Special Issue "The Jewish Experience in America"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (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

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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.

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Keywords

  • Jews

  • United States

  • religion

  • ethnicity

  • language

  • intermarriage

  • diversity

  • immigration

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle The American Jewish Future after Immigration and Ethnicity Fade: H. A. Wolfson’s Analysis in 1918
Religions 2018, 9(11), 372; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110372 (registering DOI)
Received: 11 October 2018 / Revised: 12 November 2018 / Accepted: 14 November 2018 / Published: 19 November 2018
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Abstract
H. A. Wolfson arrived in the United States at 16 from the Lithuanian region of the Russian Empire and at Harvard as a freshman five years later. He remained at Harvard until his death in 1974, as Emeritus Professor of Hebrew Literature and
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H. A. Wolfson arrived in the United States at 16 from the Lithuanian region of the Russian Empire and at Harvard as a freshman five years later. He remained at Harvard until his death in 1974, as Emeritus Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy. Among the most important historians of western religious philosophy, he published on contemporary issues only until 1925 and even then only rarely. Nevertheless, his 1918 article, “Pomegranates”, deserves attention. Wolfson clearly followed debates about the American ethnic future. He carved out an original and unexpected position on that issue, and on the American Jewish future within that context. He perceptively rejected Horace Kallen’s views of a “multi-national America”, and like Israel Zangwill’s Melting Pot, he stressed that full cultural and political assimilation would occur in the United States. But unlike Zangwill, he argued that Jewish religious creativity would find a long-term place in American life, once freed of its national trappings. Strongly supporting a Hebraic renaissance and a Jewish homeland in Palestine, he also emphasized with great force that the “we”—the east-European Jewish intellectuals and the Zionists—had greatly misunderstood the promise of Reform Judaism for the diaspora. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
Open AccessArticle Whence Orthodox Jewish Feminism? Cognitive Dissonance and Religious Change in the United States
Religions 2018, 9(11), 332; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110332
Received: 6 September 2018 / Revised: 24 October 2018 / Accepted: 25 October 2018 / Published: 29 October 2018
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Abstract
A large literature on feminist theology and philosophy of religion has explored the various ways in which feminism has reshaped religious thought and practice within different faith traditions. This study uses Festinger’s (1965) cognitive dissonance theory and the 2017 Nishma Research Survey of
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A large literature on feminist theology and philosophy of religion has explored the various ways in which feminism has reshaped religious thought and practice within different faith traditions. This study uses Festinger’s (1965) cognitive dissonance theory and the 2017 Nishma Research Survey of American Modern Orthodox Jews to examine the effect of tension between feminism and Orthodox Judaism on lay men and women. For 14% of Modern Orthodox Jews, issues related to women or women’s roles are what cause them “the most pain or unhappiness” as Orthodox Jews. The paper examines the sociodemographic characteristics associated with this response and tests 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) experience religious doubt. The analysis reveals that these individuals overwhelmingly take a feminist stance on issues related to women’s roles in Orthodox Judaism, and they also manifest more religious doubt. The paper discusses the dual potential of cognitive dissonance to either spur changes in women’s religious roles in traditional religious communities and/or threaten the demographic vitality of those communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
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Open AccessArticle Industry or Holy Vocation? When Shehitah and Kashrut Entered the Public Sphere in the United States during the Age of Reform
Religions 2018, 9(10), 296; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9100296
Received: 24 August 2018 / Revised: 18 September 2018 / Accepted: 26 September 2018 / Published: 30 September 2018
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Abstract
Long before the Agriprocessors scandal, 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. In the 1890s, a critical mass of Orthodox Jewish immigrants gave rise
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Long before the Agriprocessors scandal, 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. In the 1890s, a critical mass of Orthodox Jewish immigrants gave rise to a more commercialized kosher meat industry, which raised the question of how much rabbinic legislation concerning kashrut could stay untouched by civil or union regulation. Although there has been plenty written about the regulatory roles of unions and government regulation 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 to these developments. It will also focus on the role of non-Jewish legislation in creating greater uniformity of kashrut standards, as well as, ironically a more insular focus on the letter of the law, sometimes at the expense of civil legal concerns. Finally, it will examine how separation of religion and state created the system of kosher certification that emerged during the early twentieth century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Jewish Experience in America)
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
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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
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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
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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
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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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