American Jews

American Jews

Ethnic group
group = American Jews

Steven SpielbergBarbra StreisandJon Stewart
Norman MailerMichael BloombergAlbert Einstein
Scarlett JohanssonRuth Bader GinsburgMel Brooks
Louis BrandeisHank GreenbergMilton Friedman

pop = 7,000,000 2.5% of the US population
regions = New York metropolitan area, all along the BosWash Megalopolis in the Northeastern United States, South Florida, the West Coast (especially the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas), the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor, the eastern and Great Lakes region and Las Vegas areas
langs = "Traditional Jewish languages" Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and other Jewish languages (most endangered, and some now extinct)"Liturgical languages" Hebrew and Aramaic "Predominant spoken languages" American English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian
rels = Judaism
related-c = Ashkenazi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Sephardi Jews, other Jewish ethnic divisions

American Jews, or Jewish Americans, are Jews who are American citizens or resident aliens. The United States is home to the largest or second largest Jewish community in the world depending on religious definitions and varying population data.

The Jewish community in the United States is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, and their US-born descendants. There is, however, a minority from all Jewish ethnic divisions, as well as small numbers of recent converts. The Jewish community in America, therefore, manifests a wide range of Jewish cultural traditions, as well as encompassing the full spectrum of religious observance, from the ultra-Orthodox Haredi communities to Jews who are entirely secular and atheist.


Jews have been present in what is today the United States of America as early as the seventeenth century, if not earlier, though they were small in numbers and almost exclusively Sephardic Jewish immigrants of Spanish and Portuguese ancestry. [] [] Until about 1830 Charleston, South Carolina had more Jews than anywhere else in North America. Large scale Jewish immigration, however, did not commence until the nineteenth century, when, by mid-century, many secular Ashkenazi Jews from Germany arrived in the United States, primarily becoming merchants and shop-owners. There were approximately 250,000 Jews in the United States by 1880, many of them being the educated, and largely secular, German Jews, although a minority population of the older Sephardic Jewish families remained influential.

As a result of persecution in parts of Eastern Europe, Jewish immigration to the United States increased dramatically in the early 1880s, with most of the new immigrants also being Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, though mostly from the poor rural populations of the Russian Empire, many of them coming from the Pale of Settlement (modern Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova ). Over 2,000,000 arrived between the late nineteenth century and 1924, when immigration restrictions increased due to the National Origins Quota of 1924 and Immigration Act of 1924. Most settled in New York City and its immediate environs (New Jersey, etc.), establishing what became one of the world's major concentrations of Jewish population.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, these newly-arrived Jews built support networks consisting of many small synagogues and Ashkenazi Jewish "Landsmannschaften" (German for "Territorial Associations") for Jews from the same town or village. American Jewish writers of the time urged assimilation and integration into the wider American culture, and Jews quickly became part of American life. 500,000 American Jews (or half of all Jewish males between 18 and 50) fought in World War II, and after the war Jewish families joined the new trend of suburbanization. There, Jews became increasingly assimilated as rising intermarriage rates combined with a trend towards secularization. At the same time, new centers of Jewish communities formed, as Jewish school enrollment more than doubled between the end of World War II and the mid-1950s, while synagogue affiliation jumped from 20% in 1930 to 60% in 1960.


While the first group of Jewish immigrants from Germany tended to be politically conservative, the second wave that started in the early 1880s were generally more liberal or left wing. Many came to America with experience with the Labor Bund in Eastern Europe, with some rising to leadership positions in the early 20th century American labor Movement and helping to found unions that played a major role in left wing politics and, after 1936, in Democratic party politics.

Polls showed American Jews gave 90% support to Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman in the elections of 1940, 1944 and 1948. They gave almost 70% of their vote to Democrat Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, and in 1960 voted 83% for Democrat John F. Kennedy, who was Catholic. In 1964, when the Republicans nominated arch-conservative Barry Goldwater (whose father was Jewish), 90% of American Jews voted for his opponent.Mark R. Levy and Michael S. Kramer, "The Ethnic Factor" (1973) p. 103] Since 1968, American Jews have voted about 70%-80% Democratic, increasing to 87% for Democratic House candidates during the 2006 elections. [ 2006 exit polls at [] They were 74% for John Kerry, a Catholic, in 2004. [] ] Jimmy Carter (1976) is the only Democrat after Roosevelt to be elected president with less than 70% of the Jewish vote.cite web|url=|title=Obama Working To Ensure Jewish Vote|publisher= CBS Interactive Inc.|author=Jonathan Weisman and Michelle Boorstein|accessdate=2008-08-14] In 1992, 1996, and 2000, Bill Clinton and later, Al Gore won 79% of the Jewish vote, and John Kerry, a Catholic, received 74%.

Currently, of the 13 American Jews in the Senate (out of 100 members),See Ynet News at [,7340,L-3326053,00.html] ] only two (Norm Coleman and Arlen Specter) are Republicans, and of the 30 in the House (out of 435 members), only one (Eric Cantor) is Republican. Two states have two Jewish Senators: Wisconsin (Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold) and California (Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer). []

In the 2000 presidential election., Joe Lieberman was the first American Jew to run for national office on a major party ticket when he was chosen as Al Gore's vice-presidential nominee.

Civil Rights

As a group, American Jews have been very active in fighting prejudice and discrimination, and have historically been active participants in civil rights movements since the 1930s, including active support and participation in the black civil rights / desegration movement, active support and participation in the women's rights movement, and active support for gay rights movement.

Seymour Siegel suggests that the historic struggle against prejudice faced by Jews led to a natural sympathy for any people confronting discrimination. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, stated the following when he spoke from the podium at the Lincoln Memorial during the famous March on Washington on August 28, 1963: "As Jews we bring to this great demonstration, in which thousands of us proudly participate, a twofold experience—one of the spirit and one of our history... From our Jewish historic experience of three and a half thousand years we say: Our ancient history began with slavery and the yearning for freedom. During the Middle Ages my people lived for a thousand years in the ghettos of Europe... It is for these reasons that it is not merely sympathy and compassion for the black people of America that motivates us. It is, above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions, a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience. " [ [ Joachim Prinz March on Washington Speech ] ] [ [ Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement - March on Washington ] ]

The Holocaust

The Holocaust had a profound impact on the community in the United States, especially after 1945, as Jews tried to comprehend what had happened, and especially to commemorate and grapple with it when looking to the future. Abraham Joshua Heschel summarized this dilemma when he attempted to understand Auschwitz: "To try to answer is to commit a supreme blasphemy. Israel enables us to bear the agony of Auschwitz without radical despair, to sense a ray [of] God's radiance in the jungles of history." [Staub (2004) p.80]

International affairs

Jews began taking a special interest in international affairs in the early twentieth century, especially regarding pogroms in Imperial Russia, and restrictions on immigration in the 1920s. This period is also synchronous with the development of political Zionism and the Balfour Declaration. Large-scale boycotts of German merchandize were organized during the 1930s, which was synchronous with the rise of Fascism in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt's leftist domestic policies received strong Jewish support in the 1930s and 1940s, as did his foreign policies and the subsequent founding of the United Nations. Support for political Zionism in this period, although growing in influence, remained a distinctly minority opinion. The founding of Israel in 1948 made the Middle East a center of attention; the immediate recognition of Israel by the American government was an indication of both its intrinsic support and the influence of political Zionism.

This attention initially was based on a natural and religious affinity toward and support for Israel and world Jewry. The attention is also because of the ensuing and unresolved conflicts regarding the founding Israel and Zionism itself. A lively internal debate commenced, following the Six-Day War. The American Jewish community was divided over whether or not they agreed with the Israeli response; the great majority came to accept the war as necessary. A tension existed especially for leftist Jews, between their liberal ideology and (rightist) Zionist backing in the midst of this conflict. This deliberation about the Six-Day War showed the depth and complexity of Jewish responses to the varied events of the 1960s. [Staub (2004)] Similar tensions were aroused by the 1977 election of Begin and the rise of revisionist policies, the 1982 Lebanon War and the continuing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. [Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht. “The Fate of the Jews, A people torn between Israeli Power and Jewish Ethics”. Times Books, 1983. ISBN 0812910605]


The Jewish population of the United States is one of the largest in the world.

Precise population figures vary depending on whether Jews are accounted for based on halakhic considerations, or secular, political and ancestral identification factors. There were about 4 million adherents of Judaism in the U.S. as of 2001, approximately 1.4% of the US population. [ARIS Key Findings at] The community self-identifying as Jewish by birth, irrespective of halakhic (unbroken maternal line of Jewish descent or formal Jewish conversion) status, numbers about 7 million, or 2.5% of the US population. According to the Jewish Agency, for the year 2007 Israel is home to 5.4 million Jews (40.9% of the world's Jewish population), while the United States contained 5.3 million (40.2%). [cite web|url= |publisher=Haaretz Daily Newspaper Israel |title=Jewish Agency: 13.2 million Jews worldwide on eve of Rosh Hashanah, 5768 |last=Pfeffer |first=Anshel |accessdate=2007-09-13] .

The most recent large scale population survey, released in the 2006 "American Jewish Yearbook population survey" estimates place the number of American Jews at 6.4 million, or approximately 2.1% of the total population. This figure is significantly higher than the previous large scale survey estimate, conducted by the 2000–2001 National Jewish Population estimates, which estimated 5.2 million Jews. A 2007 study released by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute (SSRI) at Brandeis University presents evidence to suggest that both of these figures may be underestimations with a potential 7.0-7.4 million Americans of Jewish decent. [ [,56970.shtml Brandeis University Study Finds that American-Jewish Population is Significantly Larger than Previously Thought - Press Release ] ] Jews in the U.S. settled largely in and near the major cities. The Ashkenazi Jews, who are now the vast majority of American Jews, settled first in the Northeast and Midwest but in recent decades increasingly in the South and West. In descending order, the metropolitan areas with the highest Jewish populations are New York City (3,750,000), Miami (535,000), Los Angeles (490,000), Philadelphia (285,000), Chicago (265,000), San Francisco (210,000), Boston (208,000), and Baltimore-Washington (165,000). Although New York is the second largest Jewish population center in the world, after the Gush Dan metropolitan area in Israel [] , the Miami metropolitan area has a slightly greater Jewish population on a per-capita basis (9.9% compared to metropolitan New York's 9.3%). Several other major cities have over 5% Jewish proportions,Fact|date=June 2008 including Cleveland,Fact|date=June 2008 Baltimore,Fact|date=June 2008 and St. Louis.Fact|date=June 2008 Miami and Los Angeles have long been major centers. Smaller, but growing numbers are found in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Charlotte, and especially Atlanta and Las Vegas.Fact|date=June 2008 In many metropolitan areas, the majority of Jewish families live in suburban areas. In Detroit, for example, the Jewish population is particularly concentrated in suburban Oakland County.Fact|date=June 2008

Jewish Texans have been a part of Texas History since the first European explorers arrived in the 1500s. [] By 1990, there are around 108,000 adherents to Judaism in Texas. []

The Israeli immigrant community in America is less widespread. The significant Israeli immigrant communities in the United States are in Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, and Chicago. [Citation| last = Gold| first = Steven| author-link = Steven J. Gold| last2 = Phillips| first2 = Bruce| author2-link = Bruce A. Phillips| title = Israelis in the United States | journal = American Jewish Yearbook, 1996| volume = 96| issue = | pages = 51–101| date = | year = 1996 | url = | doi = | id = ]
* The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development calculated an 'expatriate rate' of 2.9 persons per thousand, putting Israel in the mid-range of expatriate rates among the 175 OECD countries examined in 2005. [cite web |title=Database on immigrants and expatriates:Emigration rates by country of birth (Total population) |work=Organisation for Economic Co-ordination and Development, Statistics Portal |url=,3343,en_2825_494553_34063091_1_1_1_1,00.html |accessmonthday=April 15 |accessyear=2008 ]

Immigrant Soviet Jews began arriving after the Jackson-Vanik laws of the 1970s but in the last decade Miami has become the prime city for them and are also heavily concentrated in New York City, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Baltimore, Los Angeles and many other large American cities, although these Russian Jews can be found throughout the US in cities even with very small Jewish populations.

Persian Jews began arriving to the United States in large numbers in the late 1970s before the Islamic Revolution and most of them settled in Los Angeles and Great Neck on Long Island. Most Bukharian Jews arrived after the Collapse of the Soviet Union to New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Arizona and elsewhere.

According to the [ 2001 undertaking] of the National Jewish Population Survey, 4.3 million American Jews have some sort of strong connection to the Jewish community, whether religious or cultural.

Assimilation and population changes

The same social and cultural characteristics of the United States of America that facilitated the extraordinary economic, political, and social success of the American Jewish community have also been attributed to contributing to widespread assimilation, [cite magazine |last=Postrel|first=Virginia|title=Uncommon Culture |publisher=Reason Magazine|date=May 1993| url= |accessdate=2007-10-05] a controversial and significant issue in the modern American Jewish community. While not all Jews disapprove of intermarriage, many members of the Jewish community have become concerned that the high rate of interfaith marriage will result in the eventual disappearance of the American Jewish community.

Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40%-50% in the year 2000. [] [] Only about 33% of intermarried couples raise their children with a Jewish religious upbringing.Fact|date=October 2007 This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s. [] . In addition to this, when compared with the general American population, the American Jewish community is slightly older. []

Despite the fact that only 33% of intermarried couples provide their children with a Jewish upbringing, doing so is more common among intermarried families raise their children in areas with high Jewish populationsFact|date=October 2007, such as the greater New York City metropolitan area, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore-Washington, Chicago, and Cleveland (which has the highest Jewish-American population per capita for smaller, major U.S. cities). In the Boston area, one study shows that 60% percent of children of intermarriages are being raised as Jews by religion; giving the perception that intermarriage is contributing to a net increase in the number of Jews. [] As well, some children raised through intermarriage rediscover and embrace their Jewish roots when they themselves marry and have children.

In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. The proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number. [] This trend, however, is likely due at least as much to declining synagogue membership and practice among the non-Orthodox as to greater numbers of Orthodox.Fact|date=October 2007

In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called "ultra-orthodox" (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%).Fact|date=October 2007 The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%). []

About half of the American Jews are considered to be religious. Out of this 2,831,000 religious Jewish population, 92% are White, 5% Hispanic (Mostly Argentine Ashkenazim), 1% Asian (Mostly Bukharian and Persian Jews), 1% Black and 1% Other (Mixed Race.etc). Almost this many non-religious Jews exist in United States, the proportion of Whites being higher than that among the religious population. [ [ ARIS 2001] ]


Jewishness is generally considered an ethnic identity as well as a religious one.

Jewish religious practice in America is quite varied. Among the 4.3 million American Jews described as "strongly connected" to Judaism, over 80% report some sort of active engagement with Judaism, ranging from attendance at daily prayer services on one end of the spectrum to as little as attendance Passover Seders or lighting Hanukkah candles on the other.

The surveyFact|date=October 2007 found that of the 4.3 million strongly connected Jews, 46% belong to a synagogue. Among those who belong to a synagogue, 38% are members of Reform synagogues, 33% Conservative, 22% Orthodox, 2% Reconstructionist, and 5% other types. Traditionally, Sephardic and Mizrahis do not have different branches (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc) but usually remain observant and religious. The survey discovered that Jews in the Northeast and Midwest are generally more observant than Jews in the South or West. Reflecting a trend also observed among other religious groups, Jews in the Northwestern United States are typically the least observant.

A 2003 Harris Poll found that 16% of American Jews go to the synagogue at least once a month, 42% go less frequently but at least once a year, and 42% go less frequently than once a year. The poll also found that 48% of American Jews believe in God, 19% believe there is no God, and 33% are not sure whether or not there is a God. [ While Most Americans Believe in God, Only 36% Attend a Religious Service Once a Month or More Often] ]

In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of secular American Jews returning to a more religious, in most cases, Orthodox, style of observance. Such Jews are called baalei teshuva ("returners", see also Repentance in Judaism). It is uncertain how widespread or demographically important this movement is at present.


The great majority of school-age Jewish students attend public schools, although Jewish day schools and yeshivas are to be found throughout the country. Jewish cultural studies and Hebrew language instruction is also commonly offered at synagogues in the form of supplementary Hebrew schools or Sunday schools.

Until the 1950s, a quota system at elite colleges and universities limited the number of Jewish students. Before 1945, only a few Jewish professors were permitted as instructors at elite universities. In 1941, anti-Semitism drove Milton Friedman from a non-tenured assistant professorship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Milton Friedman and Rose D. Friedman, "Two Lucky People: Memoirs" (1998) p. 58 [ online] ] Harry Levin became the first Jewish full professor in the Harvard English department in 1943, but the Economics department decided not to hire Paul Samuelson in 1948. Harvard hired its first Jewish biochemists in 1954. [Morton Keller, "Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America's University." (2001), pp 75, 82, 97, 212, 472.]

Today, American Jews no longer face the discrimination in college admissions that they did in the past. By 1986, a third of the presidents of the elite undergraduate clubs at Harvard were Jewish, and Paul Samuelson's nephew, Lawrence Summers, became President of Harvard University in 2001.

Contemporary politics

Today, American Jews are a distinctive and influential group in the nation's politics. Jeffrey S. Helmreich writes that the ability of American Jews to effect this through political or financial clout is overestimated, [Steven L. Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 150-165. ] that the primary influence lies in the group's voting patterns.cite web|url=|title=THE ISRAEL SWING FACTOR: HOW THEAMERICAN JEWISH VOTE INFLUENCES U.S. ELECTIONS |author=Jeffrey S. Helmreich|accessdate=2008-10-02]

"Jews have devoted themselves to politics with almost religious fervor," writes Mitchell Bard, who adds that Jews have the highest percentage voter turnout of any ethnic group. While 2-2.5% of the United States population is Jewish, 94% live in 13 key electoral college states, which combined have enough electors to elect the president.cite web|url=
title=The Israeli and Arab Lobbies
author=Mitchell Bard
publisher=The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise
] cite web|url=|title=Family ties: Obama counts rabbi among relatives|author=Sophia Tareem|accessdate=2008-09-22|publisher=The Associated Press] Though the majority (60-70%) of the country's Jews identify as Democratic, Jews span the political spectrum and Helmreich describes them as "a uniquely swayable bloc" as a result of Republican stances on Israel. [cite web|url=|title=Busting the Myth: Jews Remain Democrats, New Independent Polling Shows|accessdate=10-02-2008|publisher=National Jewish Democratic Council] A paper by Dr. Eric Uslaner of the University of Maryland disagrees, at least with regard to the 2004 election: "Only 15% of Jews said that Israel was a key voting issue. Among those voters, 55% voted for Kerry (compared to 83% of Jewish voters not concerned with Israel)." The paper goes on point out that negative views of Evangelical Christians had a distinctly negative impact for Republicans among Jewish voters, while Conservative Orthodox Jews favored the Republican Party. [ ] A New York Times article suggests that the Jewish movement to the Republican party is focused heavily on faith-based issues, similar to the Catholic vote, which is credited for helping President Bush taking Florida in 2004. []

Though critics charge that Jewish interests were partially responsible for the push to war with Iraq, Jewish Americans are actually more strongly opposed to the Iraq war than any other major religious group or even most Americans. The greater opposition to the war is not simply a result of high Democratic identification among U.S. Jews, as Jews of all political persuasions are more likely to oppose the war than non-Jews who share the same political leanings. The widespread Jewish opposition to the war in Iraq is also not simply a matter of the majority of Americans now also opposing the war because the majority of Jews already opposed the war in 2003 and 2004 when most Americans didn't. [cite web|url=|title=Among Religious Groups, Jewish Americans Most Strongly Oppose War|publisher=Gallup, Inc. |author=Jeffrey M. Jones|accessdate=2008-10-04] [cite web|url=|title=Editor's Comments|publisher=Near East|accessdate=2008-10-04]

Owing to high Democratic identification in the 2008 United States Presidential Election, 60-65% of Jewish Americans polled in mid-September 2008 planned on voting for Barack Obama versus 33% for John McCain. [cite web|url=|title=McCain backers woo Jewish vote|author=Christina Bellantoni|publisher=The Washington Times, LLC|accessdate=2008-09-22]

Jewish American culture

Since the time of the last major wave of Jewish immigration to America (over 2,000,000 Eastern European Jews who arrived between 1890 and 1924), Jewish secular culture in the United States has become integrated in almost every important way with the broader American culture. Many aspects of Jewish American culture have, in turn, become part of the wider culture of the United States.


Although almost all American Jews are today native English-speakers, some American Jews are bilingual with Modern Hebrew. A variety of other languages are still spoken within some American Jewish communities, communities which are representative of the various Jewish ethnic divisions from around the world that have come together to make up America's Jewish population.

Many of America's Hasidic Jews (being exclusively of Ashkenazi descent) are raised speaking Yiddish. Yiddish was once spoken as the primary language by most of the several million European Jews who immigrated to the United States (it was, in fact, the original language in which "The Forward" was published). Yiddish has had an influence on American English, and words borrowed from it include "chutzpah" ("effrontery", "gall"), "nosh" ("snack"), "schlep" ("drag"), "schmuck" ("fool", literally "penis"), and, depending on ideolect, hundreds of other terms. (See also Yinglish.)

The Persian Jewish community in the United States, notably the large community in and around Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California, primarily speak Persian (see also Judeo-Persian) in the home and synagogue. They also support their own Persian language newspapers. Persian Jews also reside in eastern parts of New York such as Kew Gardens and Great Neck, Long Island.

Many recent Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union speak primarily Russian at home, and there are several notable communities where public life and business are carried out mainly in Russian, such as in Brighton Beach in New York City and Sunny Isles Beach in Miami.

American Bukharian Jews speak Bukhori (a dialect of Persian) and Russian. They publish their own newspapers such as the "Bukharian Times" and a large portion live in Queens, New York. Forest Hills in the New York City borough of Queens is home to 108th Street, which is called by some "Bukharian Broadway" [] , a reference to the many stores and restaurants found on and around the street that have Bukharian influences. Many Bukharians are also represented in parts of Arizona, Miami, Florida, and areas of Southern California such as San Diego.

Classical Hebrew is the language of most Jewish religious literature, such as the Tanakh (Bible) and Siddur (prayerbook). Modern Hebrew is also the primary official language of the modern State of Israel, which further encourages many to learn it as a second language. Some recent Israeli immigrants to America speak Hebrew as their primary language.

Some of the Jews in Miami and Los Angeles, the second largest Jewish community in the United States, immigrated from the countries of Latin America. Many of these Hispanic Jews (many of them of Sephardic origin dating back to the Spanish and Portuguese colonial era, but also many of Ashkenazi descent from recent Central and Eastern European immigration to Latin America) speak Spanish in the home, and some have intermarried with the non-Jewish Hispanic population. Recent Jews from Spain and among their descendants speak Spanish. Spanish may be spoken by other Jews with ancestry outside Spain and Latin America living in areas near predominantly Hispanic populations. There are a large number of synagogues in the Miami area that give services in Spanish. Many Luso-Jews with origin from Brazil and Portugal (Sephardic Jews but including in Brazil, Sephardic Jews with Spanish origin, Ashkenazi, and Mizrahi) speak Portuguese in home. There are a handful of older European immigrant communities that still speak Ladino.

Jewish American literature

Although American Jews have contributed greatly to American arts overall (see the following section), there remains a distinctly Jewish American literature. Generally exploring the experience of being a Jew, especially a Jew in America, and the conflicting pulls of secular society and history, the literary traditions of Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Chaim Potok, Leon Uris, Herman Wouk, Cynthia Ozick and Bernard Malamud all fall into this category. Younger authors ("e.g.", Paul Auster, Lisa Crystal Carver, Allegra Goodman, Gary Shteyngart, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Safran Foer) continue this view of Jewish American literature, examining the Holocaust, and the meaning of being an American Jew.

Notable American Jews

Popular culture

: Actors and actresses· Comedians· Writers· Artists· Musicians· Show business figures· Sportspeople· List of Jewish American actors in television·Lists of Jews

Many individual Jews have made significant contributions to American popular culture. There have been many Jewish American actors and performers, ranging from early 1900s actors like Carmel Myers, Fanny Brice and the first cowboy film star, Broncho Billy Anderson, to classic Hollywood film stars like Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, William Shatner,Tony Curtis, and culminating in many currently known actors, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Winona Ryder, Leonard Nimoy, Alicia Silverstone, Natalie Portman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Rachel Bilson, Adam Brody, Ashley & Jennifer Tisdale, Jason Alexander, Zac Efron, Evan Rachel Wood, Adrien Brody, Lisa Kudrow, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Downey Jr., Larry David, Bahar Soomekh, Sara Paxton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Maggie Gyllenhaal, amongst others. Many of the early Hollywood moguls and pioneers were Jewish, such as Barney Balaban (Paramount Pictures), Henry Cohen (Columbia Pictures), Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer (MGM), Carl Laemmle (Universal), William Fox, Jesse L. Lasky, Carl Laemmle, Marcus Loew, Adolph Zukor, and the original Warner Brothers. The characteristically Jewish field of American comedy includes the Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, Milton Berle, Bea Arthur, Mel Brooks, George Burns, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, and Gilda Radner. The legacy also includes songwriters as diverse as Irving Berlin, Burt Bacharach, Carol King, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman (aka "The Sherman Brothers"), Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Jeff Barry, Neil Diamond, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Chris Cornell, and Paul Simon and writers as diverse as J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, Ayn Rand, E.L. Doctorow, Lillian Hellman, Allen Ginsberg, Isaac Asimov, and Harlan Ellison, in addition to the authors listed above.

On the countercultural and radical political front, Jewish hippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, with help from Allen Ginsberg, formed the controversial Youth International Party ("Yippies"), and the four main organizers of the 1969 Woodstock Festival concert were all Jewish, as was Max Yasgur, the man on whose farm the legendary concert took place. In addition, master sound mixer and producer Eddie Kramer was Jewish, as is Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, his first wife, Sara and sons Jesse and Jakob. Bob Dylan did convert to Christianity in the late 1970s, but he returned to his Jewish roots in the 1980s.

Many Jews have been at the forefront of women's issues. Jewish Women's rights activist Gloria Steinem once became a Playboy Bunny in order to write a book on how women were treated at their clubs. Captain Beverly Lynn Burns made history as the "first" woman in the world to captain the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

Jews have also done well in the field of sport. The most notable of all would be Jewish Swimmer Mark Spitz who won 7 gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has recently gained international prominence with the immense popularity of this online social networking site.

Government and military

: Politicians· Military figuresSince 1845, a total of 29 Jews have served in the Senate, including present-day senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl (both D-WI), Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both D-CA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Joe Lieberman (Independent-CT). In 2007, the number of Jews in the Senate rose to thirteen with the additional of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). The number of Jews elected to the House rose to an all time high of 30. Seven Jews have been appointed on the United States Supreme Court.

Sixteen American Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Judah P. Benjamin was a member of the Confederate cabinet.

World War II

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the American entry into World War II, hundreds of thousands of Jews joined national service. More than 550,000 served in the U.S. military during World War II; about 11,000 were killed and more than 40,000 were wounded. There were three recipients of the Medal of Honor, 157 recipients of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Cross, or Navy Cross, and about 1600 recipients of the Silver Star. About 50,242 other decorations. citations and awards were given to Jewish military personnel, for a total of 52,000 decorations. During this period, Jews were approximately 3.3 percent of the total U.S. population but constituted about 4.23 percent of the U.S. armed forces. About 60 percent of all Jewish physicians in the United States under 45 years of age were in service as military physicians and medics. [Brody, Seymour. " [ Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America: World War II to the Present, A Judaica Collection Exhibit] ."]

Many Jewish physicists were involved in the Manhattan Project, the secret World War II effort to develop the atomic bomb. Many of these were refugees from Nazi Germany or from antisemitic persecution elsewhere in Europe. Jewish scientists involved in the Manhattan Project include Robert Oppenheimer, Richard P. Feynman, Wolfgang Pauli, Leo Szilard, Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, Isidor I. Rabi, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, Otto Frisch, Samuel Goudsmit, Jerome Karle, Stanisław Ulam, Robert Serber, Louis Slotin, Walter Zinn, Robert Marshak, Felix Bloch, Emilio G. Segrè, James Franck, Joseph Joffe, Eugene Rabinowitch, Hy Goldsmith, Samuel Cohen, Victor F. Weisskopf, and David Bohm. Hans Bethe and Niels Bohr both had Jewish mothers, which also necessitated their fleeing from Nazi-occupied lands during the war.

cience, business, and academia

: Scientists· Businesspeople· Academics
Ashkenazi Jews have traditionally been drawn to business and academia (see Secular Jewish culture for some of the causes), and have made major contributions in science, economics, and the humanities. Of American Nobel Prize winners, 37% have been Jewish Americans (19 times the percentage of Jews in the population), as have been 71% of the John Bates Clark Medal winners (thirty-five times the Jewish percentage). While Jewish Americans only constitute roughly 2.5% of the U.S. population, they occupied 7.7% of board seats at U.S. corporations.cite web|url=|title=Mother Jones, the Changing Power Elite, 1998|accessdate=2007-01-20]

Since many jobs/careers in science, business, and academia generally pay well, Jewish Americans also tend to have a higher average income than most Americans. A 2008 Pew Research Center study found that "46 percent of Jews in the US make more than $100,000 a year." [ [ New Study Claims US Jews Have Reasons to Be Proud - News Briefs - Arutz Sheva ] ]

Distribution of Jewish-Americans

According to the Glenmary Research Center, which publishes Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States [] , the 100 counties and independent cities in 2000 with the largest Jewish communities, based by percentage of total population, were:

Major Jewish-American communities

(Alphabetically by state and region)

Notes and references


* Antler, Joyce., ed. "Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture." 1998.
* Cohen, Naomi. "Jews in Christian America: The Pursuit of Religious Equality." 1992.
* Cutler, Irving. "The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb." 1995
* Diner, Hasia. "The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000" [ (2004) online]
* Dinnerstein, Leonard. "Antisemitism in America." 1994.
* Dollinger, Marc. "Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America." 2000.
* Eisen, Arnold M. "The Chosen People in America: A Study in Jewish Religious Ideology." 1983.
* Glazer, Nathan. "American Judaism". 2nd ed., 1989.
* Goren, Arthur. "The Politics and Public Culture of American Jews." 1999.
* Gurock, Jeffrey S. "From Fluidity to Rigidity: The Religious Worlds of Conservative and Orthodox Jews in Twentieth Century America." Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, 1998.
* Hyman, Paula, and Deborah Dash Moore, eds. "Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia." 1997
* Lederhendler, Eli. "New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity, 1950–1970." 2001
* Moore, Deborah Dash. "To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A." 1994
* Moore, Deborah Dash. "GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation" (2006)
* Novick, Peter. "The Holocaust in American Life." 1999.
* Raphael, Marc Lee. "Judaism in America". Columbia U. Press, 2003. 234 pp.
* Sarna, Jonathan D. "American Judaism" Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-300-10197-X 512pp
* Shapiro, Edward S. "A Time for Healing: American Jewry since World War II." Jewish People in America, vol. 5. 1992.
* Sorin, Gerald. "Tradition Transformed: The Jewish Experience in America." 1997.
* Staub, Michael E. ed. "The Jewish 1960s: An American Sourcebook" University Press of New England, 2004; 371 pp. ISBN 1-58465-417-1 [ online review]
* Svonkin, Stuart. "Jews against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties." 1997
* Waxman, Chaim I. "What We Don't Know about the Judaism of America's Jews." "Contemporary Jewry" (2002) 23: 72-95. Issn: 0147-1694 Uses survey data to map the religious beliefs of American Jews, 1973-2002.
* Wertheimer, Jack, ed. "The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed." 1987.
* Whitfield, Stephen J. "In Search of American Jewish Culture." 1999

External links

* [ American Jewish Historical Society]
* [ Short article on the archaeology of immigrant California Jews] see Chapter 3.
* [ Resources > Jewish communities > America > Northern America] The Jewish History Resource Center, Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
* [ Feinstein Center] . Comprehensive collection of links to Jewish American history, organizations, and issues.
* [ United Jewish Communities of North America] . Also site of population survey statistics.
* [ Jews in America] from the Jewish Virtual Library.
* [ Jewish-American Literature]
* [ Thoughts About The Jewish People By American Thinkers]
* [ Jewish-American History on the Web]
* [ Jewish American Hall of Fame]
* [ The Jewish Impact on America]
* [ Jewish Success In The American Media]
* [ 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey]
* [ 2005 Great Boston Jewish Community Study]

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