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish World Service, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, ort, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, to provide assistance to hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees who fled to Albania and Macedonia following the nato air strikes. In this period, the jdc also raised over $500,000 for the victims of the calamitous earthquake that struck Turkey.
education and culture
At the midpoint of the period under review, the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey reported that 3,350,000 of those surveyed were estimated to have received some form of Jewish education at some point in their lives. Even so, fewer women than men were the recipients of formal Jewish education. The survey also reported the median years of Jewish education for this age group to have been 6.2 for males and 4.6 for females.
Jewish education was not restricted to formal classroom education. Particular effort was devoted to developing and marketing "the Israel experience." Research confirmed that "the short-term summer-time Israel experience very often profoundly influences how youngsters relate to Israel and to their Jewishness." At the General Assembly in 1993, the crb (Charles R. Bronfman) Foundation of Montreal announced an "Israel experience" incentive program. The foundation would commit one dollar towards sponsoring the participation of a Jewish youth in one of many Israel experience programs for every three dollars contributed by a local Jewish federation and other community resources. Its objective was to make a trip to Israel affordable to every Jewish North American high school student so that by the turn of the century 50,000 Jewish teenagers would visit Israel each year. (In fact, in 2006 the program reported a total of over 100,000 participants.) As conceived, the Israel Experience was intended to complement, if not replace, the more conventional American Jewish summer camp experience. Over the years the latter had a demonstrable positive effect on the Jewish identity of youth.
In spite of the availability of adult or continuing Jewish education classes in synagogues, community centers, and Jewish community colleges around the country, outside of the Orthodox community Jewish education remained primarily a part-time activity associated with Jewish childhood. The quality of American Jewish education varied greatly from one communal context to the next. An attempt to improve the quality of Jewish education nationally came in 1981 when the Federation movement established the Jewish Education Service of North America (jesna). jesna was founded "to improve the quality and strengthen the impact of Jewish education by providing leadership and a broad range of services and informational resources locally, throughout North America, and in relationships with Israeli and world educational institutions." Despite such efforts, there was a clear impression by the end of the decade that Jewish education as a nationwide communal enterprise was not succeeding.
In an attempt to remedy this situation, a private, interdenominational and non-partisan body consisting of noted Jewish educators and top philanthropists calling itself the Commission of Jewish Education in North America was created in 1988. Unofficially it was known as the Mandel Commission, having been spearheaded by Jewish community leader and philanthropist Morton L. Mandel of Cleveland. In 1990 the commission produced a major report, "A Time to Act," which analyzed the condition of Jewish education in North America and offered a concrete plan of action whose goal was to "significantly improve the effectiveness of Jewish education (within) a coalition of community institutions, supplemented with continental institutions and resources."
The question of state aid to parochial schools continued to divide the American Jewish community. It was long axiomatic for the major Jewish organizations to uphold the strict separation of church and state, thus precluding anything in the nature of state support, but in the 1976 American presidential election the Orthodox community made it clear that it would welcome government subsidies to its Jewish day schools. As the debate intensified in the 1990s over the place of Jewish day schools in the American setting, an increasing number of organizations, agencies, and communal leaders acceded to the agenda set out by the Mandel commission. In 1999, the Jewish Educational Service of North America (jesna), a branch of the United Jewish Communities whose stated goal is "to make engaging, inspiring, high quality Jewish education available to every Jew in North America," announced that "No Jewish family that desires to send its children to a Jewish day school should be prevented from doing so due to financial reasons." As part of this ideological trend and in response to growth of the Jewish day school movement countrywide, many major metropolitan Jewish Federations increased the size of their allocations to local Jewish day schools. Notwithstanding mixed assessments over the effectiveness of many of these schools, the day school movement continued to spread while supplementary afternoon and Sunday schools declined in importance everywhere. In 2000, a study released by the Avi Chai Foundation revealed that the number of students enrolled in Jewish day schools had in fact risen by 25,000 since 1990, reaching a nationwide total of approximately 185,000. This figure cut across all denominational categories and included student enrollments in hundreds of Orthodox schools, more than 70 Conservative movement-sponsored schools (e.g., Solomon Schechter schools), 22 Reform movement-sponsored schools, and a growing number of pluralistic nondenominational community day schools. The success of the Jewish day school movement alarmed some critics, who worried openly that it might result in a weakening of Jewish support for the American public education system. In the context of this debate, it was observed that the proportion of Jewish children in public schools had declined from roughly 90 percent in 1962 to 65 percent in 2000. Some voiced concern about non-Jewish perceptions of the Jewish day school movement and the continued integration of Jews in American life. Others called for a reassessment of American Jewry's time honored liberal tradition of support for public education and proposed the community as whole embrace the concept of government vouchers for private education.
In this period, studies also revealed that an estimated 80 to 85 percent of American Jews received some college or university education, with more than 50 percent earning at least a bachelor's degree. It was also during these years that about 350 colleges and universities, excluding seminaries and divinity schools, undertook the teaching of Judaica in one form or another. The Association for Jewish Studies, composed of scholars and academicians in the field, grew to over 900 members. Courses in Hebrew and Yiddish language and literature, the Holocaust, and Zionism and Israel were among those garnering the most substantial student interest. By the end of the 20th century, more than half of all American Jews under the age of 65 were college graduates. A disproportionate number of Jewish college graduates went on to graduate studies in pursuit of a professional career. It was further estimated that some 85 percent of young Jews were active at colleges and universities either as students, teachers, or researchers.
Among areas of educational and cultural life that experienced a swift revival in this period was Yiddish. The establishment of the *National Yiddish Book Center, located at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, signaled the dramatic growth of interest in Yiddish among college students. By 1994, according to center founder and director Aaron Lansky, the center had managed to collect 1.2 million Yiddish books and managed an annual operating budget of $1.2 million.
Meanwhile, the 70-year-old national Jewish student organization *Hillel generally attracted no more than 15 percent of the local Jewish student body. With few exceptions, Hillel's ostensibly parochial agenda proved unattractive to a majority of Jewish students otherwise engaged in the open and liberal American campus environment. To complicate matters, Hillel's parent organization, B'nai B'rith, experienced severe financial difficulties and was forced to cut its support to less than 1 percent of Hillel's annual budget. In 1992 Hillel determined to expand and offer a more sophisticated array of Jewish cultural and social programs. To accompany its new image, the organization's name was officially changed to "Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life." Under the leadership of Hillel's new international director, Richard Joel, the organization set out to secure private endowments in order to pay for new outreach, leadership, and professional development programs. A major source of support was Edgar M. Bronfman, Sr.'s Fund for Jewish Campus Life. Additional funding came from the Council of Jewish Federations (the predecessor of the United Jewish Communities). In previous years, Jewish student leaders and activists had vigorously criticized the Council of Jewish Federations for neglecting to allocate sufficient support to campus programs. Now, in response to an organized student lobbying effort, the Council of Jewish Federations agreed to double its previous annual contribution of $8.5 million to the Hillel organization. The reinvigoration of Hillel as a national organization was only partly successful. Meanwhile, another strategy for strengthening the identity of young American Jews was designed and led by a small group of philanthropists. In 1998 Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman launched Birthright Israel, a program created to ensure that every American Jew between the ages of 15 and 26 would have – as his/her "birthright" – the opportunity for a free ten-day visit to Israel. Despite the program's success, the concept as a whole yielded mixed results. It was hampered in part due to the complex interplay between, on the hand, the American Jewish philanthropists who created it and, on the other, the regional Jewish Federations and Israeli government which pledged to support it but who were reluctant to assume responsibility for its long-range support.
The area of the arts in American Jewish life advanced in this period, too, as evidenced by the productions of Jewish theater groups across the country including San Francisco's "Traveling Jewish Theater," the establishment of annual Jewish art and film festivals in major cities, and the success of the American Jewish Theatre in New York City, Theatre j in Washington, dc, and the Martin Steinberg Center for the Arts, an American Jewish Congress affiliate. Three forms of Jewish music, choral, klezmer, and contemporary liturgical, contributed to the cultural revival of the period. The former was especially well represented by the highly accomplished Boston-based Zamir Chorale. Originally founded in New York in 1960 under the direction of Stanley Sperber, by the 1980s there were similar choral organizations in Boston, Washington, d.c., Connecticut, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The proliferation of Jewish choirs was sufficient for the creation of the American Hebrew Choral Festival whose annual performances drew capacity audiences. Klezmer music, a form of popular Jewish music based largely on the wedding melodies used in Eastern Europe and songs from the golden age of Yiddish theater, experienced a remarkable revival in the United States after having become virtually extinct. The rise of klezmer bands began in the 1970s but experienced the greatest growth during the 1980s and 1990s. Virtually every major American city became home to at least one klezmer ensemble – with colorful and playful names such as Brave Old World, Beyond the Pale, the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, the Klezmatics, the Klezmer Conservatory Band, the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, and the Sabras Klezmer Band – and as a result klezmer music garnered considerable recognition and popularity among young audiences. Finally, contemporary Jewish liturgical and folk music, especially the recordings and performances of singer-songwriter Debbie *Friedman, but also the work of other artists including Rachel Cole, the Zmiros Project (Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg, and Rob Schwimmer), and Paul Zim, became widely popular.
Handcrafted Judaica developed into a major form of Jewish artistic expression in the latter decades of 20th century. Jewish ritual objects and symbols such as the ḥanukkiyyah (Ḥanukkah menorah), the wine goblet, the mezuzah, the spice box, and the prayer shawl, found new forms of expression in various media, including wood, metal, precious metals, fabrics, plastic, and glass. The ketubbah (marriage contract) was developed into a sophisticated form of artwork. The legal text was hand-written calligraphy, often on genuine parchment and embellished with Jewish and Israeli motifs and themes.
The largest single event for Jewish youth in North America was the Maccabi Youth Games, organized every two years under the auspices of the Jewish Community Centers of North America (jcca), in association with the United States Sports Committee for Israel, Maccabi Canada, and Maccabi World Union. The games attracted some 2,500 participants between the ages of 13–16. Represented at the games were some 70 American Jewish communities, as well as Canada, Mexico, Australia, Great Britain, and Israel. An Olympic-style event featuring athletic competition in more than 12 different sports, regional games are held every other year.
Unprecedented growth also took place in the area of Jewish children's literature. It has long been the case that American children's literature has been enriched and shaped by the infusion of well-produced creative fiction and non-fiction by American Jewish authors, including early popular works such as Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family (1951), Joanne Greenberg's (pseud. Hannah Green) I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1964), Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (1964), Elaine L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankfurter (1967), Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (1970), Barbara Cohen's The Carp in the Bathtub (1972), Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972), and Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier (1973). The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a veritable surge in children's literature produced by American Jewish authors as well as a plethora of works of specifically Jewish content including, for example, the following wide array of books: Sandy Asher's Summer Begins (1980), Anita and Arnold Lobel's On Market Street (1981), Fran Arrick's Chernowitz (1981), Hazel Kranz's Henrietta Szold (1987), Chaya Burstein's A Kid's Catalog of Israel (1988), Patricia Polacco's The Keeping Quilt (1988), Jane Breskin Zalben's Beni's First Chanukah (1988), Ann Morris and Lily Rivlin's When Will the Fighting Stop? A Child's View of Jerusalem (1990), Laurie and Ben Dolphin's Neve Shalom-Wahat Al Salaam: Oasis of Peace (1993), Susan Goldman Rubin's Emily Good as Gold (1993), Lois Ruby's Miriam's Well (1993), and Sylvia Rouss' popular children's series of Sammy Spider Jewish holiday stories (1993–2006).
Jewish educational software for computers, which entered the commercial market a decade earlier, reached the stage where many classic Jewish texts, from the Bible and Prophets to the Talmud, including the Soncino English translation as well as later works from Maimonides, Rashi and the Zohar, as well as self-teaching courses in modern Hebrew language, were now available on cd-rom. In the 1990s both the medium of electronic mail (e-mail) and the Internet, the world-wide network of computer communication, experienced a sudden large rise in use by the Jewish community. The immediacy of communication provided by e-mail and the myriad Internet "sites" was a boon to the organized Jewish community, particularly for organizational activities and Jewish education. Internet enthusiasts pointed to the benefits of this technology to Jews living alone or at a distance from established Jewish community life. Through the use of e-mail, mailing lists, newsgroups, or message boards, Jewish individuals and groups readily and regularly communicated with one another. The developing "communications superhighway" was used to facilitate discussion around issues of common Jewish interest, pose and respond to questions, exchange information, and even for teaching and study. While some expressed concern that over-reliance upon this medium would result in the loss of a "sense of shared cultural experience" and other attributes of traditional community life, most American Jews viewed such activities with enthusiasm.
On virtually all the key social issues at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, which included protection of the environment, guaranteeing the rights of homosexuals, support for the Equal Rights Amendment, nuclear freeze, handgun control, federal spending for social programs, abortion rights, and opposition to prayer in public schools, American Jews as a whole, in public opinion surveys and at the ballot box, overwhelmingly and consistently supported the liberal position. A series of surveys demonstrated the positive relationship between youth and education and liberalism, i.e., the younger and better educated the respondent, the higher was his/her score on the survey's liberal public opinion index. Contrary to popular assumptions, young Jewish leaders in the 1980s and 1990s did not turn to the right in large numbers. The majority remained both Democrats and liberals on a broad range of social and economic issues.
On church-state matters involving court cases or proposed legislation, the Jewish community frequently split between Orthodox and more liberal non-Orthodox groups. As they had since the late 1940s, most American Jews continued to support the strict separation between state and religious matters as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. This guarantee, referred to as the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment, provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." However, throughout the 1980s and 1990s right-wing Christian and Jewish groups, notably Chabad-Lubavitch and Agudath Israel of America, mounted a series of legal challenges to the establishment clause centered on the issues of religious activity in public schools and government assistance to parochial schools. These and other attempts to blur church-state separation through legislation favoring sectarian interests, or by facilitating sectarian activities on government-owned property, were vigorously opposed by liberal organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The latter postulated the denial of government assistance, in any form, to any religious group to be the most fair and effective way to preclude religious discrimination and avoid religious favoritism within American society.
A distinctive feature of this period was the open concern shown by the Democratic and Republican parties to win the favor of American Jews. As Jews constituted slightly less than 2.5 percent of the total United States population and 5 percent of American voters, this concern was not due solely to the size of the Jewish vote. Rather, given the Jewish community's concentration in six important states – New York, Florida, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois – where historically they voted in large numbers and earned a reputation of being generous to liberal causes, it was believed that a swing on the part of the Jewish electorate might have important results. On the Jewish side, a consciousness of their own common political interests heightened the disposition to be wooed. Concern for the State of Israel, the plight of Soviet Jewry, fear of "discrimination in reverse" and urban violence, and the example of political assertiveness set by other minorities, provided the scope and inducement for American Jews to scrutinize candidates and their parties in the light of their record on matters of cardinal importance to the organized Jewish community.
Meanwhile, certain ideologues of the left, Jewish and non-Jewish, argued that there was an intrinsic conflict between being liberal and supporting Israel. These critics declared that Israel was guilty, inter alia, of a series of human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, had engaged in secret nuclear testing and weapons sales to the apartheid government of South Africa, and had played a key role in the Iran-Contra (Irangate) affair. While most American Jews rejected such views, some Jewish leftists found an outlet in 1986 with the birth of Tikkun. Founded by 1960s activist Michael Lerner, Tikkun was a reaction to the "over-materialism and lack of spirituality in Jewish life." Pragmatically, it challenged the conservative interests of Commentary and defended Jewish liberalism against allegations by those on the far left. Like Breira in the 1970s and, to a certain extent, the New Jewish Agenda in the 1980s, Tikkun adopted the mandate of formulating a progressive political agenda for the American Jewish community. It gained immediate prominence because of the noted intellectuals, Jewish and non-Jewish, whose articles and interviews it published and because of the outspoken dovish opinions of its editor, especially with regard to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The image of the Reagan White House as a bastion of Republican, white, Christian values encouraged political assertiveness among fundamentalist church groups. This resulted in an unprecedented effort on the part of national Christian fundamentalist organizations such as the Moral Majority to align themselves with the conservative New Right political movement in attempting to influence both the electoral and legislative processes. The difficulty the Jewish community had with these groups went beyond their opposition to its own positions on most social issues. By 1990 discontent with the Republican administration of George H.W. Bush, Reagan's successor and former vice president, helped return the number of Jewish Democrats to just under 60 percent, although the number of Jewish Republican voters remained at 15 percent. According to a 1992 University of Michigan study, American Jews remained an active political force, since about 90 percent of the Jewish population was spread among only 12 states, namely, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, Florida, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. But the voter apathy which came to characterize the general American population had its effect on the number of American Jewish voters which declined from 92 percent in 1952 to 67 percent at the time of the study. As a result, the Jewish community stood at risk of losing the high-voter-turnout edge that had been the source of its national political influence.
As the country prepared for the 1992 presidential election, the Jewish community took stock of its relationship with the Republican Administration. During Bush's tenure, hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union, as well over fifteen thousand Jews from Ethiopia, arrived in Israel with the active support of the United States government. Bush also ended Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Middle East by enlisting and leading a military coalition in the 1991 Gulf War's Operation Desert Storm. American military personnel and equipment were stationed in Israel for the first time to assist in its defense against Iraq's scud missiles. At the same time, Bush stayed Israel's hand during the height of the war and prevented the Israel Defense Force from carrying out retaliatory air strikes against Western Iraq. This policy engendered much resentment among American Jews. After intensive and sensitive negotiations, the Bush Administration succeeded in establishing the first face-to-face peace talks between Israel and most Middle East Arab states. Still, Bush maintained his policy of linking Israel's request for $10 billion in loan guarantees, intended for the resettlement and absorption of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, to a freeze by the Israeli government of Yitzhak *Shamir on all construction in the West Bank. In response, the Jewish community mounted a concerted campaign in Washington to reverse Bush's opposition, or if need be, to persuade the Congress to grant the loan guarantees in spite of it. Bush revealed his ire at these efforts in 1991, when he said in a press interview, "…I'm up against some powerful political forces, but I owe it to the American people to tell them how strongly I feel about deferral [of the loan guarantees]… I heard today that there were something like a thousand lobbyists on the Hill working the other side of the question. We've got one lonely guy down here doing it." His remark, implying the exercise of undue political influence by American Jews, engendered great consternation throughout the Jewish community. After being made aware of the effect of his words, he offered clarification and an apology.
Bush's attitude toward Israel and appeal to the Christian Right troubled American Jews deeply. In contrast to Bush's public endorsement of the importance of religion and Christian values within American society, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his party represented the more liberal domestic tradition that American Jews had supported since the New Deal Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Clinton, who was personally known to be a friend of the Jewish state, made it clear to the Jewish community that he would be a much more unequivocal ally of Israel in its search for peace than had the Bush Administration. At the party's national convention in 1992, the Democrats drafted the strongest pro-Israel platform in recent decades. Its Israel plank affirmed the "special" U.S.-Israel relationship, criticized the Bush administration for not being an "honest broker" in the peace process, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, condemned antisemitism, and called upon the United States to further assist in the absorption of immigrants in Israel. When the election was held, Jewish voters overwhelmingly supported Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party. A combination of exit polls indicated that Clinton received approximately 80 percent of all Jewish votes. Incumbent George Bush received between only 10–15 percent and independent candidate H. Ross Perot between 5–10 percent. Analysts attributed American Jews' disproportionate support for Clinton to a tradition of voting Democratic, dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration's treatment of Israel, and a feeling of alienation from Bush's patrician background. These factors appeared to outweigh speculation that more Jews, feeling confident and secure in their socio-economic position, might abandon the Democratic Party in 1992 and vote Republican.
In 1993 President Clinton announced his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of Federal Appeals Court Judge Ruth Bader *Ginsburg, 60, to replace retiring Justice Byron White, considered a moderate. For 25 years, the so-called "Jewish seat" on the Supreme Court remained unoccupied. Beginning in 1916 with the appointment of Louis Brandeis, this seat was held consecutively for over a half-century by justices Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, Arthur *Goldberg, and finally Abe *Fortas, who resigned in 1969. The matter of filling the "Jewish seat" on the Supreme Court was dealt with cautiously among Jewish groups. No Jewish organization ever actively lobbied for this cause. While there was little doubt that most American Jews looked forward to the appointment of another Jewish justice and were personally pleased over Ginsburg's nomination, the community's traditional and ardent public opposition to filling any position on the basis of religion, race, or ethnicity resulted in constrained enthusiasm. Steven Freeman of the Anti-Defamation League summarized the Jewish position by saying: "The criteria (sic) should be merit, the best qualified person for the job. We would not recommend that the person be chosen by ethnicity. By the same token, we would be pleased if the best qualified person happened to be Jewish." Most public commentary on Ginsburg's nomination emphasized her feminist, not her Jewish, interests. Ginsburg had won five out of six womens' rights cases which she had argued before the Supreme Court. In announcing her nomination, Clinton noted: "Many admirers of her work say that she is to the Women's moment what former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was to the movement for the rights of African Americans." Ginsburg had served as a law professor at Columbia and Rutgers universities.
In 1984, as a presiding justice, Ginsburg indicated support for the right of a Jewish Air Force Captain, Dr. Simcha Goldman, to continue wearing a yarmulke while in uniform in spite of this constituting a technical violation of the military dress code. A Federal District Court ruled in favor of Goldman, but this ruling was later reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. Ginsburg was also one of the judges who rejected convicted spy Jonathan *Pollard's 1992 appeal against his life sentence. Pollard's attorneys argued that his 1987 life sentence constituted a miscarriage of justice since the government had violated its plea bargain agreement and implied to the court a preference for a maximum sentence. Ginsburg and Laurence Silberman, also Jewish, rejected Pollard's argument, while the only non-Jew on the three-judge panel, Judge Stephen Williams, dissented.
Ginsburg's appointment was confirmed 96–3 by the U.S. Senate. The only senators to oppose Ginsburg were conservative Republicans Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Robert Smith of New Hampshire, and Don Nickles of Oklahoma. They expressed concern over Ginsburg's support for abortion rights as well as her opposition to any form of discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Earlier, however, the Senate Judiciary Committee had unanimously approved her nomination. In her testimony before the committee, Ginsburg spoke of her strong distaste for discrimination which she related to her grandparents fleeing of pogroms in Eastern Europe as well as her personal experience with antisemitism in the United States. On August 10, Ginsburg, standing alongside President Clinton and her husband, and using a Hebrew Bible, was sworn in by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, thereby becoming the first female Jewish U.S. Supreme Court Justice in history.
After a quarter of a century without a Jewish justice, one year later there were two. Initially passed over by President Clinton in 1993, Gerald Stephen *Breyer was appointed by the president to the Court in 1994. His appointment came following the resignation of Justice Harry A. Blackmun.
Other significant American Jewish appointees who rose to national prominence during the Clinton administration were Secretary of Labor Robert *Reich, Secretary of the Treasury Robert *Rubin, Secretary of State Madeline Albright (who was raised Episcopalian by converted parents), Secretary of Defense William *Cohen, and National Security Advisor Sandy *Berger. Under Clinton, Alan *Greenspan continued his term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. (Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, is also Jewish and active in Jewish communal life.)
Jewish mayors, at least in large cities, remained a rare commodity for much of the 1970s and 1980s. An important exception in the earlier phase of this period was the election in 1975 of Abraham D. *Beame as mayor of New York City. This was the first time New York, which long boasted the largest Jewish community in the world, elected a Jewish chief magistrate. Beame's term of office coincided with a fiscal crisis that threatened New York with bankruptcy and he consequently failed to secure the Democratic nomination for reelection. In 1978 Democrat Edward Koch, an especially colorful and outspoken figure, became the city's second Jewish mayor; he was elected to three consecutive terms. In 2001 the influential investment advisor Michael *Bloomberg, a Jewish Democrat-turned-Republican, prevailed over a field of opponents, including another popular Jewish Democrat, and was elected mayor. Bloomberg handily won reelection in 2005, garnering considerable of support from a plurality of the city's ethnic constituencies.
By contrast, American Jews succeeded in being elected and reelected to Congress in numbers disproportionate to their percentage of the general population, even in districts with an insignificant number of Jewish voters. Some of the most prominent figures in this regard were Senators Barbara *Boxer (California), Russell *Feingold (Wisconsin), Diane *Feinstein (California), Herb *Kohl (Wisconsin), Frank *Lautenberg (New Jersey), Joseph *Lieberman (Connecticut), Charles *Schumer (New York), Arlen *Specter (Pennsylvania), and Paul *Wellstone (Minnesota), and Ron *Wyden (Oregon). Noteworthy Jews elected to the U.S. House of Representatives included Bella *Abzug (New York), Barney Frank (Massachusetts), Holocaust survivor Tom *Lantos (California), the socialist Bernie *Sanders (Vermont), and Henry Waxman (California).
The presidential election of George W. Bush in 2000 marked a turning point for the country and was greeted cautiously by the American Jewish community. Memories of the previous Bush administration's anti-Jewish sentiment – former Secretary of State James Baker was reported to have once said, "F—k the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway" – and the younger Bush's evangelical Christian orientation prompted widespread suspicion in American Jewish circles. On the other hand, the excitement that accompanied the unprecedented selection by former Vice President Al Gore of Senator Joseph Lieberman, a modern Orthodox Jew, to be his running mate was palpable in American Jewish circles. For a majority of American Jews, the Gore-Lieberman ticket was an ideal combination – moderate on economic policy, liberal on social policy, and activist with respect to foreign policy. A Gore administration also virtually guaranteed a continuation of Clinton's Middle East diplomacy. In the event, fewer than 20 percent of American Jews cast their ballots for the Republican standard bearer. Furthermore, many American Jewish voters were deeply disappointed when, owing to voting irregularities, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the presidential election in favor of Bush.
Despite the wide gap between the Bush administration's conservative views – its opposition to abortion and church-state separation – and American Jewry's moderate liberalism, the president himself reached out to the American Jewish leadership. He was aided in this regard by Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary. In addition to modest efforts like hosting the first Ḥanukkah celebration at the White House, Bush displayed unequivocal, open, and even warm support for Israel and its leaders, while pointedly denying Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians similar treatment. This was markedly different from the support Clinton had shown to the Arab parties.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, American Jews, like other American constituencies, closed ranks behind the president. But the American Jewish community soon found itself at odds with the Bush administration's views on the necessity of invading Afghanistan to hunt the Al-Qaeda terrorist group and its leader Osama bin Laden as well as its concomitant determination to curtail civil liberties in order to fight the "War on Terrorism." What emerged in 2001 as concern over the broadly construed usa-Patriot Act, which critics feared could lead to egregious violations of the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, reached a pivotal juncture with the imprisonment of noncitizens at Guantanamo. Captured by American forces in Afghanistan and deemed "unlawful combatants" by the American government, they were denied the procedural safeguards customarily afforded prisoners of war and held indefinitely. Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a series of directives aimed at elevating surveillance activities among the prisoners and across the country generally.
The American Jewish community was divided over what, if any, public response might be warranted under the circumstances. For example, the annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (jcpa), meeting in 2002, passed a resolution criticizing the administration for undermining civil liberties in the name of national security. But to satisfy a split between the groups opposed to the Bush policies – led by the Reform movement's Religious Action Center and the National Council for Jewish Women – and the moderates who believed such a resolution to be "premature" – the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith, and Hadassah – a supplementary statement was issued that the jcpa supported "strengthening domestic antiterrorism measures that enhance law enforcement capabilities" without infringing upon "basic constitutional rights." Next, the passage of the Homeland Security Act, which created a new cabinet-level department, gave the U.S. government unprecedented surveillance powers over "federal government, state and local government agencies (including law enforcement agencies), and private sector entities." The widespread unease displayed by American Jewish groups over such an open-ended mandate was tempered, at least temporarily, by the assurances of Congressional leaders like Senator Arlen Specter who, in a speech to the American Jewish Committee in 2002, announced his intention "to craft a new bill that maintained the law's core provisions while ameliorating the problematic civil liberties issues." Two notable exceptions in this regard were Senators Russell Feingold and Paul Wellstone, who vigorously opposed the war from the beginning.
Over the course of several months, the Bush administration continued to make the case for isolating and invading Iraq. It alleged the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein possessed "weapons of mass destruction" and that Iraq was linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Though the charges remained unproven, approximately 65 percent of Americans supported the president's position when in March 2003 the U.S. launched a massive offensive against Iraq. Within weeks, an American-led military coalition succeeded in toppling the Hussein regime and occupying the country. While it was widely presumed the American Jewish community supported the war, owing especially to Iraq's profile as one of Israel's most dangerous foes, polls revealed that 54 percent of American Jews disapproved of Bush's handling of the conflict. Still, antisemitic and anti-Israel groups as well as some antiwar activists accused the Jews of fomenting the war to further Zionist aims. In reality, however, although a poll sponsored by the American Jewish Committee on the eve of the 2004 presidential election discerned strong American Jewish backing for the Bush administration's Israel policy, including the president's tacit endorsement of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the establishment of the West Bank security barrier, antiwar sentiment among American Jews persisted at high levels. The poll also found that American Jews backed the Democratic candidate Senator John F. Kerry (Massachusetts) by a nearly 3-to-1 margin and that disapproval of the Iraq war among Jews had risen to 66 percent. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, suggested the poll gave a "bird's eye view of where American Jews are on the important issues of the day." The data painted a picture, he explained, of a community that was "very supportive of Israel, very multilateralist, skeptical of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, and domestically very liberal." Following Bush's reelection to office in 2004, it was determined that Kerry won 77 percent of the Jewish vote and Bush received 22 percent. While this pattern was consistent with past Jewish support for Democratic candidate, Bush actually made modest gains among younger American Jewish voters since he was first elected in 2000.
In the ensuing months, as the Iraq war continued and revelations emerged of abuses by American military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison, American Jewish opposition to the war increased to 70 percent. This figure was no doubt influenced by the growing death toll of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians which rose, respectively, to over 2000 and approximately 35,000 in 2005. Meanwhile, according to Pentagon estimates, the cost of the war grew to more than $5.8 billion per month.
Relations at the community level between blacks and Jews were troubled and strained in the period under review. American Jewish Committee leader Murray Friedman's assertion that "the black-Jewish alliance of the civil rights days is simply gone" was borne out in various surveys that reflected a growing resentment of Jews by blacks, especially among younger blacks on college campuses. A handful of black leaders gained notoriety for their anti-Jewish sentiments, which were accompanied by anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian statements. Less frequently reported were examples of cooperation taking place among black and Jewish leaders in Congress, in city halls, and in inter-communal dialogues around the country.
Undoubtedly, some of the outstanding issues between the two communities were rooted in the past. But the issues themselves were current. For example, prominent black leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson had made himself anathema to many American Jews in 1979, the year he embraced plo Chairman Yasser Arafat in front of the press, called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and criticized the Jewish community for the dismissal by President Jimmy Carter of Andrew Young, American ambassador to the United Nations, after his unauthorized contact with Yasser Arafat.
During the 1980s Jackson continued to be critical of Israel for its relationship with South Africa, and called Zionism a "kind of poisonous weed that is choking Judaism," while he continued to support Palestinian demands for an independent state. However, the nadir of Jackson's relationship with American Jews came in 1984 when in a private conversation with a black Washington Post reporter, Jackson referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York as "Hymietown." The Jewish community, aghast at the candidate's remark, subsequently received an apology by Jackson during a speech made at a synagogue. By the beginning of the 1990s, Jackson had made attempts to improve his relationship with the Jewish community, initially by condemning antisemitism at the 1992 World Jewish Congress on antisemitism in Brussels and later by spearheading efforts of black-Jewish cooperation.
By far the nation's most controversial black personality, known for his direct attacks upon the Jewish community, was Chicago-based Louis Farrakhan, head of the black Muslim sect Nation of Islam. Farrakhan frequently made derogatory and insulting statements about Jews, Judaism, and the State of Israel. In his sermons he referred to the "lying and deceit" of Jews, and the "tyranny of Jewish shopkeepers and landlords who swarmed the ghetto communities to prey upon our people." In a 1984 radio broadcasts he declared Hitler a "great man" and referred to Judaism as a "gutter religion." He also accused Jewish doctors of injecting the aids virus into black babies. Furthermore, the Nation of Islam published and sold two antisemitic tracts, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews. While Farrakhan's vituperative statements strained black-Jewish relations, within the black community he was criticized by the naacp, the Urban League, and many church groups.
A third black personality to have stirred controversy with his statements about Jews was Leonard Jeffries, founding chairman of the black studies department at the City College of New York. In a 1991 speech at a black culture festival in Albany, New York, he defended New York State's multi-cultural education reform plan and attacked Jews in particular for opposing the plan. Among his most controversial statements, Jeffries accused Jews of dominating the slave trade and "conspiring for the destruction of black people" through control of Hollywood. After being removed as department head for making statements, Jeffries brought suit against ccny, claiming his First Amendment rights had been violated. In May 1993, a U.S. district court, agreeing with Jeffries, awarded him $400,000 in damages, an amount reduced by the judge to $40,000. The judge noted Jeffries' behavior to be "repugnant, hateful, poisonous, and reprehensible," but instructed City College to return him to the chair of the Afro-American Studies Department.
An eruption broke out in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in 1991 when a station wagon driven by a ḥasidic Jew careened out of control and crashed into a sidewalk, killing a seven-year-old black boy and badly injuring a black girl. When the driver stepped out of the car, he was attacked and robbed by angry black bystanders. Before police and medical personnel reached the scene, the crowd broke up into smaller groups and turned in different directions throwing rocks and bottles at people, cars, and homes. One of these frenzied groups came upon 29-year-old Yankel Rosenbaum, an ultra-Orthodox Jew from Australia who was visiting New York City. Rosenbaum was severely beaten and stabbed to death. Though 17-year-old Lemrick Nelson, Jr. was arrested for Rosenbaum's murder, he was acquitted by a mostly black and Latino jury.
The episode was followed by three days and four nights of rioting by blacks in Crown Heights, a community variously estimated to include 12,000 to 25,000 mostly ḥasidic Jews and 100,000 to 180,000 blacks. The New York Police Department and the city's first black mayor David Dinkins were criticized for not being able to control the riots. The Crown Heights affair acted as a catalyst for additional rioting by blacks in other large cities around the country over the next few days. Although well-intentioned community leaders initiated attempts at inter-community dialogue, the development of the case and the coverage it received in the press exacerbated tensions between blacks and Jews.
Following federal and state investigations, which criticized the mayor, the police, and even the courts for mishandling of the Crown Heights affair, Dinkins lost the 1993 mayoral election to Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani became the first Republican elected mayor of New York since 1965. Exit polls conducted determined that only 4 percent of all those questioned were influenced by Dinkins' handling of the Crown Heights riots. Jewish – especially ḥasidic – neighborhoods, however, voted overwhelmingly for Giuliani. Meanwhile, a Roper Organization poll demonstrated the persistence of ethnic rivalry, with almost half of New York City residents, 47 percent, answering that Jews had "too much influence" in city life and politics. Among African Americans, the figure was 63 percent and among Hispanics 66 percent. A hopeful but provocative response to this rivalry was a New Yorker cover drawn by Art Spiegelman, author/artist of Maus: A Survivor's Tale, a popular comic book-style rendering of the history of the Holocaust and its impact on American Jews. Spiegelman's wish for reconciliation took the metaphoric form of an ḥasidic man kissing a black woman. Both the Jewish and black communities expressed ire over this illustration.
In the 1990s Jesse Jackson took determined steps towards rapprochement with the Jewish community. Speaking at a conference on antisemitism convened by the World Jewish Congress in Brussels in July 1992, he condemned "racism and antisemitism (as) scientifically and morally wrong." In marked contrast to his previous public position on the subject, he also praised Zionism as a "liberation movement." In 1993, he met with Israel's foreign minister Shimon *Peres and pledged to help seek freedom of emigration for Syria's Jews. Jackson also played a constructive mitigating role in the controversy that erupted that year over the nomination by President Bill Clinton of Lani Guinier, a black legal studies scholar, to the position of assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice. The Jewish community reacted critically to her nomination and expressed concern over Guinier's support for an interpretation of the Voting Rights Act favoring blacks and other minorities. In the event, President Clinton withdrew his nomination and the black community was angered by what it viewed as the successful torpedoing of its candidate by Jewish interest groups. Meanwhile, Jewish groups sought to downplay their influence over the president's decision.
These tensions dissipated over time – at least among the leaders of both communities – and within the space of a few years black-Jewish relations exhibited noticeable improvement. A turning point was signaled in 2000 when the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, originally established in 1989 by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Joseph Papp, launched a Web site devoted to supporting the improvement of dialogue between African Americans and American Jews. The Web site, which promoted the collaborative efforts of Jewish and black leaders and organizations, announced: "We are committed to the belief that direct, face-to-face, dialogue between leaders of ethnic communities is the most effective path toward the reduction of bigotry and the promotion of reconciliation and understanding." That same year, Jesse Jackson gave a keynote address to a World Jewish Congress-sponsored meeting focused on the question of black-Jewish relations. Jackson called the relationship "better than ever," but also emphasized that "we still have unfinished business." Jackson's rehabilitation in the eyes of American Jews was completed later that year when he publicly and actively devoted himself to securing the release of thirteen Iranian Jews detained by the Iranian regime on charges of spying for Israel.
On the whole, relations between the Jewish community and most Christian denominations were positive in this period. However, one serious area of contention between American Jewish leaders and mainline Christian churches was the Middle East. In 1992, these groups continued to express their objection to Israel's presence in the Occupied Territories, by publicly opposing Israel's request to the United States for $10 billion in loan guarantees. "An Open Statement of Religious Leaders to President George Bush," proffered by the National Council of Churches (ncc), called upon the president to "oppose housing loan guarantees to Israel until it halts construction and expansion of settlements in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem." It was signed by representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Lutheran Council, the Episcopal Church, the Mennonites, the American Baptist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church of America, and the Unitarian-Universalist Association. An even stronger tone was used in a resolution debated by the United Methodist Church; it failed to pass for technical reasons. In general, criticism of Israel by these bodies continued until the 1993 signing of the Israel-plo Declaration of Principles in Washington, d.c.
In the areas of social and economic justice, Protestant and Jewish groups shared concern over the growth of the Christian Right. The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism (1994), published by the Anti-Defamation League, analyzed the ongoing and well-funded effort by evangelical Christian groups to blur the traditional separation between religion and politics in America and initiate new legislation, both at the local and national level, reflecting their anti-pluralistic, fundamentalist religious values. It pointed to efforts led by Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition, preacher Jerry Falwell, and activist Time LaHaye as well as those of organizations with innocuous-sounding names like care (Citizens Advocating Responsible Education) and cee (Citizens for Excellence in Education) who promoted candidates for school board seats, local Republican party committees, water commissions, and real estate zoning boards. These forces, it was argued, sought control of the Republican party by the year 2000 and constituted a threat to American democracy. They were thus to be regarded as a special threat by American Jews and other non-Protestant and non-white groups. Nonetheless, because of many issues on which the Religious Right coincided with Jewish concerns, including active and loyal Evangelical support of Israel, the relationship between the groups remained complicated.
There were also important developments in Catholic-Jewish relations in this era. The most significant breakthrough occurred in 1993 when Israel and the Vatican signed an agreement establishing full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Jewish state. Against this backdrop, a joint American Jewish-Catholic delegation visited Poland in order to address a number of issues in Polish-Jewish relations. Foremost was the progress on the construction of a new Carmelite convent and education-prayer center in the town of Oswiecim, not far from the Auschwitz/Birkenau death camp site. The new facility was an alternative to the existing convent situated nearer the entrance to the camp, over whose presence Jewish organizations long objected. In 1993, the office within the Church that oversees Catholic orders, with the support of the Pope, directed the nuns to relocate. On the other hand, Jewish groups expressed ambivalence about the Catholic Church's Catechism for the Universal Church (1992), which noted Christianity's Jewish roots and rejected the charge of deicide, but stopped short of an explicit condemnation of antisemitism. The catechism "gives final authority to what we have worked on for thirty years," stated James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee, "but [it] doesn't break any new ground." Next, in 1994 the Synagogue Council of America and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a joint statement condemning pornography and asking communities and parents to exercise greater vigilance to prevent its exposure to young people.
Toward the end of the decade, a highly sensitive aspect of Catholic-Jewish relations emerged into a full-blown controversy. The matter concerned a panel of historians appointed in the late 1990s to investigate the role of Pope Pius xii during World War ii and the Holocaust era. The panel had been assembled, in part, to address questions and assuage tensions resulting from Pope John Paul ii's plans for the beatification and sainthood of Pius xii, who was alleged by many historians and Jewish community leaders to have been indifferent to the fate of European Jewry and even culpable within the wider context of the Nazi regime's plans to exterminate the Jews. When the panel was denied access to the Holy See's archives for "technical reasons," it disbanded and protested to the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews that "we cannot see a way forward at present to the final report you request, and believe we must suspend our work." The matter heated up further when Cardinal Walter Kasper, the senior figure charged with responsibility for the Vatican's relationship with the Jewish community, accused the Jewish members of the panel of "indiscretion" and making "polemical remarks to the press." The Jewish scholars responded that they had been "singled out for blame" and should be allowed unfettered access to the Vatican's historical documentation. The imbroglio prompted some Jewish historians to resign from the panel and historian Robert S. Wistrich of the Hebrew University called the episode "the lowest ebb in Catholic-Jewish relations since the 1960s." The matter remained an open source of contention, but the strained relations were eased somewhat in the spring of 2001 when the pontiff, together with the chief rabbi of Ukraine, paid a visit to Babi Yar, where thousands of Jews had been killed in 1941 by the Nazis.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Holocaust memorialization efforts on the part of American Jewry developed into a major activity and social psychological phenomenon. Faced with the reality of Holocaust survivors succumbing to natural attrition and aided by the retrospective vision of two generations, American Jews focused considerable resources, including time, money and skills, on producing an unprecedented number of Holocaust projects to serve as testaments and memorials for posterity. This was expressed in everything from the creation of artwork, books, films, school curricula, events and conferences for survivors and their children to organized tours to Eastern Europe to visit the sites of former Jewish communities and Nazi death camps. A number of Jewish communities, among them Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and St. Louis, established regional Holocaust monuments, museums, and educational centers. Furthermore, many states adopted new statutes and mandated the teaching of the Holocaust in middle and senior high school across the country. Most American Jews supported these efforts and responded favorably to the commemoration and normalization of the Holocaust in American Jewish life. Support was also manifest in the countrywide growth of Holocaust studies as an academic field and the convening of scholarly meetings such as the annual conference of the Holocaust Education Foundation.
Two major efforts in this period were the opening in 1993 of the Beit Hashoah-Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and the *United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, d.c. Although funding for the institutions was raised mainly through private donations, both were surrounded by controversy even before they opened their doors to the public. Five million dollars for the Wiesenthal project came from the State of California and the land upon which the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington stands was donated by the federal government. In both cases, questions arose over whether these donations violated the constitutional principle of separation between religion and state. The Wiesenthal museum's many state of the art high-tech educational exhibits also aroused controversy because, as critics charged, they detracted from the solemnity of the subject. Repeated changes in its design and plans resulted in it taking six years to complete at a cost of $55 million instead of two years and $15 million.
The U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum, built at a cost of $168 million, faced a controversy of a different nature. Since its founding in the 1970s under the Carter administration, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the body charged with the planning and development of the project, was split over the issue of which message the museum was to communicate. The Council was divided into two camps, one which wished to emphasize the specifically Jewish aspect of the Holocaust, the other which sought to convey a more universal theme it thought would increase its relevance to non-Jewish visitors. Less than a month before its opening, Harvey Meyerhoff and William Lowenberg, chairman and vice chairman of the council respectively (and both aligned with the universal camp), were forced to resign under pressure from the new Clinton administration. Meyerhoff and Lowenberg, appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, had opposed extending an invitation to speak at the opening ceremony to President of Israel Chaim Herzog. President Bill Clinton wanted the participation of Herzog, and saw the disagreement as an opportunity to relieve the two Republicans. They were replaced by Miles Lerman and Ruth Mandel. The two new heads sought to place more a Jewish emphasis on the institution that included its closing on Yom Kippur, in addition to Christmas.
The dedication ceremony for the museum in 1993, attended by President Clinton, was marred by controversy over the presence of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Tudjman, author of Wastelands – Historical Truth (1988), in which he attributed the accounting of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis to "too much on both emotional, biased testimonies and on exaggerated data in the postwar reckonings of war crimes," was also known to have made antisemitic remarks in public, including the statement that Jews are "selfish, crafty, unreliable, miserly and underhanded." The author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel publicly criticized Tudjman's participation in the event. The controversy was partially tempered by the visit to the museum of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was, in fact, the institution's first official visitor.
A third major American Holocaust center, New York City's A Living Memorial to the Holocaust – *Museum of Jewish Heritage, opened in 1994 on a plot of land situated on the waterfront in Battery Park City, directly opposite the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Construction of the museum had been postponed for many years, partly due to complicated lease negotiations with the municipality. This long-term project was initiated in 1981 when then Mayor Edward I. *Koch appointed a Holocaust Memorial Task Force (later a commission) to begin work to create such an institution.
Next, five years after a Jerusalem court sentenced John Demjanjuk (alleged to be "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka) to death and placed him in solitary confinement, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 1993 there was not enough evidence to convict him. Demjanjuk subsequently returned to the United States, where a lengthy judicial process produced "clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence" of his service in Nazi death camps and in 2005 the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled he could be stripped of his American citizenship. Demjanjuk's lawyers appealed the court's decision, arguing that "having marked Mr. Demjanjuk with blood scent, the [United States] government wants to drop him into a shark tank." Chief U.S. Immigration Judge Michael J. Creppy asserted there was no evidence, however, to substantiate Demjanjuk's claim he would be mistreated if deported to his native Ukraine. Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fischer stated: "The chief immigration judge's decision reaffirms the important principle that the United States will continue to track down and remove individuals who assisted the Nazis in their brutal campaign of terror, and secure a measure of justice on behalf of the Nazis' victims."
In 1994 Schindler's List, a feature film about German industrialist Oskar *Schindler, who was personally responsible for saving the lives of over a thousand Jews by employing them in his factory, opened to American audiences. The $23 million film production, conceived of and directed by Steven *Spielberg, was based on a book by Thomas Keneally. The worldwide critical and financial success of Schindler's List was unprecedented. The film won seven Oscar awards and generated revenues estimated at $300 million. Spielberg used some $50 million from the film's profits to establish The Righteous Persons Foundation. A second project was the creation of the *Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, with assets of over $30 million, which developed a state-of-the-art multi-media archive comprising in-depth interviews with Holocaust survivors as well as educational materials such as books, documentary films, and cd-roms.
In stark contrast to the widespread success of Schindler's List and the highly visible projects sponsored by Spielberg, throughout the 1990s Holocaust denial, the propagation of the argument and the dissemination of information minimizing the degree to which the Nazis persecuted the Jews during World War ii, including the denial of the Nazis' systematic mass murder of European Jewry, continued unabated in a variety of public arenas. For example, Holocaust denial activists made a special effort to target college campuses throughout the United States. The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (codoh), led by Bradley R. Smith, succeeded in placing full-page advertisements and op-ed pieces in dozens of college newspapers. One ad was entitled "The Holocaust: How Much is False? The Case for Open Debate." A second, published in the spring of 1992 was called "Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus… the 'Human Soap' Holocaust Myth." A widely reprinted essay that first appeared in 1993 was "A Revisionist's View on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, d.c.," which argued that the homicidal Nazi gas chambers never existed. The appearance of these materials engendered great media attention followed by an immediate backlash of criticism from students, faculty, the local Jewish community and national Jewish organizations. The scholar Deborah E. Lipstadt documented the extent of this campaign in Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993). Meanwhile, as part of its "Confronting Antisemitism Project," the Anti-Defamation League launched a Web site titled "Holocaust Denial: An Online Guide to Exposing and Combating Anti-Semitic Propaganda," which aimed to make available information to counter Holocaust denial claims and expose the activities of "career antisemites" including Willis Allison Carto, David *Irving, Ingrid Rimland, Bradley R. Smith, Mark Weber, and Ernst Zundel.
The explosion of interest in Holocaust history reached something of a fever pitch with the publication in 1996 of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners. In this highly provocative work, Goldhagen advanced the argument that ordinary Germans not only knew about the Hitler regime's efforts to exterminate the Jews but were predisposed to accept the Nazi worldview owing to a unique and virulent "eliminationist" strain of antisemitism endemic to German culture. The book generated a firestorm of controversy in academic circles and, at the same time, became an international bestseller. Virtually overnight, Goldhagen became a familiar figure on national television and on the lecture circuit throughout the United States and Europe. He was also attacked by many established Holocaust scholars who challenged his findings and questioned his research, including Yehuda *Bauer, Christopher *Browning, Saul Friedman, and Fritz Stern.
Critics of American Jewry's seemingly inexhaustible fascination with the Holocaust charged that the success of phenomena like the film Schindler's List, the Goldhagen volume, and even the opening of Holocaust museums and memorials in different parts of the country illustrated American Jewry's base impulses and lack of a substantive grasp of world and Jewish history. They further argued the Holocaust itself was being exploited by many American Jews for contemporary political and social purposes, including shielding Israel from public criticism and offering a temporary salve to those who feared the weakening of American Jewish identity. The historian Peter Novick articulated this view in a controversial book titled The Holocaust in American Life (1999). Novick's detractors, however, averred that although The Holocaust in American Life was painstakingly researched, its scholarly value was undermined by the author's "evident distaste for the idea of Jewish distinctiveness and his commitment to a universalistic political agenda."
Parallel to the public debates described above were the highly visible Holocaust restitution efforts which began in the early 1990s and assumed special intensity between 1995 and the turn of the centuries. Concerted efforts were made during these years to address the restitution and compensation claims of Holocaust survivors worldwide, a group estimated to be as high as 935,000 individuals. The main actors in the drama surrounding compensation for survivors of the Holocaust were the Claims Conference, the World Jewish Restitution Organization, and the World Jewish Congress. As a result of varied legal efforts that emanated from different corners of the globe, this triad was quickly enlarged to include a broad range of American and European officials as well as class action lawyers. Stuart *Eizenstat represented the U.S. government for much of the period in question. Working closely with Israel Singer and Edgar M. Bronfman, Sr., of the World Jewish Congress as well as other American Jewish leaders, Eizenstat sought to navigate a complex array of legal, diplomatic, economic, and political issues while negotiating competing claims made by European governments, insurance companies, and banks – particularly Swiss banks – and even Bank Leumi, the Israeli successor to the Anglo-Palestine Bank, and the Jewish National Fund. Between 1998 and 2001, more than $6.5 billion in restitution settlements were concluded for Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Nazi regime. Even so, there remained considerable debate about the status of formerly Jewish-owned individual and communal properties in central and eastern Europe as well as works of art plundered by the Nazis. The relative success of the aforementioned compensation and restitution efforts could not, of course, erase or dim the impact of the catastrophic destruction of European Jewry by the Nazis during World War ii. Speaking before the third international conference on the Holocaust in Stockholm in 2000, which focused on the theme of Holocaust education and remembrance, Eizenstat emphasized the enduring importance of efforts to come to terms with the Holocaust:
We have been dealing heavily with the restitution of assets, trying to bring some measure of justice to surviving victims in everything from communal property to art to Swiss bank accounts to German slave and forced labor and insurance. These are all important and we are making progress in each of those areas. The significance of this historically important conference is that it begins, as we enter a new century, to move us away from what is important and immediate – money and assets – to what is enduring and lasting – memory and education. Financial restitution, while critical, cannot be the last word on the Holocaust. This conference assures [that] education, remembrance, and research will be.
Fifty years after World War ii and the Holocaust, the issues and controversies outlined above surfaced with dramatic intensity and had a profound impact on American Jewry. In part, the flurry of American Jewish commemorative, artistic, scholarly, and restitution activity, which followed in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse and the end of the Cold War, signaled the end of an era. Hitherto inaccessible archives in eastern and central Europe poured forth information about the assets of hundred of thousands of Holocaust victims, including survivors and their heirs who now lived in the United States. The turn of the centuries also proved to be a juncture for widespread communal and national introspection – in Europe and America. As the generation of war-era survivors began to fade, American Jews vigorously pursued avenues for preserving the memory and legacy of European Jewry and securing material compensation for Holocaust survivors worldwide.
Many of the controversies highlighted here have yet to dissipate; some of the disputes will probably never be resolved. Meanwhile, popular and scholarly interest in Holocaust studies, literature, films, documentaries, museums, memorials, and financial restitution continues unabated. According to the directory of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, by the year 2005 dozens of institutions in the United States were officially classified as Holocaust museums and the organization itself had a combined membership of over a hundred affiliated agencies, institutes, and educational operations. In addition, numerous resource centers, libraries, and archives, from Maine to Hawaii, offer seminars and workshops, operate speakers bureaus, collect and categorize historical documents, record and classify oral histories, organize commemoration ceremonies, and sponsor academic research and essay contests on the subject of the Holocaust. Many of the latter were established under Jewish communal auspices, with support from local and state government agencies. Some are also the beneficiaries of funding recovered as a result of Holocaust restitution efforts.
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union constituted a distinct sub-population within the American Jewish community. According to the 1994 American Jewish Year Book, over 280,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union had immigrated to the United States since the mid-1960s. The waves of Russian Jewish migration generally fell into two periods: 1976–79 and 1989–92. A high point was reached in the years 1992 and 1993, for which the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (hias) reported the number of Russian Jewish immigrants to be 45,888 and 35,581, respectively. This movement was the immediate result of the breakdown of the Soviet regime, which also saw the emigration over half a million Jews to the State of Israel. The 1989 Lautenberg Amendment, named after Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of Pennsylvania, had eased the evidentiary requirements for refugees applying from certain countries. It permitted entry to the United States to individuals based on "persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." The Refugee Act of 1980, reauthorized in 1991, facilitated employment training and job placement, as well as English-language training, "in order to achieve economic self-sufficiency among refugees as quickly as possible." This law, combined with other legislation, made possible a variety of resettlement services to be offered to new Soviet Jewish immigrants. These services were primarily administered through the national network of Jewish organizations, including hias, local federations, and other local agencies.
The New York Association for New Americans (nyana), for example, was responsible for resettling over 30 percent of the Soviet Jewish immigrants to have arrived in the United States since 1990. The second largest community of former Soviet Jewish immigrants resided in Los Angeles, with other large new immigrant groups settling in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Miami. While short-term resettlement programs for former Soviet Jews won recognition both inside and outside the Jewish community, the immigrants' social and cultural integration into American Jewish life proved to be more of a challenge. After officially completing the resettlement process, relatively few sought affiliation with the Jewish community at large.
Unlike Russian Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Israelis residing permanently in the United States had, as a group, never been eligible for the package of resettlement services made available by the local Jewish community. Although seeking the bounty of America, Israelis were not recognized as refugees. Residing mainly in New York and Los Angeles, they succeeded in developing their own vibrant, Hebrew-speaking community life, separate from American Jews. While a number continued working for the organized Jewish community as supplementary, Sunday school, and day school teachers, in Jewish community centers, and summer camps, the majority found employment throughout all sectors of the economy. Many did not live in Jewish areas, and their children attended local American public schools.
A controversy with implications for Jewish philanthropy that arose within the social service field in this period concerned the large and increasing proportion of the Jewish émigrés from the Soviet Union who chose to settle in the United States rather than in Israel. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (hias) extended to them the usual assistance it gives to Jewish immigrants. To this the Jewish Agency took exception on the ground that it was discouraging settlement in Israel. The two bodies reached an agreement as to procedure to be followed in Vienna, the principal staging point, whereby hias would deal with the émigrés only after they had declined the Agency's persuasions to proceed to Israel. Still the majority opted to settle in the United States, and the Jewish Agency continued its pressure on hias to withhold assistance. Meanwhile, the controversy reached back to the local Federations, and in a few cases they were reported to have declined to assist Russian Jews settled in their midst. Ultimately, Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin in 1980 presented a compromise plan to the directors of the Council of Jewish Federations (cjf). The cjf accepted the greater part of the plan but rejected a directive to hias that it assist only those émigrés with close relatives in the United States. Twelve months later hias acceded to further requests from the Jewish Agency to curtail its assistance to Russian émigrés, but by this time the flow from Russia had diminished to a trickle.
zionism and israel
The 1980s was a period in which the relationship between American Jews and Israel underwent measurable change, characterized by the disenchantment on the part of many American Jews with Israel's image and a willingness to publicly criticize Israel for adopting policies and actions perceived to be detrimental to itself or the Jewish people. Many identify the ascendancy of Begin and the rightwing Likud-led coalition government in 1977 as the beginning of this change. Begin's ideology and rhetoric, especially his desire to secure the borders of "Greater Israel," were viewed by many American Jews as jingoistic and provocative. His successor, Yitzhak Shamir, bore the same political ideology.
After nearly a decade of unflagging admiration and support, the aura surrounding the State of Israel began to dim. Research findings from this period indicate a steady decline in interest in Israel among American Jews, particularly among individuals under the age of 40. Nevertheless, it was also apparent that despite external circumstances, which could and did alter the American Jewish landscape in important ways, American Jewry's fundamental attitude to Israel was one of unconditional support. Put another way, the erosion of Arab intransigence over making peace with Israel, which exacerbated rifts in Israeli society, weakened the disposition of American Jews to sublimate or mask criticisms of Israeli policy. As the scholar Melvin I. Urofsky observed in this period, despite "deep divisions… over the wisdom of [the Begin government's] diplomatic and settlement policies" relations between American Jews and Israel were "strained yet still intact." Such an assessment could hardly have been made in the 1970s when it appeared the divisions referred to obtained mainly in intellectual circles but were not reflected in the alignment of organizations. With the passage of Israel's Golan Heights law, however, a new juncture was reached. Now, as Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, chairman of the Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations reported, there was "no unanimity… among American Jewish leaders" on matters of Israeli policy.
In addition to the Likud government's extensive settlement program in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, other issues and events that led to this change included Israel's bombing of Iraq's atomic reactor in June 1981, the extension of Israeli law to the Golan Heights in December 1981, the bombing of Beirut and Israel's indirect role in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp massacres during the 1982 Lebanon War, the sale of arms to Iran prior to the Irangate scandal, Israel's military and commercial ties to South Africa's apartheid government, the emergence of the still unresolved and highly charged "Who is a Jew?" issue, and Israel's role as portrayed in the media during the Palestinian Intifada. Certain American Jewish intellectuals were among the most critical of Israel's policies and actions.
Especially upsetting from the point of view of American Jews, and the only issue to have brought about a direct confrontation between the American Jewish community and the government of Israel, was the revival of the "Who is a Jew?" controversy. Although the roots of the argument lay in internal Israeli political developments going back to the beginning of the state, a string of events reignited the crisis at the end of 1988 and brought about the direct involvement of American Jewish leaders. The two contenders for the Israel premiership, Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres, after the general elections were angling for the support of ultra-religious parties who stipulated the condition that Israeli law would be changed to recognize as Jews only those who underwent conversion under the auspices of an Orthodox rabbi in accordance with halakhah (traditional Jewish law).
Employing a Washington, d.c.–style lobbying effort, American Jews flew to Israel and met personally with government ministers, members of the Knesset, academicians, heads of industry, and the arts. The professional and lay heads of federations and other major American Jewish organizations came to state emphatically that any change in Israeli law would bring about the spiritual and possibly the physical alienation of American Jews from the State of Israel. In exchange for other concessions, the religious parties demanding this amendment agreed not to insist on their demand. A new government led by the Likud party was formed and the "Who is a Jew?" law was not amended.
In a controversial March 1987 op-ed article that appeared in the Washington Post the Judaica scholar Jacob *Neusner wrote: "It's time to say that America is a better place to be a Jew than Jerusalem." In addition to concern over the general instability of the region and Israel's external and internal political dilemmas, Neusner was disappointed that the Jewish State had not proven to be the world center of Jewish spirituality, scholarship, art, or literature. The Jewish community in the United States, he felt, had equal claim to that title.
The psychological gap between American and Israeli Jews was experienced in both directions, particularly during the 1991 Gulf War. While American Jews identified with the threat posed to Israel to the point of experiencing personal anguish, Israelis reported feeling abandoned by American Jews. As noted in the Jerusalem Report in 1992: "From August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait… through March 1991, Israel lost a full 500,000 tourists, as compared to the year before… most of the drop was among American Jewish visitors; tourism from Europe and Christian America remained more or less stable."
The start of large-scale immigration from the U.S.S.R. in 1989 and its continuation after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 increased Israel's population by some 400,000 by 1992 and gave a significant boost to Israel-Diaspora relations. Many of the new Russian immigrants were academicians and scientists with backgrounds in applied research, as well as a number of other professionals and entrepreneurs. As a result of initiatives taken by Israel, attempts at economic partnership between both private and communal American Jewish sources and the Jewish state began to develop alongside traditional philanthropic projects. Sensitive to the negative effects on Israel-diaspora relations which would inevitably result from a string of business failures, American Jewish investors developed a broad range of carefully researched investment opportunities, from startup incubator schemes, to the privatization of government-run concerns, to creating new partnerships within large, established corporations. One example was the "strategic alliance model" developed by the Jewish community of Boston. This program was based on the principle of allocating about 20 percent of funds raised for Israel to help create partnerships between Israeli hi-tech firms and their Massachusetts counterparts.
At the outset of 1992, pro-Israel activists were torn over how to respond to the President George H.W. Bush's insistence on linking approval of Israel's request for $10 billion in loan guarantees from the United States to a complete freeze on the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel was requesting the guarantees in order to secure $10 billion of credit on the international loan market needed for the absorption of the recent large wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir declared that none of the money secured through the loan guarantees would be used to support settlement expansion. However, as Shamir's detractors pointed out, including those within the American Jewish community, the money would most likely be used to free funds from Israel's own treasury for support of West Bank settlement.
Liberal organizations, such as the American Jewish Congress, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the Jewish community relations councils of Milwaukee and Detroit, supported the idea of a total freeze. Conservative groups, such as Americans for a Safe Israel and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, felt that to back the U.S. administration's demands would jeopardize Israel's future security. While Americans for Peace Now and the Jewish Peace Lobby condemned "the settlements" and publicly advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian controversy, other Jewish organizations such as the National Council of Jewish Women and the Zionist Organization of America, stood behind Israeli government policies and its application for the loan guarantees. aipac implemented a particularly vigorous public relations campaign over the issue. It was not until mid-August 1992, after Labor leader Yitzhak Rabin had succeeded Shamir as prime minister and announced a gradual halt to the construction of new West Bank settlements, that Israel and the United States announced an agreement on the basic principles that would allow the loan guarantees to proceed. Next, in a speech before B'nai B'rith, Bush announced he would recommend to Congress that it approve Israel's $10 billion loan guarantee request.
Jewish opinion of the Bush administration's overall record on Israel was mixed. On the one hand, the United States played a vital role in the May 1991 airlift operation of nearly 14,200 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in Operation Solomon. On the other hand, some American Jews resented the constraints placed on Israel by the United States during the Gulf War, which prevented Israel's air force from retaliating against Iraq for bombarding Israel with scud missiles. The relationship between the American Jewish community and the Bush administration ended rather poorly, mainly because of the loan guarantees struggle.
The return to power in 1992 of Israel's Labor party under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin and the election that November of Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton ushered in a new era in Israel-American relations. As a result of these twin victories, American Jews were faced with a new situation. The government of Israel was now dovish instead of hawkish. Israel's new leaders were willing to negotiate for a settlement in far reaching terms, something their predecessors would never consider. Second, Israel's position towards the plo confused many American Jews, who for decades knew the organization to be a ruthless terrorist group. One American Orthodox rabbi described the dilemma as a "psychological issue." "People have been told for twenty years the plo is out of bounds," he explained. "You can't expect them to turn on a dime." Meanwhile, Clinton, who lacked George H.W. Bush's patrician background, was closer to the Jews generally and warmer to the Jewish state. The Clinton administration immediately embraced the peace process undertaken by the Rabin government, and it was felt that the tensions and strains that characterized recent American-Israel relations would now cease. Even so, a small but influential group of American Jewish public intellectuals spoke out against the policies of the new Rabin government and Clinton administration. These included, among others, Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz and former New York Times editor A.M. *Rosenthal. Podhoretz saw the peace process as a trap that, sooner or later, would lead Israel into a war in a diminished capacity.
Although the number of active pro-Israel American Jews was but a small percentage of the total Jewish population, both the Likud and Labor parties maintained supporters in the United States. The Labor party established a new organization, the Israel Policy Forum, to promote its policies. Its American-based Friends of Labor Israel, was set up outside the umbrella American Zionist Federation to raise funds for the party. Likud also had an American Friends organization and but continued to rely especially on the support of the mainstream Zionist Organization of America. Polls showed that over 60 percent of American Jews were more optimistic about the chances for peace in the Middle East as a result of Rabin's election.
Like most of the world, American Jews were surprised to hear in 1993 that secret talks taking place in Oslo between representatives of his government and the plo had resulted in an historic agreement. According to its terms, Israel would hand over Gaza and Jericho where the Palestinians would create the first two autonomous self-rule areas. According to the New York Times, most American Jews reacted to the news with "a kind of hard-headed optimism, a feeling that recognition of the plo and establishing relations with its leader, Yasser Arafat, [was] risky but promising." A minority felt that recognizing the plo and its leader in spite of its record of terror was wrong.
On September 13, 1993, Rabin and Arafat were brought together on the White House lawn by President Bill Clinton to sign an accord of mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (plo). A community survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee found that in the weeks following, some 90 percent of American Jews felt the Israel-plo agreement to be a "positive development from Israel's point of view," with 57 percent favoring the establishment of a Palestinian state and 30 percent opposed. That summer, Rabin urged American Jewish leaders to complete the $1.2 billion Operation Exodus campaign intended to underwrite the resettlement costs of Jews from the former Soviet Union. No longer perceived as vulnerable or besieged, American Jews deployed the "Israel's Risks for Peace" campaign.
One of the most shocking news items of 1994, while ostensibly an internal Israeli affair, had a distinctively American Jewish angle. Early in the morning on the holiday of Purim, which fell on February 25, a Jewish physician and resident of the community of Kiryat Arba, entered the Cave of the Patriarchs in the adjacent city of Hebron and opened fire with an automatic rifle on a large group of Moslem worshipers. Twenty-nine Muslims died from their wounds and the physician, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, was killed on the spot by the enraged crowd. The fact that Goldstein was an American Jew was strongly emphasized in all media coverage of the event. American Jewish organizations, who swiftly and unconditionally condemned the massacre, took pains to distance Goldstein from the mainstream Jewish community. Nevertheless, Goldstein's deed raised the issue, both in Israel and the United States, of the seemingly disproportionate number of American-Jewish immigrants in Israel involved in extremist political groups such as Kach and Kahane Chai.
Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi *Beilin surprised Jews around the world, but particularly American Jews, with remarks he made before a wizo convention held in Jerusalem in January 1994. Beilin claimed that the State of Israel was financially self-sufficient and no longer dependent on charity from Diaspora communities. Diaspora fundraising efforts, he argued, would be better directed towards local Jewish education. In reacting to Beilin's remarks, Rabin characterized them as "brainless," noting: "If Israel could not ask diaspora Jews for money, how could it ask the [non-Jewish] American taxpayer?"
In 1994, after more than four years, the absorption of 500,000 new immigrants, and nearly $900 million in aid, the United Jewish Appeal's Operation Exodus officially came to a close. Funds from Operation Exodus were used to help Jews immigrate to Israel from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. The campaign was launched in 1990, with an original three-year goal of $420 million needed for an estimated 200,000 immigrants. When 185,000 new immigrants arrived in 1990, the goal of the campaign was doubled. The $910 million actually raised, fell just short of the campaign's declared goal of $1 billion.
American Jews were shocked in 1995 by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak *Rabin, who was murdered by Yigal Amir, a right-wing zealot, at a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Rabin's murder led to a series of major political shifts, including the election in 1996 of a Likud coalition under Binyamin *Netanyahu, an opponent of the Oslo process. The Netanyahu government agreed in principle to fulfill Israel's negotiated commitments, starting with the redeployment of Israeli troops from Hebron, but meanwhile insisted on the Palestinian Authority's full compliance with the terms of the Oslo agreement. As a result, the peace process now entered a period of protracted stagnation. Accusations of non-compliance were compounded by sporadic Palestinian violence and ultimately led in 2000 to a second Intifada (Palestinian uprising). The rapid deterioration in Israel-Palestinian relations resulted in widespread despair among the Israeli public and dampened the spirits of the American Jewish community. The crisis resulted in yet another dramatic shift on the Israeli political scene and the consequent victory in 2000 of Labor leader Ehud *Barak, a highly decorated war hero and former chief of staff. Despite the country's overwhelming support for Barak and his commitment to advancing the peace process, he lacked the political experience and steady hand of Rabin, his predecessor and role model. Moreover, the Palestine Authority under Yasser Arafat proved powerless if not unwilling to stem the tide of Palestinian terrorist violence directed at Israel, including the seemingly endless cycle of suicide bombings aimed at border checkpoints and Israel's major urban centers – much of which was clandestinely financed and supported by hostile Arab regimes in the region and the militant Hamas organization. Following a series of delicate and unsuccessful negotiations brokered by the Clinton administration between Israel and Syria, Barak turned his full attention to reaching a swift and final agreement with the Palestinians. Owing to numerous obstacles, Barak's efforts were, in practice, stillborn and he quickly lost his public support and his hold on power.
At the turn of the 20th century, the context for the Israel- Palestinian conflict underwent a shift to the right and a major sea change. Against the backdrop of the election of President George W. Bush in the United States, the landslide victory of Likud leader Ariel *Sharon in Israel, and the 9/11 attacks, Israel publicly adopted a new three-pronged strategy vis-à-vis the Palestinians. First, the new Sharon government sought to increase pressure on the Palestine Authority and drive forward its signed commitments to peace and security by exerting economic and political pressure on the Palestinian leadership, including the isolation of Yasser Arafat. Second, the Likud coalition, with the support of the Labor party, unilaterally initiated the redeployment of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and, where necessary, forcibly removed Jewish settlers from settlements in the occupied territories. Finally, the government built a separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian lands – some of which was reconfigured after the Israeli Supreme Court determined certain sections of the barrier to be in violation of Palestinian rights – and in this way sought to ensure Israel's territorial integrity while safeguarding the country from further terrorist attacks and strengthening its hold on borders established since the June 1967 war, including its sovereignty over Jerusalem and the surrounding metropolitan region.
A striking result of this process was the transformation of American Jewry's attitude toward Sharon himself, once vilified by those on the American Jewish left and even many centrists as a dangerous right-wing fanatic, and now rehabilitated as a warrior-turned-elder statesman – much like Rabin before him. Indeed, American Jews proved largely supportive of Sharon's policies and diplomatic maneuvers, a combination that was, in essence, a continuation and extension of the semi-transparent strategy first implemented under Rabin a decade earlier. Having closely followed the waxing and waning of Israel-Arab relations in the recent past, a majority of American Jews responded favorably to Sharon's pragmatic and bold leadership which seemed to vouchsafe Israel's interests while neither ignoring the reality of the Palestinian situation nor extending the reach of the Jewish state in a way that exceeded its grasp. As noted in the memoir of Middle East envoy Dennis *Ross, chief peace negotiator in the presidential administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and arguably the most significant American Jewish figure in U.S. diplomacy since Henry Kissinger, Sharon's approach was a pro-active and rational response to an ineluctable and historic dilemma faced by Israel which had evolved since the very establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.
Partition was bound to happen at some point. For Yitzhak Rabin, who understood both the demographic and security arrangements for partition, his preference was to produce it through agreement with the Palestinians. But he was prepared to "separate" from the Palestinians if agreement was not possible. Prime Minister Sharon, though a pronounced opponent of building a separation fence when Yitzhak Rabin first proposed it in 1995 and Ehud Barak reintroduced it after the outbreak of the Intifada, has now become a proponent of both the fence and the concept of disengagement. Partly, he has been driven by the security reality: The fence around Gaza has proven effective in preventing suicide attacks into Israel from Gaza… Small wonder, therefore, that 83 percent of the Israeli public favors the building of a comparable fence or barrier on the West Bank… For Sharon and other leaders [on the Israeli right], the issue is no longer whether to build the fence, but where to do so… That is why Ehud Olmert has spoken about withdrawing from 80–85 percent of the West Bank unilaterally…
The congruence of the Rabin and Sharon pragmatic policies helps to explain why the Anti-Defamation League's 2005 Survey of American Attitudes toward Israel and the Middle East found that 67 percent of Americans generally supported the Sharon government's policy of disengagement. As well, the American Labor Zionist group Ameinu conducted a separate poll in the same year which demonstrated that 62 percent of American Jews supported Sharon's plan for disengagement. "In the context of a peace agreement," the Ameinu report explained, "42 percent thought Israel should be willing to withdraw from most Jewish settlements in the West Bank – even though only 24 percent believe most Palestinians are willing to live in peace next to the Jewish state, and 70 percent believe the Palestinians will continue terrorist attacks even if a peace agreement is reached."
Since the Persian Gulf War of 1991, American Jews watched anxiously as Israel, the Palestinians, and the neighboring Arab countries entered new and uncharted territory. What was once unthinkable in the Middle East barely a few decades ago has become a matter of established precedent and each hopeful episode in the troubled Arab-Israeli peace process has in general been accompanied by an upswing in American Jewish support for Israel's bold diplomatic and political moves. Starting with the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, where Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir participated in unprecedented direct negotiations with Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinians and continuing with the Declaration of Principles in 1993, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994, and Interim Agreement with the Palestinians in 1995, and the Wye River Memorandum of 1998, American Jews have consistently supported the emergent Rabin-Sharon strategy-in-the-making. Following Sharon's sudden illness and departure from the political scene, it appears that Ehud *Olmert and a new generation of Israeli political leaders will continue on this path. To be sure, Israeli policies and methods frequently provoke considerable controversy among diverse American Jewish circles and American Zionist groups. Nonetheless, since the 1990s the majority of American Jews have consistently responded favorably to Israel's notion of "land for peace" and the ensuing prospects for a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israel conflict. Today, it is widely believed that the issue of Israel's survival, which dominated much of the American Jewish agenda from 1967 to 1991, will soon be consigned to the past, like the Cold War itself.
"American Jewish history weds together two great historical traditions: one Jewish, dating back to the Patriarchs, the prophets, and the rabbis of the Talmud, the other American, dating back to the Indians, Columbus, and the heroes of the Revolution. Bearing the imprint of both, it nevertheless forms a distinctive historical tradition of its own, now more than three centuries old. It is a tradition rooted in ambivalence, for American Jews are sometimes pulled in two different directions at once. Yet it is also unified by a common vision, the quest to be fully a Jew and fully an American, both at the same time. It is closely tied to Jews worldwide, and just as closely tied to Americans of other faiths. It is perpetuated generation after generation by creative men and women, who grapple with the tensions and paradoxes inherent in American Jewish life, and fashion from them what we know as the American Jewish experience – a kaleidoscope of social, religious, cultural, economic, and political elements that makes up the variegated, dynamic world of the American Jew."
Jonathan D. Sarna, The American Jewish Experience (1986).
It is, perhaps, a commonplace observation that almost any statement made about the Jewish condition in North America and its opposite are both true. On the one hand, much of the data collected on American Jews in the past quarter century reveals high levels of apathy, assimilation, and indifference to Jewish values and observance. At best, no more than 50 percent of the American Jewish population in this period has been directly involved in any form of organized communal or religious life. At the same time, the general opening up of American society since the mid-20th century for all minorities contributed significantly to the opening up of American Jewish life. Merit and achievement have generally taken precedence over other factors and enabled Jews to rise quickly in a variety of professions, especially those requiring advanced academic training. In fact, never before in the history of Jewish civilization has there been a Jewish community with more affluence, influence, and access to the highest levels of government, business, and the professions. Virtually, no barriers exist at the present time to the most elite levels of American business, law, or government. Nor have there ever been so many American Jews involved in such a variety of well funded Jewish-sponsored communal frameworks, including hospitals, social welfare agencies, retirement homes, day schools, summer camps, Israel programs, college-level studies in Judaica, and so on. In a word, American Jewish life is arguably one of the most robust voluntary and self-sustaining ethnic-communal frameworks in contemporary American society.
Today, the American Jewish community covers a continent with numerous major communities of substantial numbers as well as hundreds of smaller-sized communities consisting of from a handful to several hundreds of families. The last one hundred years have witnessed the wide scale migration of the American Jewish population from inner city ghettos to vast sprawling suburban areas and back again to many center-city now-gentrified neighborhoods. From the Northeast, where almost half the total Jewish population once resided in New York City, there has been a massive relocation to the sun belt, where communities such as southern Florida and southern California now boast populations of more than half a million Jews each, most of whom have settled there in the past 50 years.
With tap roots in centuries of Jewish history and top roots in the American experience, contemporary American Jewry presently stands at a crossroads. Free to participate in the social, religious, and political fabric of American life as no other western Jewry before it, American Jews – individually and collectively – can decide to strengthen their communal bonds or loosen them, to shore up the larger community's sense of cohesion or allow it to dissipate. As the historical record suggests, the antipodes of engagement and disengagement have long demarcated much of the American Jewish experience. But it is also evident that American Jewry has emerged from its history in the New World largely intact and enriched. In each phase of its development, American Jewry has discerned possibilities and created opportunities for negotiating the delicate balance of modern life in an open society – that is, calibrating oneself and one's community to the requirements of living as a Jew and as an American. This tension is arguably a fundamental component of life in a pluralistic democratic society.
It is not the task of this study to predict "Wither American Jewish life?" or determine whether it is "good for the Jews or bad for the Jews" to sustain their tribal identity in America of the 21st century. These are, to be sure, vitally important questions and they have been raised here owing to their centrality in the American Jewish public arena. But the "answers" to such questions, which surely warrant serious and thoughtful deliberation, go well beyond the scope of an historical analysis such as this. It is clear, however, that American Jewry is a dynamic and multidimensional creature with considerable intrinsic talents and material resources. Possessed of the capacity to enrich Jewish life even as it enlarges America's bounty, American Jewry boasts a remarkable history of success and legacy of achievement. How present and future generations of American Jews will be informed and shaped by this inheritance and will, in turn, seek to determine their destiny remains to be seen.
In 1811 Rabbi Gershon Mendes Seixas of New York wrote that "The United States is, perhaps, the only place where the Jews have not suffered persecution, but have, on the contrary, been encouraged and indulged in every right of citizens." While it is true that American antisemitism never attained the virulence and baneful consequences of European antisemitism, it is equally clear that an undercurrent of anti-Jewish prejudice, sometimes open, more often subtle, has existed throughout the history of the United States.
The early colonial settlers in America brought with them the old stereotype of the Jew as the mysterious outsider, heretic, and despoiler. These prejudices, however, were rarely translated into direct anti-Jewish actions. The very first Jewish settlers in New Amsterdam in 1654 did face an immediate threat when Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor, attempted to expel them. Overruled by the Dutch West India Company, Stuyvesant was forced to grant them the right of residency, and by 1657 they were granted the status of burghers. Nevertheless, the Jews remained in effect second-class burghers even after the British took control of New York. Although economic rights were secured by the end of the seventeenth century, political rights were not fully granted throughout the colonial period.
The need for immigrants, particularly those with economic skills, and the growing ethnic and religious diversity of the American colonies were powerful factors counteracting traditional prejudices. Still, each colony had an established church and, consequently, Jews, Catholics, and Protestant dissenters were all subject to discrimination. In 1658 Jacob Lumbrozo, a physician, the first Jewish settler in Maryland, was charged with blasphemy in that colony, but the prosecution was never completed. In no colony, however, were Jews physically harmed for religious motives, as were Quakers and Baptists, and no 18th-century law was enacted for the sole purpose of disabling Jews. Colonial American Jewry achieved a considerable degree of economic success and social integration, and intermarriage was frequent by the mid-18th century.
Anti-Jewish prejudice during the period from independence until the Civil War, while present in the form of the persistent Shylock image and related stereotypes, did not seriously impinge on the rights of the relatively small Jewish community. The 1840s and 1850s saw a fairly large immigration of German Jews, but by 1860 there were still fewer than 200,000 Jews in a population of 30,000,000. The invisibility of the Jews, the availability of other targets of discrimination, the all-absorbing slavery issue, and the rapid economic growth of the country combined to reduce the possible development of any real group antagonism based on latent prejudice. The Know-Nothing movement of the 1850s and other nativist phenomena of the pre-Civil War era concentrated their ire on Catholics, not Jews.
Still, there were occasional outbursts of antisemitism. The political strife between Federalists and Republicans at the turn of the 18th century produced a noticeable outpouring of slurs upon Jews who were Jeffersonian partisans. A Federalist in New York condemned the local Democratic-Republican Society by saying that they all seemed to be "of the tribe of Shylock." In 1809 Jacob Henry was at first refused a seat in the North Carolina House of Commons to which he had been elected, but was eventually seated by a legal subterfuge. Mordecai M. Noah, one of the outstanding Jewish figures of this period, was recalled in 1815 by Secretary of State James Monroe from his post as U.S. consul in Tunis because his faith allegedly interfered with the performance of his duties. In 1820, the editor of a prominent magazine, the Niles Weekly Register, wrote that the Jews "create nothing" and act "as if they had a home no where." Uriah P. Levy, an officer in the United States Navy, was subjected to several courts-martial, partly due to anti-Jewish prejudice. Jews were concerned also with questions of church-state relations, including the vexing problem of public school education. Yet these incidents and remarks cannot be construed as evidence of significant antisemitism; Henry was seated, Levy was acquitted and restored to rank, and the editor of the Niles Weekly Register, while critical, urged equal rights for Jews.
The first substantial and open antisemitic agitation in the United States was evidenced during the Civil War (1861–65). The economic dislocations and frayed tempers of this critical period released prejudices that had slumbered below the surface. Both in the North and in the South, Jews were accused by some newspapers and political leaders of aiding the enemy, smuggling, profiteering, draft dodging, and speculating. Almost every political opponent of Judah P. Benjamin, the Confederate secretary of state, made unflattering references to his Jewishness. Among the prominent figures who displayed antisemitic tendencies were Generals William T. Sherman and Benjamin F. Butler, Parson William Brownlow, Congressman Henry S. Foote, and Senator Henry Wilson. The major antisemitic incident of the war originated with General Ulysses S. Grant. In what has been called the most sweeping anti-Jewish regulation in all American history, Grant, in his General Order No. 11, December 17, 1862, ordered the expulsion of all Jews "as a class" within 24 hours from the Department of the Tennessee, comprising parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. However, President Abraham Lincoln directed the revocation of Grant's order.
The unpleasant episodes of the Civil War years should not obscure the fact that the Jews of the United States were perhaps freer than Jews had ever been since their dispersion from Palestine. No price had been exacted from them in return for complete political emancipation, and the community flourished economically and religiously. Official or governmental discrimination on the European model was absent and systematic antisemitism did not exist. Beginning with the 1870s, however, antisemitism in the form of social discrimination was increasingly evident, and was accompanied by the development of ideological antisemitism. The refusal of accommodations to Joseph Seligman, a prominent New York Jewish banker, at the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs in the summer of 1877 drew widespread adverse comment in the public press, but it symbolized a growing tendency toward the exclusion of Jews from areas involving leisure-time facilities. Summer resort advertisements including statements such as "We prefer not to entertain Hebrews" were common after the 1880s. From the resorts, social discrimination worked back into the cities. Important social clubs, such as the Union League Club, barred Jewish members. Private schools were closed to Jewish children, and, in general, Jews were not welcome at any institution or association that conferred prestige and status. Behind the groundswell of social discrimination lay the profound social changes of the "Gilded Age" of the late 19th century. The older, elite white Protestant groups faced a growing struggle for their social status and power as their security was threatened by rapid industrialization and the rise of new middle- and upper-class elements, whom they regarded as crass nouveaux riches. Social discrimination thus served the dual purpose of keeping Jews "in their place" while enhancing and defining the social status of the older elite and the newer non-Jewish wealthy class.
During the turbulent and xenophobic decades that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, an ideological antisemitism began to appear as a by-product of American nativism and in response to the perceptible cultural gap between the older population and the massive numbers of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Men like Henry Adams, representing Eastern patrician intellectuals, and Ignatius Donnelly, representing Western agrarian radicals, while far apart in basic orientation, both viewed the Jew as conniving and grasping, and as the cause and symbol of their discontent. The anti- Jewish stereotype which emerged clearly during this period contained elements of the earlier Christian antisemitism, the Shylock image, the wielding of undue power through manipulation of gold, and an identification of Jews with the hated, feared city.
From 1881 to 1910, over 1,500,000 East European Jews arrived in the United States, and by 1925 there were close to 4,000,000 Jews in the country. Their very presence, the competition engendered by their rapid rise in economic status, and their pressure to achieve social integration lent credence to the anti-Jewish stereotype, sharpened antisemitic feelings, and confirmed a widespread system of social discrimination. For their part, Jews did not accept antisemitism without protest, especially when it appeared to involve public matters. Led by the older German Jewish community, American Jewry formed self-defense organizations, including the American Jewish Committee in 1906, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in 1913, and the American Jewish Congress in 1920.
One of the most serious issues faced by the Jewish community during the first quarter of the 20th century was the movement for restriction of immigration to the United States. Although there was no direct antisemitism reflected in the legislation resulting from restrictionism, it was clear that the intellectual fathers of the movement, such as Henry Cabot Lodge, Prescott Hall, John R. Commons, Henry Pratt Fair-child, and Edward A. Ross, considered Jewish immigration deleterious to the welfare of the nation. Ross, for example, predicted "riots and anti-Jewish legislation" if unrestricted immigration continued. Madison Grant, a thoroughgoing racist, condemned the Jews in his book The Passing of the Great Race (1916) for mongrelizing the nation. The campaign for immigration restriction reached its height after World War i when the nation reacted with horror at the prospect of unlimited immigration. Burton J. Hendrick, a well-known journalist, while disclaiming antisemitism, wrote a widely publicized attack on Jewish immigration in 1923, as did Kenneth Roberts, a popular novelist. The ultimate result of the restrictionist movement – the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 – established a national origins quota system that discriminated heavily against South and East European immigration. Although antisemitism was not the primary motivation for restrictionism, it was a useful propaganda weapon and, subtly, became enshrined in American legislation for over 40 years.
The first-class citizenship of American Jews was indirectly challenged during the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the general refusal of Tsarist Russia to issue visas to American Jews and its mistreatment of those who did receive them. American Jewry, led by Jacob H. Schiff and Louis Marshall of the American Jewish Committee, argued that tacit acceptance of this situation by the U.S. government constituted a slur on its full citizenship. Diplomatic pressure having failed, a determined and successful campaign was instituted in 1911 for the unilateral abrogation of the Russo-American Treaty of 1832. To Louis Marshall the victory symbolized "the removal of the last civil disabilities to which the Jews of this country have been subjected."
In 1913, however, American Jews were shocked when Leo Frank, a New York Jew who had relocated in Atlanta, Georgia to become manager of a pencil factory, was convicted of the slaying of one of his female employees. The evidence against Frank was flimsy and the trial, which unleashed fantasies of Jewish ritual murder and garnered widespread public attention, showcased the darkest racist and antisemitic tendencies of white southern Christian society. In the event, the circumstances surrounding Frank's trial and conviction reflected came to be viewed as a transparent example of mob antisemitism. In 1915, after the governor of Georgia stayed Frank's death sentence, a lynching party abducted Frank from jail and hanged him.
The emergence of overt antisemitism in the Frank case was a harbinger of an upsurge of anti-Jewish feeling, expression, and actions during the 1920s. The hatred of Jews was rooted both in older stereotypes and renewed economic antisemitism which was an element in the outlook of some of the Populists, the movement of protest against capitalism and monopoly that prevailed in southern and western states at the turn of the century. Jewish capital was identified with Wall Street financiers and oppression by the financial system of farmers and small businessmen. Some of the then young Populists, such as the later Senator Burton K. Wheeler from Montana, were to remain anti-Jewish on such economic grounds into the 1930s. Antisemitism did not involve all of Populism, but what there was of such prejudice represented its only appearance in American history within an important left-wing movement.
The artificially stimulated unity of World War i cracked under the impact of postwar disillusionment, and a sense of imminent danger from internal and external subversive forces seized the nation. The old way of life appeared to be disappearing under the onslaught of the foreign born, the city, the new moral relativism, and liberal religion. Many Americans adopted ideologies stressing coercive political and religious fundamentalism and sought scapegoats for the ills, real and imaginary, that beset them. Antisemitism was part of this reaction. Although incidents of antisemitism during America's participation in World War i were sporadic, a new wave of nativist nationalism gripped the land. Many German Jews, including America's elite Jewish patricians of Austrian and Bavarian extraction, outwardly disassociated from their central European past. Meanwhile, foreign radicalism, often associated with East European Jews, became the chief target in the postwar Red Scare of 1919–20. This alleged Jewish-Bolshevik nexus remained a permanent part of antisemitic propaganda.
The concern of Jews over these charges was heightened considerably by the appearance of an American edition of the spurious Protocols of the Elders of Zion in 1920, followed by a work based on it, The Cause of World Unrest. The basic message of these volumes was that the Bolshevik Revolution was Jewish in origin and part of an international Jewish conspiracy to destroy Christendom and dominate the world. Discredited by serious investigators, these libels nevertheless remained alive. In May 1920 The Dearborn Independent, a magazine owned and published by Henry Ford, the automobile magnate, launched an antisemitic propaganda campaign without precedent in the United States which lasted, with varying intensity, for almost seven years. Charging American Jews with a plot to subvert traditional American ways, Ford's propaganda found acceptance in rural areas and small towns, but met a negative reaction in the large urban areas and among leading American policy and opinion makers. Notwithstanding such condemnations as that of January 16, 1921, when a declaration, signed by 119 leading Americans, headed by President Woodrow Wilson and former president William Howard Taft, denounced the anti-Jewish calumnies, Ford's campaign continued unchecked until in 1927, under pressure of an unofficial consumer boycott and several lawsuits, Ford issued a public apology through Louis Marshall, head of the American Jewish Committee. However, the Protocols and The International Jew persisted as staple items in the arsenal of American antisemitism in succeeding decades. The stereotype of the international Jewish banker-Bolshevik had been superimposed on the earlier stereotype of anti-Christ, Shylock, and Rothschild.
The most significant expression of American nativism during the 1920s was the spectacular revival of the Ku Klux Klan which, at its height in 1924, counted over 4,000,000 members in all parts of the country. Although its primary targets in the defense of "one hundred percent Americanism" were Catholics and blacks, Klan leaders in their propaganda also included Jews as one of the chief obstacles to the preservation of the "real America." Thus, the Klan of the 1920s was the first substantial, organized mass movement in the U.S. that utilized antisemitism. Politically ineffective except as an adjunct to the immigration restriction movement, the Klan never proposed a specific anti-Jewish program, but sporadic boycotts of Jewish merchants and similar harassments did occur before the collapse of Klan power in the late 1920s.
Social discrimination reached new heights in the 1920s as Jews continued to be the most swiftly rising ethnic group in American society. Although Jewish leaders had obtained passage of a civil rights statute applying to places of public accommodation in New York in 1913, and subsequently in other states, exclusion of Jews from summer resorts and hotels continued unabated. Particularly galling to upper-class Jews was their exclusion from social clubs, both of the city and country types. As Jews began to leave the crowded immigrant quarters of the large cities, they tended to settle in concentrated areas, partly in response to residential discrimination. Jews with high incomes found themselves unwelcome in the fashionable sections of the cities and in many suburban developments.
The form of social discrimination that concerned Jews most directly occurred in higher education, which they sought in larger numbers and earlier than any other immigrant group as the key to economic and cultural advancement. Eastern colleges in particular were faced with increasing waves of Jewish students and reacted by establishing quota systems under a variety of guises. Once admitted, Jewish students often faced social aloofness and resistance, and responded by the formation of Jewish fraternities. Educational discrimination became a national issue in June 1922 when A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard College, announced that Harvard was considering a quota system for Jewish students. Jewish leaders reacted strongly to this open evidence of prejudice, and Lowell's proposal was rejected by a Harvard faculty committee in April 1923. Defeated in its most blatant form, the quota system survived at Harvard and at most other leading colleges indirectly through various underhanded techniques. In the meantime, Harvard itself would nonetheless come to boast a distinguish cohort of Jewish alumni who later assumed national prominence as jurists, physicians, scholars, and business leaders including Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Horace M. Kallen, Walter Lippman, Julian W. Mack, and Harry Wolfsohn.
Jews encountered considerable resistance as they attempted to move into white-collar and professional positions. Employers increasingly specified that Christians were preferred for office, sales, and executive positions. Banking, insurance, and public utilities firms were in the forefront of anti-Jewish prejudice. In medicine, the most ardently desired profession for Jews, there was a steady decline in the proportion of Jewish applicants accepted to medical schools during the 1920s and 1930s. In addition, Jewish doctors faced considerable difficulties in securing internships and staff positions in hospitals. Law schools did not discriminate against Jewish applicants, but Jewish lawyers were generally not accepted into large, well-established firms. Jews increasingly entered the teaching profession, especially where open, competitive examinations were required, but they were virtually excluded from faculty positions in American universities until after World War ii.
Antisemitism in the form of social discrimination continued during the 1930s, but the chief distinction of this decade was an upsurge of ideological and politically motivated antisemitism. The combined impact of the Great Depression, the hysterical hatred of opponents for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the triumph of Nazism in Germany produced an outpouring of antisemitic propaganda and scores of antisemitic organizations in the United States. The major themes of this agitation were drawn from reprints of The Protocols and Henry Ford's The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, repeating the old charges of a Jewish international conspiracy, to which was added alleged Jewish responsibility for the depression and Jewish control of the Roosevelt administration. Nazi-inspired antisemitism was disseminated by such groups as the Friends of New Germany and the German-American Bund. The latter never achieved wide membership and was discredited when its leader, Fritz Kuhn, was convicted of embezzlement. More serious was the revival of native American antisemitism of the fundamentalist, pseudo- agrarian type. Among the major figures were William Dudley Pelley, organizer of the Silver Shirts, Gerald Winrod, Gerald L.K. Smith, Gerald Deatherage and the Knights of the White Camelia, and Major General George van Horn Moseley.
The most potentially dangerous antisemitic leader of the 1930s was Charles E. Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest and an opponent of the New Deal. Coughlin, whose weekly radio broadcasts reached millions of listeners, launched an open antisemitic campaign in 1938. His magazine, Social Justice, reprinted The Protocols with Coughlin's commentary placing responsibility for the world's plight on the Jews. Street riots and disturbances occurred when vendors sold his publication in the large cities. Coughlin was supported in his efforts by some official Catholic publications, including the Boston Pilot and the Brooklyn Tablet. The organizational expression of this predominantly Irish Catholic version of antisemitism was the Christian Front, led by Joe McWilliams, which held street-corner meetings and sponsored boycotts of Jewish merchants.
The approach of World War ii in the late 1930s saw the formation of a powerful isolationist movement in the United States. The America First Committee, organized in 1940, attracted antisemites to its banner. At an America First rally, on September 11, 1941, Charles A. Lindbergh, hero of American aviation, called the Jews the most dangerous force pushing the United States into war. Although his speech was followed by the protest resignation of the more liberal members of the committee, Lindbergh and the conservative faction persisted in their propaganda. Similar remarks were heard on the floor of Congress from such isolationist senators as Burton K. Wheeler and Gerald Nye. After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into the war, open antisemitic agitation declined. The tensions of the war years, however, stimulated a considerable amount of antisemitic sentiment. In 1944, for example, a public opinion poll showed that 24 percent of the respondents still regarded Jews as a "menace" to America and one-third to one-half would have supported a hypothetical countrywide antisemitic campaign. The fate of European Jewry appeared to have little impact on the prejudices of the American public.
The noisy antisemitism of the 1930s did not seriously endanger the American Jewish community, although it created much anguish and discomfort. The prevailing political traditions, the participation of the Jews in the New Deal alliance of ethnic groups, the inability of the antisemites to unite, self-defense and interfaith activities, and the intellectual discrediting of racism were all factors in preventing a potentially dangerous situation from materializing.
After 1945 antisemitism in the United States did not assume the ideological strength it had achieved in the preceding decades. Direct anti-Jewish agitation after World War ii was limited, for the most part, to isolated fringe groups that were declining in number. Among the active exponents of antisemitism were such individuals and groups as the Columbians, the miniscule but vociferous American Nazi Party, the National Renaissance Party, and such publications as Gerald L.K. Smith's The Cross and the Flag and Conde McGinley's Common Sense. Much more threatening from the Jewish viewpoint was the persistence and growth of ultraconservative groups that officially denied antisemitic proclivities but provided a rallying point for many who were inclined to antisemitism. Significantly, however, the anti-Communist crusade initiated by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, while receiving widespread popular support, never attacked Jews as such.
Political antisemitism has shown few signs of strength in the post-World War ii period and there have been only sporadic antisemitic episodes. There has been a noticeable decline in the system of social discrimination that prevailed in the United States between the 1880s and the 1950s. Notwithstanding a series of bombings of synagogues in the American south in the early 1950s, American Jewry in the 1950s and 1960s attained a high degree of behavioral acculturation, economic affluence, and educational achievement. The declining hostility to the Jews, their absorption into the dominant middle- class suburban society, the disreputability of openly avowed prejudice, continued economic prosperity, and the role of government in fostering major civil rights legislation have combined to produce a diminution in social antisemitism. In 1945 the president of Dartmouth College openly admitted and defended a quota system against Jewish students; 20 years later Jewish students comprised 25 percent of the student body at the prestigious Ivy League universities. Discrimination in admission of Jews to medical schools ended in the 1950s. In the same decade, Jewish students increasingly choose careers in such fields as engineering, architecture, science, which in the 1930s were highly discriminatory. By the late 1960s Jewish professors constituted over 10 percent of the faculties in the nation's senior colleges. At this juncture, surveys of discrimination by city and country clubs and by resorts showed a marked decline in the proportion excluding Jews. Nevertheless, subtle forms of social antisemitism persisted, especially in what came to be known as "executive suite" discrimination. Thus, in the 1970s, while Jews constituted 8 percent of the college-trained population in the United States, they comprised less than ½ percent of the executives of America's major companies or presidents of American colleges.
The American Jewish community was deeply concerned with problems of church-state relationships at mid-century. Occasionally, as in the strong public reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in the Regents prayer case of 1962 in which public school prayers were declared unconstitutional, antisemitic overtones were apparent.
Jewish participation in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s brought charges from Southern extremists of attempts to "mongrelize" and "Communize" America. In the late 1960s the shift in the black community to greater militancy, the growth of black nationalism, and the emphasis on "black power" generated considerable friction in black- Jewish relations. Although surveys indicated that antisemitism among the mass of black Americans was no greater, and perhaps less, than that existing among white Americans, and although moderate black American leaders condemned antisemitism, continued inter-group conflict seriously disturbed American Jewry and influenced black-Jewish relations in the late 1960s.
Despite conflicting evidence, public opinion surveys conducted in the United States during the decades after World War ii generally documented a substantial decline in antisemitic attitudes. Whereas 63 percent of the American public attributed "objectionable traits" to the Jews as a group in 1940, only 22 percent felt this way in 1962. A continuation of this trajectory was ascertained in surveys conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in the mid-1980s, including a 1986 study in which 82 percent of respondents characterized their attitude toward Jews as "favorable and warm." Meanwhile, four Roper polls in the 1980s demonstrated that only 7 or 8 percent of Americans believed Jews possessed "too much power." Further evidence of antisemitism's decline – apparently a reflection of a larger generational and societal pattern – was discerned in a 1992 Anti-Defamation League study that found a correlation between the intensity of antisemitism and access to formal education. Thus in comparison to one- fifth of survey respondents under the age of 39, two-fifths of those over 65 scored high on the survey's antisemitic index. This contrast was amplified by the finding that among those possessed of such attitudes 17 percent were college graduates compared with 33 percent who had only a high school education or less.
For most of the 1970s antisemitism in the more restricted sense was a matter of apprehension as much as of actuality; but by 1981 the feeling was general among those active in community relations that antisemitic incidents were on the increase. Fears that the oil embargo imposed by the Arab states after the Yom Kippur War would lead to anti-Jewish feeling did not materialize. Propaganda directed against Jews as such has continued all along, but it has been the work of a lunatic fringe. The lifting of barriers that at one time prevented the advancement of Jews was exemplified in the public sector by the appointment in 1973 of Henry Kissinger as secretary of state and in the private sector by the appointment in 1974 of Irving Shapiro as chairman of Du Pont.
On the other hand, American Jews viewed attacks on Zionism in the 1970s by the New Left and militant blacks as a new manifestation of antisemitism. Added to the turbulence and demoralization of the inner cities in this period, which frequently pitted Jews and blacks against each other on the local scene, anti-Zionism on college campuses exacerbated inter-communal tensions. The situation reached a climax in 1979 when Andrew Young was forced to resign his office as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations because of contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization and leaders of important black organizations made a pilgrimage to the Middle East, during the course of which they met with the leaders of the plo.
One incident from this period may be singled out as an illustration of the tenacity of antisemitism. Speaking to the Duke University Law School in 1974, General George S. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about an alleged Jewish influence in the U.S. and said: "It's so strong you wouldn't believe it … We have the Israelis coming to us for equipment. We say we can't possibly get the Congress to support a program like that. They say 'Don't worry about Congress. We'll take care of the Congress.' Now this is somebody from another country, but they can do it. They own, you know, large banks in this country, the newspapers, you just look at where the Jewish money is in this country." The reaction was strong and President Gerald Ford personally reprimanded the general. Brown himself apologized, but there were continued calls for his removal. The Senate Armed Services Committee rejected a proposed enquiry into General Brown's fitness for office and he was retained.
Events during the 1980s seemed to indicate that antisemitism in America was operating at two levels. In 1981 a public debate arose over the sale of awacs planes to Saudi Arabia, to which Israel strongly objected. A public opinion survey at the time reported a substantial increase in negative feeling towards the Jews on two issues: 23 percent of Americans (as opposed to 13 percent in 1964) thought that Jews had "too much power in the U.S."; 48 percent (as opposed to 39 percent in 1964) believed that "Jews are much more loyal to Israel than to America." Nonetheless, it also found a general decrease in discriminatory antisemitism in comparison to previous decades. This type of antisemitism was based on discriminatory practices in the workplace, in schools, especially colleges and universities, at country clubs and in upper-class communities. In July 1981, a survey conducted on behalf of the American Jewish Committee reported that antisemitism of this nature had in fact declined significantly over a 17-year period.
The success of Jews within American academia, at one time a domain known for restrictions against Jews and other ethnic minorities, was equally impressive. In the 1980s, Jews became increasingly visible as the presidents of Ivy League and other elite American universities and colleges. By the decade of the 1990s Richard Levin, Harold T. Shapiro, and Neil Rudenstine had become the presidents of the American academic pantheon, Yale, Princeton and Harvard, respectively. Interestingly, the latter had at one time in the 20th century maintained a strict quota on Jewish student enrollment. For many, all of this was indisputable proof that previously unbreachable social barriers in America had finally been torn down.
Such achievements notwithstanding, antisemitism in America had not disappeared. In 1987, after a five-year downward trend, the Anti-Defamation League's annual "Audit of Antisemitic Incidents" reported an increase in isolated incidents of antisemitic vandalism. The latter threat was realized in the 1984 machine-gun slaying of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg by a white supremacist organization calling itself "The Order." However, most antisemitic acts in this category were expressed through vandalism and damage to property, including swastika daubings on synagogues, Jewish homes, storefronts, and Jewish cemetery headstones, the slashing of automobile tires, the breaking of windows, threatening telephone calls, arson, and bombings. Not until 1992 did the Anti-Defamation League report an 8 percent drop in antisemitic incidents, the first decline in six years. A report issued by the Anti-Defamation League stated that 20 percent of American adults are "hard-core" antisemites and an additional 39 percent "mildly" antisemitic, a group equaling approximately 100 million Americans.
From approximately the middle of the 1990s additional attention was paid by the media to groups whose statements and activities threatened the sense of well-being and security of American Jews, blacks, and other minorities. These included certain Christian fundamentalist groups, racist organizations such as neo-Nazis groups, skinhead gangs, the Aryan Nation, and The Order. Anti-Jewish statements or activities disguised as politically legitimate anti-Israel expressions originated in either politically far left circles, the Arab American community, or black Muslim groups.
Election campaigns focused the country's attention on two formerly relatively unknown personalities, Lyndon La Rouche and David Duke. La Rouche was a local left-wing politician in the 1970s and 1980s who changed his world outlook and ran three times as a marginal right-wing presidential candidate, a purveyor of Communist and antisemitic conspiracy theories. In 1989, La Rouche was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for fraud and tax evasion. David Duke was a former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of White People. In 1988, Duke ran as a presidential candidate on the slate of the neo-Nazi Populist Party. At the beginning of the following year he narrowly won a seat in the Louisiana state legislature. In December he announced his intention to run as a Republican for the U.S. Senate. He was strongly denounced by both the Republican Party and President George Bush. Although Duke lost the election, his relative popularity among Southern white voters and others raised considerable concern among Jews and non-Jews alike.
To the surprise of many observers, the well-publicized Wall St. "insider" scandals of 1986, among whose key figures were extremely wealthy Jewish businessmen, did not result in an appreciable rise in antisemitic or anti-Israel feelings among the American public. The principle figures included Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, both of whom received prison sentences.
Nor was there any general rise in antisemitism attributable to the Jonathan Pollard affair. This dramatic real-life spy episode, which stunned the American Jewish community, and had direct, albeit short-term, implications for U.S.-Israel diplomatic relations, went almost unnoticed by most Americans. It served as the most dramatic and poignant example to date of the dual loyalty issue to which the organized American Jewish community is sensitive. Pollard, who served as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested by the fbi in 1985 and charged with providing Israel with classified security information involving "scientific, technical and military" data, specifically intelligence information on Arab and Soviet weapons development. Pollard's spying and the punishment he received, a life sentence in a U.S. federal prison, aroused widespread and heated debate, but the controversy was mainly limited to Jewish circles.
Nor did the 1986 Irangate, or Iran-Contra, Affair result in any perceptible increase in antisemitism. The possibility arose from the role Israel played in this U.S. government scandal. In response to a secret request from the Reagan administration, Israel's government under then Prime Minister Shimon Peres supplied American-made arms to Iran. The profit from the sale was diverted through a Swiss bank account belonging to Contra rebels fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government. Israel officially denied handling the funds for this covert operation that was illegal according to U.S. federal law.
American Jews remained relatively sheltered throughout the 1980s from acts of international terror related to the conflicts in the Middle East, but there were two dramatic exceptions. The first was the hijacking in 1985 by members of the Palestine Liberation Front of the Italian pleasure ship Achille Lauro traveling between the ports of Alexandria and Ashdod. During the episode the terrorists, who were led by Palestine Liberation Organization faction head Mohammed Abu al- Abbas, killed a 69-year-old disabled American Jewish tourist, Leon Klinghoffer, who was shot and thrown overboard along with his wheelchair. The second exception was the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane on American soil. Kahane, founder of the American Jewish vigilante group the Jewish Defense League (jdl), immigrated in 1975 to Israel where he established the extreme right-wing anti-Arab political party Kach. He was elected to Israel's Knesset, serving from 1984 to 1988, and in 1990 was shot dead at close range inside a Manhattan hotel minutes after addressing an audience.
According to survey findings, antisemitism during the first years of the 1990s appeared to be declining. One Anti- Defamation League survey reported antisemitism among Americans having reached a low 20 percent in 1992. At the same time, a Roper survey conducted on behalf of the American Jewish Committee indicated that 47 percent of New York City residents felt Jews had "too much influence in New York City life and politics." Among blacks this figure rose to 63 percent. The poll also revealed that Jews were admired for intelligence and for not being prone to violence. In 1993 an Anti- Defamation League report noted that neo-Nazi "skinheads" posed an increasing threat in the United States. The report noted the seven states with the greatest number of skinheads to be New Jersey, Texas, Oregon, and Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Virginia, each with approximately 200–400 members. A 1994 Anti-Defamation League report titled "Armed and Dangerous: Militias Take Aim at the Federal Government" summarized the activities of right-wing paramilitary organizations in thirteen states. The report noted the informal but close ties, including overlap in membership, between many of these militias and local neo-Nazi groups or the Ku Klux Klan.
Polls conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in the mid-1990s showed that roughly 35 percent of blacks, in contrast to about 15 percent of whites, fell into the "most antisemitic" category, i.e., those who answered "Yes" to six out of 11 possible Jewish stereotypes. Similar polls over the years showed that blacks, in fact, share mixed positive and negative attitudes towards Jews.
Two separate incidents involving antisemitic comments by public figures received significant media coverage toward the end of 1992. First, at a press conference in Yugoslavia held prior to a major championship match, American chess master Bobby Fischer, a controversial recluse, blamed the Jews and Israel for many of the world's present problems, including persecution of Palestinians. Second, Marge Schott, owner of the Cincinnati Reds major league baseball team, caused a stir with her racist remarks including the word "nigger" and the phrase "money-grubbing Jews." Major league baseball suspended Schott for eight months from the day-to-day operation of the team and fined her $25,000.
Among the many acts of antisemitism reported in this period was the defacing of some 100 grave markers at a New Jersey Jewish cemetery, and the spray-painting of swastikas and hate slogans on the side of the home of Sandra Klebanoff, the Jewish mayor of West Hartford, Connecticut, and her husband Howard Klebanoff, a former state legislator.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, incidents of antisemitism also rose on college campuses in the 1990s. Antisemitic activities, often couched in anti-Israel terms, typically took place surrounding the appearance on campus of well-known controversial speakers, such as City College of New York professor Lionel Jeffries or Nation of Islam speaker Khalid Abdul Muhammad, or in conjunction with the celebration of Israel Independence Day or Palestinian student-sponsored events. The Jewish Onslaught: Despatches from the Wellesley Battlefield, was a virulently antisemitic tract published in 1994 by Anthony "Tony" C. Martin, a tenured professor of Africana studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. In his book, Martin accused the Jewish people of masterminding the black slave trade in the 17th century, blocking the economic advancement of African Americans, and controlling American banking, media, and politics. The book engendered a storm of protest from students, faculty, and a number of Jewish organizations.
In a similar vein, the Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky visited the United States in 1994 and angered American Jews by blaming the Jewish people for the Bolshevik Revolution and the breakup of the former Soviet Union.
Holocaust denial, which became a virtual cottage industry in the late 20th century owing to the unprecedented reach of the World Wide Web, gave renewed energy to such antisemitic canards. A loose coalition of Arab American groups, for example, exploited the complexity of the Middle Eastern political arena and promoted overt and hostile antisemitic agendas on many internet sites. Nor were such polemics limited to the flickering screen. In 1998, the American Muslim Council, the American Muslim Alliance, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a rally at Brooklyn College in New York City where militant speakers described the Jews as "pigs and monkeys" and urged listeners to adopt the path of jihad. Together with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, these groups sponsored a rally the following year in Santa Clara, California, at which one speaker explicitly called for the murder of Jews. These groups and others were emboldened by the invective of militant Arab groups abroad. Such was the case in 2000, for example, when, following the third international conference on the Holocaust, held in Stockholm, Hamas spokesmen in Palestine issued a statement denouncing Zionist efforts "aimed at forging history by hiding the truth about the so-called Holocaust, which is an alleged and invented story with no basis…" This statement resonated and was picked up by anti-Israel activists in the United States, including opportunistic supporters of the anti-globalization movement on the far right and far left of the American political spectrum.
Against this backdrop, many American colleges, including the mainstream institutions Columbia University, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of South Florida, became flashpoints for hosting and, in some instances, even serving as the home institutions of scholars who openly professed vigorous anti-Israel and antisemitic views. Such trends prompted Harvard University's president Lawrence Summers, a former secretary of the treasury under President Bill Clinton, to publicly decry calls for economic divestment from Israel as "anti-semitic in result if not intent" and denounce the "profoundly anti-Israel views [which] are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities" in American higher education. He was joined in this stance by Columbia president Lee Bollinger and Barnard president Judith Shapiro. Bollinger called the comparison of Israel to South Africa at the time of apartheid a "grotesque and offensive" analogy.
In the final analysis, a nationwide Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America released by the Anti-Defamation League in 2005 showed a slight overall decline since 2002 in the number of Americans holding antisemitic views. Based on a national poll of 1,600 American adults, the survey noted the persistence of antisemitic attitudes, especially with regard to issues of "Jewish power," and determined the number of Americans with "hardcore antisemitic beliefs" fluctuated from 20 percent in 1992 to 12 percent in 1998 to 17 percent in 2002 and finally to 14 percent in 2005. These findings support the assessment of scholars Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab who contend that although "the cultural reservoir of antisemitism [in the United States] is variable," a long view of the historical record indicates that American antisemitic attitudes "soared in the 1930s, then declined sharply in the 1950s, and have slowly fallen further since."
Antisemitism in the United States, while far from extinct, is usually no longer expressed openly. In fact, over time the American political system has acted as a brake on antisemitism and the civil position of Jews in the United States has never been fundamentally endangered. Nevertheless, latent anti-Jewish stereotypes are persistent and their history has demonstrated that prejudice is translated into open discrimination when social conflict and tensions are severe.
The interest of the American people in the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel long precedes the establishment of the Jewish state. It was influenced partly by faith in biblical prophecy and partly by revulsion at the persecution of the Jews in tsarist Russia and other lands. A high point was the Blackstone Memorial to President Benjamin Harrison, signed by more than 400 leading Americans in 1891 – six years before the First Zionist Congress. However, America did not become involved with Palestine until World War i, when the British government consulted and gained the approval of President Woodrow Wilson before issuing the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Wilson's endorsement encouraged American Zionist groups to engage in a large-scale lobbying effort. This campaign concluded successfully with the U.S. Congress' unanimous adoption of the 1922 Lodge-Fish Resolution, an official call for a Jewish national home, signed by President Warren G. Harding. Next, in 1925 a treaty on Palestine was signed by the U.S. and British governments. Subsequently, however, America remained aloof from Middle East problems. The region was regarded as a British and French sphere of influence, although many Americans were actively engaged in the search for oil and in educational and missionary activities.
In the 1930s, the United States was disinclined to intervene when the British Mandatory regime yielded to Arab pressure and restricted Jewish immigration and settlement. Like their British colleagues, American diplomats feared that support for Zionism might facilitate fascist and Nazi propaganda among the Arabs. Meanwhile, the disunity of American Jews on the Palestine question was exploited by Washington diplomats, who tried unsuccessfully to dissuade the American Jewish Conference of 1943 from demanding the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine after World War ii. (The conference nevertheless voted overwhelmingly in favor of it.) With that resolution as their platform, American Jews undertook a campaign to win the support of the American people, the U.S. Congress, the national political parties, and the media. Rabbis Stephen S. Wise and Abba Hillel Silver spearheaded Zionist efforts in the United States as mass meetings, protest rallies, letter writing and telegram campaigns, publications and the press were utilized countrywide in the struggle for Jewish statehood. The American Palestine Committee, chaired by Senator Robert F. Wagner, played a key role in winning substantial public support for a Jewish state in Palestine.
When World War ii ended, there was a power vacuum in the Middle East. Britain and France, weakened in the great struggle, were in retreat and under pressure to surrender their mandates and bases in the Mediterranean area in Syria, Lebanon, North Africa, Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine. The Soviet Union, for its part, was pushing into Iran, and Communist guerrillas were attempting to subvert Greece and Turkey. Washington promulgated the Truman Doctrine to block the Soviet thrust. Disregarding the opinion of State Department advisers, President Harry S. Truman sent Earl G. Harrison into the Displaced Persons camps in Europe to investigate the plight of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. After he urgently recommended that they be allowed to go to Palestine, the British proposed that the United States join in a new Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. This committee unanimously voted to recommend the immediate admission of 100,000 displaced Jews into Palestine and the deferment of a political settlement. President Truman enthusiastically supported the committee's recommendations and declared that the U.S. would be ready to finance the settlement of the refugees. He rejected the proposal to establish autonomous Arab and Jewish regions in Palestine under British rule. The British then turned to the United Nations to end the impasse.
The 11-nation United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (unscop) recommended the termination of the British Mandate in Palestine and the partition of the country into a Jewish and an Arab state and a corpus separatum consisting of Jerusalem and its environs as an international enclave. The United States delegation supported the proposal in accordance with Truman's instructions who overruled the position of his State Department. Veteran American diplomats were unreconciled, however. Soon after the partition resolution was adopted, supporters of the Arab cause – missionaries, oil lobbyists, and Arabists – organized a powerful committee to demand its nullification, assisted by key State and Defense Department officials. Their campaign seemed to succeed, and the United Nations Security Council proved impotent to cope with Arab pressure and belligerence. The United States then proposed that the General Assembly be convened in special session to recommend the establishment of a United Nations trusteeship in Palestine. But this attempt to block the establishment of the Jewish state failed. Events in Palestine moved faster than diplomacy. The British withdrew their forces in anticipation of the termination of the mandate, and the Haganah forces in combat with Arab armies and irregulars secured well-organized Jewish political authority over a substantial part of the country.
On May 14, 1948, at 6:00 p.m. eastern standard time, Israel was established as a state and, 11 minutes later, Truman granted de facto recognition by the United States, much to the dismay of the State Department. By quickly recognizing Israel, Truman overcame internal opposition from the State Department, maintaining that Congress' passage of the Lodge-Fish Resolution in 1922 affirmed the principles of the Balfour Declaration. Two days later the Soviet Union granted it de jure recognition. In the ensuing United Nations debates, the Soviet Union and the United States both supported Israel, while the British delegation remained aligned with the Arab states.
After a grueling year of war in which Israel suffered more than 6,000 fatalities (roughly 1 percent of Israel's Jewish population at the time), the Jewish state finally initiated efforts toward building secure territorial borders. The task would first involve the absorption of two large-scale waves of immigration. The first group comprised Holocaust survivors from Europe as well as returnees from British detention camps, primarily in Cyprus. The second wave comprised refugees from Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, who had been persecuted in revenge for the creation of the Jewish state. In all, Israel's Jewish population doubled in less than three years with the arrival of some 700,000 new immigrants.
In this period, the United States also provided Israel with significant economic support. In 1949 the U.S. Export-Import Bank extended a $100,000,000 loan to help Israel develop her agricultural economy. Two years later, Congress urged the administration to provide Israel with economic aid and amended the administration's Mutual Security Act to include a grant of $65,000,000. This was the first of many economic grants and loans, most of it in loans or the sale of surplus commodities. All loans were repaid on time. During most of the 1950s, however, the United States declined to make arms available to Israel.
U.S. policy toward Israel and the Arab-Israel conflict was deeply affected by other major conflicts in the area: the traditional, centuries-old conflict between East and West, with the Soviet Union and the United States emerging as the contemporary principals; enmity in the Arab world between the conservative, western-oriented states some of them oil-rich and the nominally socialist-oriented, which gradually turned to the Soviet Union. As a consequence, the United States, though explicitly committed to support Israel's existence and security, tended to be restrained in its day-to-day attitude. In part, this was due to the influence of American diplomats, missionaries, and businessmen who had cultural, religious, and economic interests in the Arab world. Above all, the United States was sensitive to the dynamic Soviet policy in the area.
After 1948, and particularly from 1955, the Soviets steadily increased their influence throughout the area, putting the West very much on the defensive. By adopting a policy of absolute hostility to Israel as a major card in winning Arab friendship, the Soviet Union left Israel no option but to become increasingly dependent on the West and particularly on the U.S. In this way it also endeavored to establish Israel's reputation as a "satellite" of the U.S., whereas Israel and the U.S. understood the relationship as one of overlapping interest in limiting hostile Soviet influence in the area. American diplomacy feared the region would become polarized, with all Arab states eventually oriented toward Moscow and the United States isolated as a kind of protecting power of Israel. Moreover, American diplomats were concerned that oil concessions might be nationalized by radical Arab governments, adversely affecting the strategically important flow of oil to Europe, as well as oil dividends and bank deposits to the West. The gradual growth of Soviet power in the area during the 1950s and 1960s posed grave problems, as the U.S.S.R. sought substantial control of the Mediterranean communication lines and sources of intelligence, thus furthering its basic aims of disorganizing nato and weakening U.S. voting strength in the United Nations.
The American reaction to the Soviet expansionist trend in the Middle East was inconsistent, sometimes swinging from one extreme to the other. As early as 1945 the United States insisted that the Soviets quit Iran. Two years later, the Truman Doctrine helped to bolster Greece and Turkey. In 1950 the United States joined Great Britain and France in a Tripartite Declaration that included a vague commitment to maintain a balance of armaments between Israel and her Arab neighbors and prevent the change of the armistice lines by violent means. Shortly afterward the United States and Great Britain attempted to rally the Arab states in defense arrangements to "contain" the Soviet Union, which would have permitted the West to retain the bases in Egypt and in Iraq that were being politically vacated by the British. This eventually led to the Baghdad Pact, which the United States cemented with arms shipments to Iraq. Israel, as well as Nasser's Egypt, opposed the pact, and Nasser even accepted the Soviet offer of arms and large-scale economic aid, thus upsetting the balance of power with Israel precariously maintained by the Tripartite Declaration. Soviet expansion into the Middle East now gained a firm foothold, while the Baghdad Pact itself exploded in the anti-monarchist coup in Iraq in 1958, which left Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan in it, in addition to British and American backing.
The United States then swerved to another extreme. It sought to win Nasser's Egypt and the other radical Arab states by an attempt to persuade them to adopt a pro-Western attitude. As a result of East-West competition, they were able, in accordance with Nasser's positive neutralism, to secure aid from both the United States and the Soviet Union, to the increasing military disadvantage of Israel. Washington was still maneuvering to freeze the Soviets out of the Middle East long after they had penetrated the area but was slow and indecisive in its actions. Preoccupation with the cold war competition was reflected in the U.S. attitude to many aspects of the Arab-Israel conflict. On such issues as military aid, boundaries, utilization of water resources, the resettlement of refugees, navigation through international waterways, the Arab boycott, terrorism, and retaliation, U.S. diplomacy was often vacillating and undecided so as not to offend Arab sensitivities.
On the question of Jerusalem there were also considerable divergences of opinion between the United States and Israel. While in 1950, the United States supported the Swedish proposal at the United Nations for a functional internationalization of the holy places, thereby abrogating the former decision for territorial internationalization as a corpus separatum, after the defeat of the proposal the United States steadfastly refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and even used its influence on other states to desist from establishing or transferring their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem. This attitude was suspended by many nations only in the early 1960s, after strong Israeli protests.
Meanwhile, the United States strongly supported Israel on the question of international navigation. Since the 1949 Armistice Agreement, Egypt insisted that it was in a state of war with Israel and closed the Suez Canal to Israel and Israel-bound shipping. In 1951 the United Nations Security Council upheld Israel's complaint and ordered Egypt to keep the canal open, but Egypt ignored the decision and later in 1954, when Israel renewed its complaint to the Security Council, the Soviet Union, already closely linked to Egypt, used its veto to block enforcement of the council's order. The council was thenceforward powerless to force an end to Arab belligerence against Israel.
In 1953 the American administration and Israel clashed over Israel's irrigation program, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched Eric Johnston as special envoy to the Middle East to devise a plan for the sharing of the water resources in the Jordan Valley. Agreement was reached with U.S. mediation between Israel and Arab experts on the technical level, but the Arab states refused to approve the plan for political reasons, and water development had to proceed unilaterally. Israel completed its national water carrier in 1964, with the discrete but efficient backing of the United States.
There was a sharp controversy between Israel and the United States over the U.S. proposal to send arms to Iraq in 1954 in the framework of the Baghdad Pact. Later, when the Soviet Union began to arm Egypt, Israel appealed to Washington for arms, but Secretary of State John Foster Dulles referred Israel to the French. Growing Soviet support emboldened the Egyptians, who barred Israel from the Straits of Tiran as well as from the Suez Canal. The crisis deepened as Arab fedayeen, based mainly in the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip, increasingly attacked Israeli settlements and population centers. Late in 1956, Jordan and Egypt entered into a military alliance against Israel, which now became virtually surrounded by aggressive enemies. This was one of the main causes of the Sinai Campaign in which Israel won a swift victory. The United States and the Soviet Union then joined diplomatic forces to press Israel to withdraw from the occupied areas. During this period, relations between Israel and the U.S. were greatly strained and many American Jewish bodies and individuals made representations in Washington in support of Israel's position. A United Nations Emergency Force (unef) was stationed in the Gaza Strip and at Sharm el-Sheikh to prevent the recurrence of terrorist attacks, and the United States and most other maritime powers gave Israel assurances about the maintenance of free passage through the Straits of Tiran.
In 1957 Israel acceded to the Eisenhower Doctrine, aimed at guaranteeing the independence of states and governments in the Middle East against Communist oppression or subversion. The doctrine was effectively implemented during the Lebanon crisis of 1958, but later disintegrated. In 1958, the American administration launched a new initiative to win the friendship of Egypt through economic aid, and this policy continued when President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961. During this period, the United States tried to work out an elaborate proposal for the solution of the Arab refugee problem, which would have obliged Israel to absorb a substantial number of refugees. This attempt came to naught due to the Arabs' refusal to enter into any substantial negotiations. Another diplomatic issue that divided Israel and the Kennedy administration was U.S. opposition to Israel's insistence that a solution to the Arab-Israel conflict could be achieved only by direct Arab-Israel peace talks. When the Soviet Union provided Egypt with long-range bombers, mig planes, and other modern arms, Israel renewed its appeal for U.S. arms. In 1962 Kennedy lifted the American arms embargo and approved the sale of U.S. Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel. This was the first important arms deal between the U.S. and Israel, which incidentally, was the first country outside nato to receive this weapon. In the words of historian Warren Bass, Kennedy's was thus the "pivotal presidency" – it laid the groundwork for a new close U.S.-Israeli relationship in the latter decades of the 20th century. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson and his administration deepened the U.S.-Israel relationship by assisting Israel in maintaining its military strength through the sale of American warplanes to Israel for the first time.
A new crisis erupted in the Middle East in 1966–67 when the Soviet Union encouraged Syria and Egypt to take a more belligerent attitude toward Israel and the West. Anti-Israel terrorism mounted and the United Nations was unable to curb or even censure attacks against Israel, which came largely from Syria by the newly established al-Fatah organization and Syrian artillery. In addition, Soviet and Arab confidence was bolstered by the belief that the United States would not intervene in an explosive Middle East conflict because of heavy commitments in Southeast Asia and growing unrest and isolationist sentiment at home. This led in May 1967 to the dispatch of heavy Egyptian forces into Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, the blockade of the Straits of Tiran, and the sudden withdrawal of the United Nations forces from the area.
At the end of the Six-Day War (June 1967), the United States did not repeat its 1956–57 attitude. It was largely instrumental in blocking in the United Nations various Soviet-Arab initiatives to brand Israel as an aggressor and demand the unconditional withdrawal of its forces from the occupied territories (i.e., the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai peninsula). The United States insisted that Israel should not be required to withdraw from occupied territories until there was agreement between the parties on "recognized and secure boundaries," according to the Security Council resolution of Nov. 22, 1967. Nonetheless, there were substantial differences between the United States and Israel. In 1969 President Richard M. Nixon's administration agreed to Four Power talks to draw up guidelines for a settlement, and Secretary of State William Rogers publicly outlined a plan that entailed Israel's withdrawal to the lines of June 4, 1967, with little emendation, in exchange for a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan. Israel feared that the United States was again joining with the Soviet Union in an attempt to impose a settlement. A difference also arose because of protracted delays on responding to Israel's urgent request for arms.
Until 1970 any military equipment Israel obtained from the United States represented hard currency dollar purchases. In the Military Assistance Act of 1970, the U.S. government provided credits up to $500 million for military aid to Israel. This represented a major change in U.S.-Israel relations. Over the years, Israel obtained a variety of loans from the U.S. government-owned Export-Import Bank. This bank's principal function was to provide financing for U.S. exports. However, assistance from the private sector, including public institutions, was of greater importance to Israel's growth than U.S. government programs. Transfers through the United Jewish Appeal and similar public institutions and sales of Israel Bonds totaled over $2 billion from 1948. Philanthropic transfers were used predominantly for social welfare and development purposes, while the proceeds of bond sales, which were initiated in 1951, were used for economic development as well as current account purchases. In addition, loans to Israeli companies and the government by private American banking institutions were substantial. Even more important was the development of U.S.-Israel trade. From 1949 to 1959, imports from the United States averaged $100 million per year. During the next ten years, this amount doubled. Imports from the United States in 1969 were $310 million, 24 percent of Israel's total imports. Exports from Israel to the United States averaged $13 million from 1949 to 1959 and $60 million during the next ten years. In 1969, exports to the U.S. were $136 million, 19 percent of Israel's total exports. There was thus an annual balance of payments of approximately $175 million in favor of the United States.
In 1970 it became clear that the Soviet Union and Egypt were determined to increase their military power in the area and weaken Israel by a "war of attrition" in the canal zone in contravention of the cease-fire order of the Security Council of June 1967. Israel's counteraction against Egyptian military targets proved highly effective, and the United States continued to slow down delivery of arms to Israel in the hope that the Soviet Union would join in a program of arms limitations in the conflict area. It made repeated efforts to bring about a cease-fire and peace negotiations, and in August 1970, American initiative brought about a new cease-fire agreement between Egypt and Israel, which entailed a complete "standstill" of military installations on both sides of the canal as well as the renewal of indirect Israel-Arab peace talks through United Nations representative Gunnar Jarring. In an effort to make Egypt's skies impenetrable and shift the balance of power, the Soviet Union and Egypt violated the "standstill agreement," introducing new missiles in the canal area. This was not only a threat to Israel but a challenge to U.S. prestige and power. Washington then moved to sell weapons to Israel, including modern and sophisticated equipment, and Congress voted large-scale credits to enable Israel to buy them. This decision was a major development in U.S.-Israel relations, as it constituted the decisive element in strengthening Israel's capacity to withstand Soviet-Arab pressure. On the other hand, the United States also induced Israel to agree to a resumption of the Jarring talks in January 1971. It soon emerged, however, that there was still a wide divergence between Israel and U.S. views on the contents and aims of the talks. Israel emphasized the principle of new, secure, defensible, agreed, and recognized borders, substantially different from the pre-June 4, 1967 lines, while the U.S. attitude still seemed to be guided by the Rogers plan of 1969.
In determining its policy throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. sought to balance its efforts to retain a maximum role within Arab states and the desirability of maintaining a militarily and economically strong Israel as a counter to Soviet penetration into the Arab neighboring countries. Israel's military successes, although performed by Israel for the sake of its own security, had the effect of checking the extension of Soviet influence. Certain Washington circles consequently favored (especially after the Six-Day War) the maintenance of a strong Israel in order to maintain the balance of power that had been achieved in the area, uneasy as it was.
However, these Washington circles were countered by elements in the State Department that emphasized maintaining the friendship of pro-Western Arab regimes and thus winning a measure of influence in those states where the Soviet Union was largely dominant. The latter argued that a too blatantly pro-Israel policy could endanger other U.S. footholds in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon, and that by appearing as Israel's backer, the U.S. could drive these countries into the Soviet orbit. Strongly advocated by certain State Department officials, this line of thinking was massively backed by the powerful oil lobby which represented a major group of U.S. capital that had heavily invested in the Arab lands. The oil lobby was active not only in Washington but in financing pro-Arab activities and pressure groups throughout the U.S.
A further factor that U.S. policy makers had to take into consideration was the Jewish reaction in the U.S. Although the strategic issues frequently might have led to differences of opinion in the American administration, resulting from differing assessments of the global consequences of policies, the ultimate decisions of the politicians had also to take into consideration the demands of the oil companies, on the one hand, and the Jewish vote on the other. The last factor became of particular significance as major election periods approached.
On March 26, 1979, the Camp David accords were formalized in the Egypt-Israel peace treaty signed by Prime Minister Menahem Begin and President Anwar Sadat and witnessed by President Jimmy Carter. The peace treaty marked a turning point in the history of Arab-Israel relations. It held out the hope for peaceful coexistence between Israel and other Arab countries as well as a resolution of the Palestinian Arab problem. "The critical importance of the agreement with Egypt," Prime Minister Begin declared, "lies in the fact that this time we undertook to sign a peace treaty…"
No more interim agreements… It means complete normalization of relations [between Israel and Egypt]… The basis for the framework agreement concerning Judea, Samaria and Gaza is our autonomy plan… The military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn.
The peace treaty with Egypt did indeed lead to a complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai in 1982. In the meantime, however, the Likud-led government annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The Golan legislation demonstrated the Begin government's commitment to the concept of territorial maximalism and defused right-wing and religious criticism that crystallized around the Gush Emunim settlers and the "Stop the Withdrawal" movement.
In 1981 controversy erupted when the sale of five awacs aircraft to Saudi Arabia was announced. As in the recent past, the arms sale was opposed by the State of Israel and American Jewish organizations lobbied intensively against it. Although the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly against the sale, the Senate voted to permit it. On this occasion emolients were less in evidence. Apparently alluding to the efforts by Israel and its supporters, President Ronald Reagan observed: "It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy." An additional critical statement by ex-President Richard M. Nixon brought an angry response from leaders of the American Jewish community.
The public relations damage caused by the awacs sale receded in 1981 when Israel and the United States entered into a strategic pact directed against Russian intervention in the Middle East. However, the sudden adoption by the Knesset in December 1981 of a bill extending Israeli law to the Golan Heights drew a sharp rebuke from Washington and aroused considerable misgiving in American Jewish circles. In response to the new Golan Heights law, the American government suspended the strategic pact. In due course, Begin replied by addressing to the U.S. ambassador to Israel a series of complaints, including the charge that the Reagan administration's effort to ratify the awacs sale was "accompanied by an ugly antisemitic campaign."
The political horizon was also clouded in this period by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which over the years established itself as a virtual state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon and amassed a considerable arsenal. It now possessed the capability of shelling much of the Upper Galilee. Syria, too, escalated tensions by installing sophisticated long-range missiles in the Beqaa Valley that threatened Israeli aircraft and violated the longstanding cease-fire agreements reached after the Yom Kippur War.
In June 1982, on the heels of an attack by Palestinian Arab extremists against Shlomo Argov, Israel's ambassador to Great Britain, Israel launched major air strikes against plo bases in southern Lebanon and in Beirut. The plo responded by shelling Israeli settlements in the Galilee. These events prompted the Israeli invasion of Lebanon known as "Operation Peace for Galilee." The operation, intended to be a limited initiative with precise military objectives, brought a rapid Israeli victory. It successfully pushed plo artillery outside the range of settlements and towns in northern Israel. At the same time, however, the Israel Defense Forces failed to destroy or capture most of the plo forces in southern Lebanon. Moreover, the Israeli public was shocked by the Sabra and Shatilla massacres of September 1982.
Following the Lebanon War, Reagan announced his administration's intention to advance the peace process within the framework of the Camp David accords. Reagan acknowledged the rights of the Palestinian Arab people but emphasized that "America's commitment to the security of Israel is ironclad." American diplomatic initiatives notwithstanding, tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs continued to escalate. In 1983 the United States and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding for strategic cooperation, and in 1988 Israel became a major non-nato ally of the United States. The two countries next became involved in joint research and development efforts on high technology projects such as the Arrow and anti-ballistic missile system. A generous program of American economic and financial aid eased Israel's defense burden and allowed Israel to invest in its economic and social infrastructure and focus on the absorption of Jewish refugees. Moreover, the United States was an instrumental player in the struggle to ensure the emigration of 750,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and other countries to Israel. Through loan guarantees granted in 1992, Israel was able to finance the mammoth task of absorbing, since 1990, approximately one-fifth of its total population. Additional cooperation between Israel and the United States took the form of a Free Trade Agreement (1985) and the establishment of the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission (1993).
October 1991 marked a significant milestone on the road to Mideast peace when following the Persian Gulf War, the United States cosponsored, with the Soviet Union, the Arab-Israeli Peace Conference in Madrid. As a result of the negotiations that followed, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan (1994) as well as a Declaration of Principles (1993) and an Interim Agreement (1995) with the Palestinians. In these years, Israel also expanded its relations with many other Arab countries. Like Egyptian President Anwar Sadat before him, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made the ultimate sacrifice for Mideast reconciliation. On November 4, 1995, Yigal Amir, a right-wing zealot assassinated Rabin at the end of a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Following Rabin's murder the peace process continued fitfully under his successor Shimon Peres and then stalled under the Likud government of Benjamin Netanyahu, despite the potential breakthrough represented by the Wye River Memorandum (1998). Diplomatic momentum was renewed in 1999 when Ehud Barak handily won Israel's general election and brought a new Labor-led government to power. Vowing to continue Rabin's approach to securing Israel's borders and a negotiated settlement for Palestinian self-government, Barak embarked on an ambitious plan to "conclude all Middle East peace negotiations within 15 months." At this juncture, President Bill Clinton invested considerable energy and political capital in an effort reinvigorate the peace process, pressing for both a Syria-Israel peace treaty and a final resolution to the Israel-Palestinian negotiations. Despite high hopes and great expectations, the process was ultimately stymied by a recalcitrant Assad, a reluctant Arafat, a brash Barak, and a lame-duck Clinton administration. Before leaving office, Clinton brought the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators together in 2000 and outlined the parameters of possible agreement that addressed the issues of Israeli and Palestinian territorial sovereignty and security, the status of Jerusalem, the question of the Palestinian refugees, and an end of claims to be implemented through the United Nations. He concluded his presentation with the following statement:
I believe this is the outline of a fair and lasting agreement. It gives the Palestinian people the ability to determine their future on their own land, a sovereign and viable state recognized by the international community, al-Quds as its capital, sovereignty over the Haram, and new lives for the refugees.
It gives the people of Israel a genuine end to the conflict, real security, the preservation of sacred religious ties, the incorporation of 80 percent of the settlers into Israel, and the largest Jewish Jerusalem in history, recognized by all as your capital.
This is the best I can do. I would ask you to brief your leaders and let me know if they are prepared to come for discussions based on these ideas. I want to be very clear on one thing. These are my ideas. If they are not accepted they are not just off the table. They go with me when I leave office.
Clinton's proposal came to naught, but it did anticipate the subsequent approach adopted by the Israeli government under Likud leader and veteran military strategist Ariel Sharon. Sharon, who was elected in 2001 following the Labor party's humiliating defeat after only a brief period in power, implemented a strategy that was in practice an extension of the hard-headed and pragmatic policy first introduced by Yitzhak Rabin a decade earlier. Meanwhile, the election of George W. Bush as president – who defeated Democratic standard bearer Al Gore and his running mate Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut (the first Jewish candidate for vice president of a major political party) – brought about a dramatic shift in American policy vis-à-vis the Middle East peace process. In stark contrast to Clinton, whose close personal engagement with Israeli and Arab leaders was well known, the Bush administration remained relatively remote from week-to-week and month-to-month affairs of Israeli and Palestinian diplomatic activity. Moreover, with the tacit support of Bush himself, Sharon moved swiftly to isolate Yasser Arafat, unilaterally redeploy Israeli troops from areas of the occupied territories, build a separation fence around the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and remove Jewish settlers from the former area, if necessary, by force. Notwithstanding some minor criticisms, particularly with respect to the impact of the separation barrier on the Palestinian economy, the Bush administration staunchly supported the Sharon government. The U.S. government signaled its continued support of Sharon's policies even after a sudden stroke in 2006 resulted in the latter's abrupt departure from the political arena. Ehud Olmert, Sharon's heir apparent and immediate successor, now appeared determined to stay the course. Thus the torch was passed from the generation of Rabin and Sharon – warriors-turned-peace makers who succeeded the founding generation of Zionist leaders – to a younger generation, Olmert and others who had come of age in the era of the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
As the historical record demonstrates, American foreign policy in the Middle East over the decades did not steer a consistent course because of the conflicting and even contradictory interests involved. Developments must be viewed against the background of both global strategy and internal pressures. In large measure, certainly until the late 1980s, American decisions were made within the framework of the ongoing rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (with the rise of Communist China a constant background consideration). The Middle East as a whole served as a flashpoint for the American and Soviet governments, each of which exerted considerable efforts to control the region while avoiding a direct confrontation. It continues to be a key area culturally and geographically – as one of the world's critical geo-political arenas, a gateway to Africa, and because of the immense oil deposits possessed by the Arab world.
Apart from all this, United States policy makers had to take into consideration a widespread sympathy for Israel among the general American public – despite the extensive efforts made by hostile elements to blacken this image – based among other things on a Christian appreciation for the Jews' attachment to the Holy Land, a sense of horror at Jewish suffering in the 20th century, Israel's support of American efforts to check Soviet expansionism during the Cold War, and an affinity for the democratic nature of the State of Israel. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War, the United States and Israel have stepped up joint efforts to combat international terrorism. Although the special relationship between the two countries has deepened over time and Israel is today one of the United States' closest allies, support for the Jewish state is not unconditional. Indeed, the United States has exerted considerable pressure on Israel at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries in the quest for a comprehensive solution to the Israel-Arab conflict. For its part, since the breakthrough of the Oslo peace talks, Israel has gradually implemented a phased withdrawal from the territories it captured in the Six-Day War of 1967, with the exception of Jerusalem, and cautiously supported plans for the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is against the background of this canvas that the ongoing development of U.S.-Israel relations must be assessed. The factors and considerations outlined here are also critical to the historic decisions that will determine the future of the Jewish state.
There is a voluminous body of scholarly literature on the history of the Jews of the United States. What follows here is a selected bibliography of significant and representative works. For references on various cities, organizations, and individuals, see their respective articles in the Encyclopaedia Judaica. A number of scholarly journals publish material specifically related to the history of American Jews. See American Jewish Archives; American Jewish History (formerly Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society and American Jewish Historical Quarterly); American Jewish Year Book; Chicago Jewish History; Commentary; Jewish History; Jewish Quarterly Review; Jewish Socials Studies; Judaism; Journal of Israeli History; Modern Judaism; Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research; Studies in Contemporary Jewry; Western States Jewish History; yivo Annual. Some general history journals that publish articles related to American Jewish history are American Historical Review, Journal of American Ethnic History, Journal of American History, Journal of Modern History; Religion and American Culture.documentary and reference materials: J. Blau and S. Baron, The Jews of the United States: A Documentary History, 1790 – 1840 (1963); J. Cohen and D. Soyer (eds.), My Future is in America: Autobiographies of East European Jewish Immigrants (2005); D. Elazar, J. Sarna, and R. Monson, A Double Bond: The Constitutional Documents of American Jewry (1992); J. Fischel and S. Pinsker, Jewish-American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia (1992); A. Goren (ed.), Dissenter in Zion: From the Writings of Judah L. Magnes (1982); S. Greenberg (ed.), The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responsa (1988); H. Hapgood, The Spirit of the Ghetto (1967); B. Harshav and B. Harshav (eds.), American Yiddish Poetry (1986); L. Hershkowitz, Wills of Early New York Jews, 1704 – 1799 (1967); L. Hershkowitz and I. Meyers (eds.), The Lee Max Friedman Collection of American Jewish Colonial Correspondence: Letters of the Franks Family, 1733 – 1748 (1968); A. Hertzberg, A Jew in America: My Life and a People's Struggle for Identity (2002); P. Hyman and D. Moore (eds.), Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (1997); W. Jacobs (ed.), AmericanReform Responsa (1983); Jewish Communal Register of New York City, 1917 – 1918 (1918); E. Kaplan and S. Dresner (eds.), Abraham Joshua Heschel: Prophetic Witness (1998); M. Kaplan, Judaism as a Civilization (1994); A. Kohanski (ed.), The American Jewish Conference: Its Organization and Proceedings of the First Session (1944); R. Kohut, My Portion: An Autobiography (1925); E. Lazarus, An Epistle to the Hebrews (1987); I. Leeser, Discourses on the Jewish Religion (1867); L. Levi, Memorial Volume (1905); J. Liebman, Peace of Mind (1946); S. Litman, Ray Frank Litman: A Memoir (1957); J. Marcus (ed.), The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History (1981); idem (ed.), American Jewry – Documents-Eighteenth Century (1959); idem, The Colonial American Jew, 1492 – 1776 (1970); idem, The Handsome Young Priest in the Black Gown: The Personal World of Gershom Seixas (1970); idem (ed.), The Jew in the American World: A Sourcebook (1996); idem (ed.), Memoirs of American Jews, 1775 – 1865 (1955); idem (ed.), This I Believe: Documents of American Jewish Life (1990); P. Mendes-Flohr and J. Reinharz (eds.), The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History (1995); I. Metzker (ed.), A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters From the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward (1971); R. Moses, Last Order of the Lost Cause: The Civil War Memoirs of a Jewish Family from the "Old South" (1995); D. Philipson (ed.), Letters of Rebecca Gratz (1929); D. Philipson and L. Grossman (eds.), Selected Writings of Isaac M. Wise (1900); Prayer Book Abridged for Jews in the Armed Forces of the United States (1945); Proceedings of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (1941); M. Raider and M. Raider-Roth (eds.), The Plough Woman: Records of the Pioneer Women of Palestine. A Critical Edition (2002); Reports of the U.S. Immigration Commission, 1910 (reprint 1970); C. Reznikoff (ed.), Louis Marshall, Champion of Liberty: Selected Papers and Addresses, 2 vols. (1957); H. Ribalow, Autobiographies of American Jews (1968); M. Rischin (ed.), Grandma Never Lived in America (1985); J. Rikoon (ed.), Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains (1995); D. Ross, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace (2004); C. Rubenstein, A History of the Har Sinai Congregation of the City of Baltimore (1918); J. Sarna (ed.), People Walk on Their Heads: Moses Weinberger's Jews and Judaism in New York (1982); M. Schappes (ed.), A Documentary History of the Jews of the United States, 1654 – 1875 (1971); S. Schechter, Seminary Addresses and Other Papers (1915); M. Scult (ed.), Communings of the Spirit: The Journals of Mordecai M. Kaplan (2001); R. Siegel et al. (eds.), The Jewish Catalog (1973); M. Spiegel, A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War: Marcus M. Spiegel of the Ohio Volunteers (1995); J. Staub and R. Alpert, Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach (1995); M. Staub, The Jewish 1960s: An American Sourcebook (2004); M. Stern, The Rise and Progress of Reform Judaism (1895); E. Umansky and D. Ashton (ed.), Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality: A Sourcebook (1992); I. Wise, Reminiscences (1973); S. Wise, As I See It (1944). secondary works: S. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (1972); M. Alexander, Jazz Age Jews (2001); S. Almog et al. (eds.), Zionism and Religion (1998); J. Antler, The Journey Home: Jewish Women and the American Century (1997); A. Antonovsky and E. Tcherikower (eds.), The Early Jewish Labor Movement in the United States (1961); G. Arad, America, Its Jews, and the Rise of Nazism (2000); E. Ashkenazi, Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840 – 1875 (1998); D. Ashton, Unsubdued Spirits: Rebecca Gratz and Women's Judaism in America (1997); A. Aufuses and B. Niss, The House of Noble Deeds: The Mount Sinai Hospital, 1852 – 2000 (2002); K. Avruch, American Immigrants in Israel: Social Identities and Change (1981); N. Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate (2001); L. Barash (ed.), Rabbis in Uniform: The Story of the American Jewish Military Chaplain (1962); A. Barkai, Branching Out: German Jewish Immigration to the United States, 1820 – 1914 (1994); S. Baron, Steeled by Adversity: Essays and Addresses on American Jewish Life (1971); W. Bass, Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance (2003); Y. Bauer, My Brother's Keeper: A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1929 – 1939 (1974); M. Bauman and B. Kalin (eds.), The Quiet Voices: Southern Rabbis and Black Civil Rights, 1880s to 1990s (1997); M. Bazyler and R. Alford (eds.), Holocaust Restitution: Perspectives on the Litigation and Its Aftermath (2005); J. Bendersky, The "Jewish Threat": Antisemitic Policies of the U.S. Army (2000); M. Berman, Richmond's Jewry, 1769 – 1976 (1979); P. Bernardini and N. Fiering (eds.), The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West, 1450 – 1800 (2001); E. Bingham, Mordecai: An Early American Family (2003); S. Birmingham, Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York (1967); idem, The Rest of Us: The Rise of America's East European Jews (1984); A. Bloom, Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World (1986); J. Blumberg, One Voice: Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild and the Troubled South (1985); P. Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society and Politics in Colonial New York (1986); R. Breitman and A. Kraut, American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933 – 1945 (1987); R. Brilliant, Facing the New World: Jewish Portraits in Colonial and Federal America (1997); M. Brown, The Israeli-American Connection: Its Roots in the Yishuv, 1914 – 1945 (1996); K. Caplan, Orthodoxy in the New World: Immigrant Rabbis and Preaching in America, 1881 – 1924 (Heb., 2002); J. Chametzky, J. Felsteiner, H. Flanzbaum, and K. Hellerstein (eds.), Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology (2001); S. Chyet, Lopez of Newport (1980); M. Cohen and A. Peck (eds.), Sephardim in the Americas: Studies in Culture and History (1993); N.W. Cohen, The Americanization of Zionism, 1897 – 1948 (2003); idem, Encounter With Emancipation: The German Jews in the United States, 1830 – 1914 (1984); idem, Jews in Christian America: The Pursuit of Religious Equality (1992); idem, Not Free to Desist: The American Jewish Committee, 1906 – 1966 (1972); S. Cohen and A. Eisen, The Jew Within: Self, Family, and Community in America (2001); M. Cone, H. Droker, and J. Williams, Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State (2003); D. Dalin and J. Rosenbaum, Making a Life, Building a Community: A History of the Jews of Hartford (1997); H. Danziger, Returning to Tradition: The Contemporary Revival of Orthodox Judaism (1989); J. Dash, The Life of Henrietta Szold (1979); L. Davidman, Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism (1991); M. Davis, The Emergence of Conservative Judaism: The Historical School in Nineteenth-Century America (1965); L. Dawidowicz, On Equal Terms: Jews in America, 1881 – 1981 (1984); E. Diamond, "And I Will Dwell in Their Midst": Orthodox Jews in Suburbia (2000); H. Diner, In the Almost Promised Land: American Blacks and Jews, 1915 – 1935 (1995); idem, A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820 – 1880 (1992); idem, Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place in America (2000); H. Diner and B. Benderly, Her Works Praise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America From Colonial Times to the Present (2002); L. Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America (1994); idem, The Leo Frank Case (1968); M. Dobkowski, Jewish American Voluntary Organizations (1986); M. Dollinger, Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America (2000); A. Dushkin and U. Engelman, Jewish Education in the United States (1959); W. Ehrlich, Zion in the Valley: The Jewish Community of St. Louis (1997); D. Elazar and R. Gefen, The Conservative Movement in Judaism: Dilemmas and Opportunities (2000); P. 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Lloyd P. Gartner,
Arden J. Geldman,
Jacob Rader Marcus, and
Sefton D. Temkin /
Mark A. Raider (2nd ed.)]