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.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited