Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century

By Peter Y. Medding | Go to book overview

The Economics of Contemporary American
Jewish Family Life
Carmel Ullman Chiswick
(UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO)

The Jewish community in the United States has experienced a remarkable economic transformation during the twentieth century, from a community of impoverished immigrants to one of suburban professionals. 1 This transformation may be thought of as following two overlapping phases. In the first half of the century, most American Jews were either immigrants or the children of immigrants, born in poverty or nearpoverty. Jewish men during this period focused on upward occupational mobility, acquiring high levels of secular education and moving into middle- and high-level occupations with correspondingly high wage rates. During the later decades of the century, the community's new socioeconomic position would be consolidated as second- and third-generation suburban Jews, both men and women, attained even higher levels of education and the community shifted from business to professional occupations. While the typical Jewish male at the beginning of the century may have been a tailor or a peddler, by mid-century he was a businessman, doctor, accountant, pharmacist or lawyer and by its end he would have been a professional (often salaried) in any one of a variety of fields.

Although lagging behind the experience of Jewish men by some decades, the typical adult Jewish woman by 1990 was also a well-educated labor force participant, usually with some post-college training. In contrast to her mother or grandmother, she was less likely to be an unpaid worker in a family business (as her husband was less likely to have his own business) and more likely to be managing her own firm or developing a career as a salaried employee. Labor force participation rates of married Jewish women were high: in 1990, about 75 percent of those with no children at home were working, as were 75 percent of the married women with school-age children and about half of those with very young (preschool) children. 2

This article considers some of the most important implications for the American Jewish family of these changes in its economic context. Nearly a century after the period of mass immigration, most American Jews are at least one or two generations removed from their immigrant forebears. They live and work among non-Jews in a secular world where they expect to be respected for their personal qualities and technical expertise without regard to their Jewishness. Earnings from their professional occu-

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Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Studies in Contemporary Jewry *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Symposium - Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century *
  • The Place of Ethnic Identity in the Development of Personal Identity: A Challenge for the Jewish Family 3
  • Notes *
  • Marriage, Americanization and American Jewish Culture, 1900–1920 27
  • Notes *
  • Making Fragmentation Familiar: Barry Levinson's Avalon 49
  • Notes *
  • The Economics of Contemporary American Jewish Family Life 65
  • Notes *
  • Children of Intermarriage: How “jewish”? 81
  • Notes *
  • What Happened to the Extended Jewish Family? Jewish Homes for the Aged in Eastern Europe 128
  • Notes *
  • Cohesion and Rupture: the Jewish Family in East European Ghettos During the Holocaust 143
  • Notes *
  • The “family-Community” Model in Haredi Society 166
  • Notes *
  • We Are All One Bereaved Family: Personal Loss and Collective Mourning in Israeli Society 178
  • Notes *
  • Essays *
  • Evangelists in a Strange Land: American Missionaries in Israel, 1948–1967 195
  • Notes *
  • Balfour's Mission to Palestine: Science, Strategy and Vision in the Inauguration of the Hebrew University 214
  • Notes 228
  • Review Essays *
  • Vichy and the Jews: A Past That is Not Past 235
  • Notes *
  • Mastering the Middle East: Israel in a Regional Context 250
  • Examining the Oslo Process: A First Cut 256
  • Notes *
  • Book Reviews *
  • Antisemitism, Holocaust and Genocide 265
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • History and the Social Sciences 281
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Language, Literature and the Arts 307
  • Notes 309
  • Notes *
  • Religion, Thought and Education 325
  • Notes *
  • Zionism, Israel and the Middle East 339
  • Notes 349
  • Recently Completed Doctoral Dissertations 351
  • Studies in Comtemporary Jewry XV 360
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