I chose to write about Jewish-Americans after my mother, who was raised Christian, chose to identify herself as Jewish. In my reading I examined Jewish culture and how it is in American society. I looked at how Jewish-American culture has become a prominent component of American society. I looked at the historical forces that have shaped Jewish-American experience in the United States. I looked at demographics of where most Jewish-Americans live. I examined how Jewish-Americans have contributed to our culturally pluralistic society in the United States.
Hilene Flanzbaum recalls that what is called the great wave of Eastern European immigration to the eastern United States occurred between 1880 and 1920, after which generations of Jewish-American immigrants established what it meant to be Jewish in America (2013, p. 485). Ilan Stavans points out, however, that the original Jewish settlement in what would become the United States began as early as 1654 with twenty three Portuguese-speaking Sephardic Jews from Recife, Brazil (Stavans, 2005, p. 2).
At that time director-general Peter Stuyvesant wanted to keep the Jews out of his diverse town. Stuyvesant described the Jews as “deceitful, very repugnant” and “hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ” which led to most of the original group leaving (Stavans, 2005, p. 2). This reaction to Jews has been a common occurrence throughout history, both in the United States and abroad. Stuyvesant, seeing the economic growth the Jews brought with them, eventually allowed them to stay and eventually embraced their intellectual stamina (Stavans, 2005, p. 2).
Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted in just about every place they have settled. Here I have provided just a small sample. Matthew Kaufman discusses forces that shaped Jewish identity, By the 1920s, after the great wave, in the second generation of American Jews there was a concern about becoming fully Americanized. With immigration laws becoming restrictive they caused a crisis within the Jewish community and they feared that assimilation was not something they could withstand for long (Kaufman, 2012). Kaufman says, “This was the problem of modern American Judaism… The most creative solution to this problem was “The Menorah Journal”” (Kaufman, 2012). “The Menorah Journal” Is considered to be “one of the most signiﬁcant American Jewish publications of its time and is an invaluable source of information for charting the evolution of American Jewish identity” (Kaufman, 2012). There is no doubt that “The Menorah Journal” and other Jewish-American publications gave the Jewish community a sense of being a legitimate subculture within the United States.
Hilene Flanzbaum talks about the period during and following World War Two. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was set up in 1938 to investigate Communist and other disloyal activities among U.S. citizens. The actions of the committee led to what is called “blacklisting” of...