Sometimes Jewish, Sometimes Not: The Closeting of Jewish American Identity

By Hecht, Michael L.; Faulkner, Sandra L. | Communication Studies, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Sometimes Jewish, Sometimes Not: The Closeting of Jewish American Identity


Hecht, Michael L., Faulkner, Sandra L., Communication Studies


**********

Jewish American identity often traverses religion, ethnicity, race, and culture, resulting in Jewishness as both religious and nonreligious behaviors (Goldscheider, 1986; Liebman, 1982; Medding, Tobin, Fishman, & Rimor, 1992; Simon, 1989). Nonreligious behavior includes actions such as Jewish American education, membership in social groups, and philanthropic contributions, while the religious component may be enacted through the observance of the Jewish laws and rituals. Thus, Jewish identity reflects the complex interpenetration and interplay of religious and ethnic components. How and when individuals decide which components are salient to them and how they decide if and when to disclose this information makes these competing aspects of group-based identity worthy of examination to expand theory and research.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Viewing Jewish American identity from a communication perspective illuminates group and individual identity aspects. The Communication Theory of Identity places interaction centrally in the process of identity formation and enactment; identity is considered to be a communication process consisting of four layers of transaction in which messages are exchanged (Hecht, Collier, & Ribeau, 1993). These four layers are labeled the personal, enacted, relational, and communal frames. The personal frame examines one's self-cognition and/or spiritual sense of well-being. The enacted frame focuses on how messages express identity. Individuals use direct and indirect ways of revealing their identity (e.g., telling someone directly they are Jewish or talking about Hanukkah). The relational frame refers to how one's identity is formed through one's relationships, is invested in one's relationship to other people, and exists in relation to one's other identities. Finally, the communal frame focuses on how a group of people or some particular community shares an identity. A community possesses its own identity/ies and shared visions of personhood.

These four levels, or frames, can work individually, in pairs, or in any combination. The layers may operate cooperatively or they may create a dialectical opposition such as a person who feels pride in his/her own Jewish identity, yet does not wish to participate in cultural traditions. Moreover, the layers are considered to be interpenetrating; that is, they are infused into each other. For example, relationships help shape personal understandings, while at the same time relationships are formed out of personal identities. Thus, the relational frame is in the personal frame and the personal is in the relationship. When these four layers are considered, the formation of identity can be seen as a negotiation among the individual, the enacted, the relational, and the communal frames or any combination of the four.

Jewish American Identity

Over time, Jewish identity has been transformed from an all-encompassing identity to an identity that exists alongside or in combinations with other identities (Wertheimer, 1993). While this identity always had both religious and secular elements, for many Jewish Americans the religious element now has become subordinate to cultural or secular elements; it is not so much focused on images of God or religious practices as much as it is a social style. For example, most American Jewish organizations conceive of Jewish identity as a combination of some degree of both religious and ethnic characteristics. A synagogue, for example, has traditionally been a house of worship and study. Now it also serves as a center for secular Jewish cultural and social activities. Alternatively, a seemingly nonreligious Jewish philanthropic organization will close its offices during holidays or will coordinate a religious service for the Jewish homeless. At times, Jewish identities have superseded other identities for group members in the face of oppression. For example, during certain past historical epochs such as the Holocaust, one's Jewish identity often took on a monolithic or singular emphasis. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sometimes Jewish, Sometimes Not: The Closeting of Jewish American Identity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.