The American Jewish Experience

The American Jewish Experience

The American Jewish Experience

The American Jewish Experience

Excerpt

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.

In this volume, leading students of American Jewish life explore how the American Jewish experience developed and changed over time, from the colonial period down to the present. Organized chronologically, the selections highlight critical moments and issues in the past that helped to shape the present, as well as broader themes—the central tensions of American Jewish life—that recur like a familiar refrain generation after generation. No effort has been made here to be encyclopedic, to cover every name or every fact. Instead, the articles selectively profile the American Jewish experience, emphasizing essential features and trends, with detailed bibliographies appended for those who wish to fill out the larger picture.

The basic outline of this volume follows the traditional periodization of American Jewish history, and is organized into five parts: early American Jewry, the "German Period," the era of East European . . .

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