Special Issue "The Jewish Experience in America"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 October 2018

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Professor Eli Lederhendler

Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Jewish political history; Jews in the history of international migrations; The history of economic relations in Jewish society

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Jewish people in North America represent nearly half of all the Jews in the world today. Although a small minority within the American population, they enjoy a high social, cultural, and economic profile. They have also maintained a long tradition of forming communities, voluntary agencies, civic and philanthropic organizations. Our issue will explore particular challenges that Jews have and are facing in American society, with particular attention to inter-group relations, religious diversity, identity, antisemitism, and the spatial integration (or separation) that characterizes their lives.

Prof. Dr. Eli  Lederhendler
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Jews

  • United States

  • religion

  • ethnicity

  • language

  • intermarriage

  • diversity

  • immigration

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Jews in Church: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in Nineteenth-Century America
Religions 2018, 9(8), 237; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9080237
Received: 17 July 2018 / Accepted: 30 July 2018 / Published: 3 August 2018
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Abstract
Studies of Jewish-Christian relations in the nineteenth century have largely centered on anti-Semitism, missionary endeavors, and processes of Protestantization. In this literature, Jews and Judaism are presented as radically separate from Christians and Christianity, which threaten them, either by reinforcing their difference or
[...] Read more.
Studies of Jewish-Christian relations in the nineteenth century have largely centered on anti-Semitism, missionary endeavors, and processes of Protestantization. In this literature, Jews and Judaism are presented as radically separate from Christians and Christianity, which threaten them, either by reinforcing their difference or by diminishing it, whether as a deliberate project or as an unconscious outcome of pressure or attraction. And yet, Jews and Christians interacted with one another’s religious traditions not only through literature and discussion, but also within worship spaces. This paper will focus on the practice of churchgoing by Jewish individuals, with some attention to Christian synagogue-going. Most Jews went to church because of curiosity, sociability, or experimentation. Within churches, they became familiar with their neighbors and with Christian beliefs but also further clarified and even strengthened their own understandings and identities. For Jews, as for other Americans, the relationship between identification and spatial presence, belief and knowledge, worship and entertainment, were complicated and religious boundaries often unclear. The forgotten practice of Jewish churchgoing sheds light on the intimacies and complexities of Jewish-Christian relations in American history. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
Open AccessArticle Neutral Spectators from a Distance? American Jews and the Outbreak of the First World War
Religions 2018, 9(7), 218; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070218
Received: 5 June 2018 / Revised: 15 July 2018 / Accepted: 16 July 2018 / Published: 18 July 2018
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Abstract
As the First World War broke out in 1914, American Jews seemed far away from the upheaval in Europe. Yet their role as neutral spectators from the distance was questioned right from the outset because of their diverse transcultural entanglements with Europe. Seen
[...] Read more.
As the First World War broke out in 1914, American Jews seemed far away from the upheaval in Europe. Yet their role as neutral spectators from the distance was questioned right from the outset because of their diverse transcultural entanglements with Europe. Seen from a specific Jewish perspective, the war bore the potential of becoming a fratricidal war. In particular at the Eastern front it was a likely scenario that Jewish soldiers fighting on either side would have to face each other in battle. For Jews, depending on how one defined Jewishness, could be regarded as citizens of a particular nation-state or multi-ethnic empire, as members of a transnational religious community or as members of an ethnic-national diaspora community. Against this background, this article attempts to shed fresh light on the still under-researched topic of American Jewish responses to the outbreak of the First World War. Although American Jewry in 1914 was made up of Jews with different socio-cultural backgrounds, they were often regarded as being pro-German. The war’s impact and the pressures of conformity associated with these contested loyalties for American Jews did therefore not just unfold in and after 1917, but, as this article emphasizes, already in 1914. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
Open AccessArticle “Getting Along” in Parkchester: A New Era in Jewish–Irish Relations in New York City 1940–1970
Religions 2018, 9(6), 181; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9060181
Received: 10 May 2018 / Accepted: 22 May 2018 / Published: 3 June 2018
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Abstract
The history of conflict between New York City’s Irish Americans and east European Jews dates back to the close of the 19th century. They disputed over jobs, union memberships, housing, and frequently over politics. These conflicts crescendoed exponentially in the decade or more
[...] Read more.
The history of conflict between New York City’s Irish Americans and east European Jews dates back to the close of the 19th century. They disputed over jobs, union memberships, housing, and frequently over politics. These conflicts crescendoed exponentially in the decade or more of the Great Depression in Gaelic neighborhoods, now more than ever, the word on the street was that the Jews were taking over. The rhetoric and organizations of Michigan-based radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin gave voice and activism to local frustrations. However, in 1940, within a new neighborhood built in the Bronx that attracted a majority of Irish and a large proportion of Jews, there was no organized anti-Semitism, no outbursts of violence, or even significant complaints that more callow Jews were being roughed up in the streets or play areas. If animosities existed, negative feelings were kept within families and were not expressed in daily youthful encounters. Why life in Parkchester was so different is the conceit of this study. Its community history from 1940–1970s constituted a turning point in their previously-contested ethnic group relationship while what went on as Jews and the Irish ‘got along’ marks off the limits of conviviality of that time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
Open AccessArticle From Antisemitism to Philosemitism? Trends in American Attitudes toward Jews from 1964 to 2016
Religions 2018, 9(4), 107; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9040107
Received: 22 March 2018 / Revised: 28 March 2018 / Accepted: 29 March 2018 / Published: 2 April 2018
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Abstract
This paper uses the feeling thermometer toward Jews on the American National Election (ANES) surveys from 1964 through 2016 to track trends in Americans’ attitudes toward Jews. The feeling thermometer is one of the longest continuous time series studies in which Americans are
[...] Read more.
This paper uses the feeling thermometer toward Jews on the American National Election (ANES) surveys from 1964 through 2016 to track trends in Americans’ attitudes toward Jews. The feeling thermometer is one of the longest continuous time series studies in which Americans are asked about their attitudes toward Jews, and there are items on the ANES surveys that can be used to partially correct for social desirability response effects. The analysis compares several demographic groups, an important focus of extant research. Findings indicate a modest warming trend for most groups, with older Americans and the least educated displaying the greatest warmth increases. In contrast, Catholics have become slightly cooler. Analysis suggests that the immigration of Catholics from Latin America, nations that lack the religious tolerance tradition, may account for this counter-trend. The conclusion offers suggestions for future research and discusses the implications of the rising proportion of Hispanic immigrants into the US for future levels of antisemitism in the US. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

 ‘Our Heaven Born Banner’: United States Jewry and the Sacralization of the American Flag

Abstract: In June of 1927, Colonel James A. Moss (1826-1900), founder of the United States Flag Foundation, delivered a remarkable address marking the 150th anniversary of the Continental Congress’s decision to make the stars and stripes the official emblem of the new nation. On that auspicious occasion, Moss spoke about “the Religion of the [American] Flag.” The religion of the American flag, he asserted, is “a truly big and broad religion that can be embraced and practiced by everyone regardless of racial blood or dogmatic creed.” Nearly half a century later, the prominent Christian evangelist Billy Graham figuratively deified the “Star Spangled Banner” when he declared: “I see the flag as I see God: a supreme being.” Foreign visitors to America are frequently surprised to discover the nation’s flag adorning a house of worship or its grounds. Sometimes the American flag is flown in front of a church, but often the flag appears in the building's lobby, its vestry room, or even inside the sanctuary itself. American synagogues have adopted a much more uniform practice. In most American synagogues, the flag enjoys a place of honor on the bimah (the pulpit), usually standing in visual proximity to the Aron Ha-kodesh (the ark containing the synagogue’s Torah scrolls). At some point during the 20th century – increasingly after 1948 – the flag of the state of Israel began to appear alongside the “Stars and Stripes” in most American synagogues. Today, in contrast to synagogue customs in most other nations, the national flag is an expected presence on the bimah of most American synagogues. The history of how the American flag earned its distinctive place in Jewish houses of prayer has never been formally reconstructed. The article I propose to submit will explore the antecedents of this uniquely American Jewish practice.  The article will trace the roots of this phenomenon back to the early national period in order to demonstrate that American Jews have fervently promoted and participated in the sacralization of the American flag from the antebellum period to the present day.  The story of how the American flag became a de rigueur presence on the pulpit of American synagogues constitutes another perspective on the Americanization of the synagogue.  This article will shed light on the how, over the years, Jews have spiritualized and Judaized the flag in order to participate fully in the nation’s fervent conviction that the American flag was America incarnate.

From a Communist Jew to a Bu-Jew: the Social, Intellectual and Spiritual Journeys of Allen Ginsberg

Abstract: The essay will explore the social, cultural and spiritual journeys of Allen Ginsberg, and, by extension, of many Jews of his generation. Starting his life as a Communist kid in Paterson, New Jersey, Ginsberg maintained many of his parents' values and aspirations while moving away from ideological and hierarchical structures in favor of what would later be known as the New Left. A central figure in the Beat Generation, Ginsberg actively sought and helped create inclusive cultural and environments, in which people of all backgrounds could associate and chose their life styles and social milieus freely.   Advocating freedom of expression and global peace, Ginsberg became an icon of the Counterculture, representing, among other things, growing interest in new spiritualities. Ginsberg became, in the late 1960s, a practitioner of Buddhism. Maintaining his Jewish identity, he continued to relate to Jewish history, spirituality and symbols, as well as to other religious traditions in which he took interest. In this, he signified new attitudes and opportunities-- Jews who began choosing their social and spiritual affiliations at will, transferring and transforming old boundaries and loyalties.  He, and others, did not cease being Jewish, but changed dramatically the varieties of Jewishness at turn of the 21st century America, and what the content of that identity has come to mean.  The new approaches have also demonstrated themselves in relation to Israel, a country in which Ginsberg took great interest. Ginsberg was among the first in the American Jewish intelligentsia to severely criticize Israeli policies, moving away from the prevailing modes among American Jewry of the 1960s-1980s.

Whence Orthodox Feminism

Abstract: The impact of feminism has been felt across every sphere of contemporary social, economic and political life, including the religious sphere. A relatively large literature on feminist theology and religious feminism has explored the ways in which feminism has reshaped religious thought and practice. Less is known about the mechanism of this change, about the backgrounds and motivations of the men and women who promote religious feminism within religious communities. Using Festinger’s (1965) cognitive dissonance theory and the 2017 Nishma Research Survey of American Modern Orthodox Jews, this paper examines whether believing simultaneously in feminism and Orthodox Judaism creates cognitive dissonance for men and women. It goes on to test whether those who experience this cognitive dissonance are more likely to (1) advocate for changes in the role of women within Orthodox Judaism and/or (2) withdraw from the Orthodox Jewish community. The analysis reveals that for 15% of Modern Orthodox Jews, an issue related to women or women’s roles causes them “the most pain or unhappiness” as Orthodox Jews. These individuals overwhelmingly take a strong feminist stance on issues related to women’s roles in Orthodox Judaism, but they are also less strict in their religious observance and manifest more religious doubt. The dual potential of cognitive dissonance to either spur change in women’s religious roles in traditional religious communities and/or threaten the demographic vitality of those communities is discussed.

Industry or Holy Vocation? When Shehitah and Kashrut Entered the Public Sphere in the United States, 1890-1935

Abstract: Long before the Agriprocessors scandal broke, the question of whether secular law and social concerns should shape the halakhah surrounding kosher meat production has been a live issue in the United States. As early as the 1890s, a critical mass of Orthodox Jewish immigrants in the United States gave rise to a more commercialized kosher meat industry, which in turn raised the question of how much rabbinic legislation concerning kashrut could stand on its own, untouched by either civil or union regulation. The situation was further complicated by the lack of a centralized rabbinic authority in the United States, beyond the brief attempt at the formation of a Kehillah and of a chief Rabbinate. Although there has been plenty written about the regulatory roles of unions and of state and federal legislation in the kosher meat industry from the Progressive Era to the New Deal, the purpose of this essay will be to examine the responses of Orthodox rabbinic leaders in America during this period, that included the increased centralization of kashrut authority, through the formation of the Orthodox Union. It will also focus on the role of non-Jewish legislation on the creation of greater uniformity of kashrut standards, as well as, ironically a more insular focus on the letter of the law, sometimes at the expense of dina malchut dina, the issue the heart of the 1935 Schechter Poultry v. United States Supreme Court case.  Finally, this paper will examine the ways in which the American legal separation of religion and state created the system of kosher certification that emerged during the early twentieth century.

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