Judaism Modernization In America

1513 WORDS

Judaism Modernization In America
The Jewish way of life has been affected in a tremendous way by the people of
the United States of America. By the time of the signing of the Declaration of

Independence, there were only 2500 Jews in America. For forty years beginning in

1840, 250,000 Jews (primarily from Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia) entered this
country. Anti-Semitism and economic woes in Eastern Europe went from bad to
worse after the pogroms of 1881-1882. Almost three million Eastern European Jews
left between 1881 and 1914, two million (85%) of which decided to come to

America, where they thought "the streets were paved with gold." They
were wrong. Because of this intercontinental migration, the social
characterization of Jews in America changed drastically. Before the move, the
largest group in the early eighteenth century were the Sephardic Jews. They
lived in the coastal cities as merchants, artisans, and shippers. The Jews who
predominately spoke German came to America over 100 years later, and quickly
spread out over the land. Starting as peddlers, they moved up to business
positions in the south, midwest, and on the west coast. New York City had 85,000

Jews by 1880, most of which had German roots. At this time in American history,
the government accepted many people from many different backgrounds to allow for
a diverse population; this act of opening our borders probably is the origin of
the descriptive phrase "the melting pot of the world." These German

Jews rapidly assimilated themselves and their faith. Reform Judaism arrived here
after the Civil War due to the advent of European Reform rabbis. Jewish
seminaries, associations, and institutions, such as Cincinnati's Hebrew Union

College, New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, the Union of American Hebrew

Congregations (UAHC), and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, were
founded in the 1880s. America was experimenting with industry on a huge scale at
the time the Eastern European Jews that arrived. Their social history combined
with the American Industrial Age produced an extremely diverse and distinct

American Jewry by the end of the intercontinental migration, which coincided
with the start of the Great World War (World War I). Almost two out of every
three new immigrants called the big northeast municipalities (such as the Lower

East Side of New York) their new home. They would take any job available to
support the family, and they worked in many different jobs which were as
physically demanding as they were diverse. The garment district in New York
today was made from the meticulousness, the sweat, and the determination of the

Jews. Low pay, long hours, and disgusting working conditions characterized the
average working day. Labor unions fought for these workers' rights and
eventually won. There are stories of men in the Lower East Side of New York who
started to sell rags from a cart, and slowly moved up the ladder in time to run
a small clothing shop. Like other Jews in America at this time, they sacrificed
the Sabbath to work during it, but it was for the good and the support of his
family. The 1890s saw the birth of many Jewish-oriented charities were organized
to raising funds for medical and social services, such as Jewish hospitals and

Jewish homes for the aged. The American Jewish Committee was formed in 1906 to
attempt to influence the American government to aid persecuted Jewish
communities overseas. B'nai B'rith, a Jewish fraternal society, was set up in

1843 by German Jews in America; in 1913 it instituted the Anti-Defamation League
to combat anti-Semitism. Today the ADL combats not just anti-Semitism, but also
racism and other discriminants. Furthermore, The B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation
has put together Hillel Houses at major college campus throughout the country to
ensure that Jewish college students get an adequate religious experience.

Anti-Semitism in America did not become widespread until the turn of the
century. Anti-Semitism follows Jews around; it is not part of a community unless

Jews live with them in that community and the gentiles don't want them there.

Jews were informally ostracized from clubs and resorts, and were denied entrance
to colleges and other institutes of higher learning. Moreover, it was a common
practice to not employ Jews in particular professions and basic industries.

Between World War I and World War II the United States placed limits on the
number of Jews allowed in per year. Zionism, the movement formed by Jews to get
themselves to a land that they can call their own, had a definite impact on

American Jewry during Zionism's times of development and

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