IN SEARCH OF CONTINUITY
The last three decades of the twentieth century constituted an era of bold contrasts in the lives of American Jews. In the thirty years ushered in by the Six-Day War in Israel and shaped by the upheavals in American culture that rocked the late 1960s, many Jews committed themselves more intensely to the Jewish component of their lives than they had in the past, while others maintained fewer involvements with things Jewish than ever before. This age of contradictions in the way American Jews lived—as Jews—and how they thought about their Jewishness caused many to worry about the future of the group in America. About certain matters most American Jews agreed in principle and converged in behavior. The vast majority enjoyed a comfortable uppermiddle-class economic status and benefited from more years of education than the population as a whole. By and large American Jews exhibited a low birth rate and as such were older than the general population. Nearly all understood that, as individuals, Jews actively participated in the production of American culture, and few—if any—points of access lay beyond their reach. In American intellectual, economic, political, and artistic endeavors, the names of American Jews surfaced as influential leaders in their field. The prominence of Jews in nearly every sector of American life became increasingly less notable and noted.
Yet American Jews were profoundly divided among themselves over the Jewish aspect of their lives. They could not agree over what constituted “Jewishnes. ” and the degree to which being Jewish actually mattered. For some Jewishness intensely defined them and their daily lives,