Jews in America

Jews in America

Jews in America

Jews in America

Synopsis

On September 19, 1934, Hank Greenberg--a powerful hitter who led the American League in home runs four times--refused to play for his team, the Detroit Tigers. Instead he chose to observe the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. On that day he put his identity as a Jew over the most American sport, and the Tigers' fans rallied behind his decision. This story is an excellent example of the way America has embraced Judaism, along with a number of other religions, as an important element in our diverse religious make-up.
A chronicle of Jewish life in the United States--from the arrival of 23 Jews in the New World in 1654, through the centuries of religious intolerance and social injustice, and on to the separation of American Jewry into Orthodox and Reform movements--Jews in Americareconstructs the multifaceted background and very American adaptations of this religious group. Hasia Diner supplies intriguing details about Jewish religious traditions, holidays and sacred texts: bar mitzvahs and seder dinners, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, the Talmud and the Torah. In addition, she relates the history of Jewish religious, political, and intellectual institutions in the United States, fromThe Daily Forwardnewspaper and the synagogues in New York's Lower East Side to the Jewish Defense League and the Holocaust Museum in Washington. The book tackles the biggest issues facing Jewish Americans today, including their increasingly complex relationship with Israel.

Excerpt

The history of Jewish life in America dramatically illustrates how a religious group can adapt to a new culture and retain immense spiritual vitality. In the colonial period, America brought together the two great traditions of Judaism—Ashkenazic (Eastern European) and Sephardic (Spanish and Portuguese) Judaism. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, two unique Jewish denominational traditions emerged out of the American experience—the liberal Reform movement and the middle-ofthe-road Conservative movement. They joined the Orthodox tradition as a part of the growing complexity of American Judaism. Reaction to the Holocaust and the Six-Day War in Israel in 1967 signaled renewed commitments to a united Jewish identity, not only in America but throughout the world.

But Jews in America is more than the story of how America shaped Jewish identity—it also vividly indicates how Judaism has helped shape America's religious identity. The first Jews in the British colonies proved that they could sustain a complex religious tradition with very few followers. As their numbers grew, they confirmed the importance of institutions, including denominational organizations and seminaries, and the significance of women in upholding and advancing American religion. And through a willingness to change, Jews revealed how religion would prosper in 20th century America despite the lure of secularized suburban life.

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