Jewish Perceptions of Antisemitism

By Gary A. Tobin; Sharon L. Sassler | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
LIVING IN TWO WORLDS
BEING A JEW AND AN AMERICAN

The Dual Identity of American Jews

American Jews live in two worlds. Most Jews are increasingly well integrated into the fabric of American society and culture, while at the same time maintaining a separate Jewish identity, although often marginal and vague. America's Jews are clearly just that: products of the general society. In many fundamental ways American Jews behave and believe much as do other white middle‐ class Americans. Yet distinct differences remain. Most Jews still adhere to enough minimal religious activity to separate them from the Christian majority.

As a result of their dual identity, the Jewish looking glass through which antisemitism is examined is really more like a pair of bifocals. The vision changes depending on whether or not the Jewish lens or the American lens is used. And as with bifocals, until the wearer adjusts to them, objects tend to blur, unless the view through the lens is perfectly balanced. The vision of antisemitism seems less threatening when viewed through the American lens: security, acceptance, and success characterize the American experience. The Jewish lens offers something different: marginality and a collective history of persecution. Jewish perceptions of antisemitism are molded by the tension of living with a multiple personality.

Jews are simultaneously mainstream and marginal,

-65-

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