Evolution and Structure of the American Jewish Community
Professor Erik Greenberg
Hebrew Union College

     The purpose of this course is to offer an historical understanding of American Jewry and its institutions. As well we will study and discuss the scope and activities of the contemporary American Jewish community’s institutional base. We will first attempt to understand broad definitional categories such as Jews and Jewishness, American exceptionalism as well as other ideas which relate to Jewish and American history and identity. We will then explore the history and historiography of American Jewry from approximately 1820 to the present, developing a broad chronological overview while paying close attention to specific historical moments. Upon completion of this course students should have achieved the following course objectives:

Books and Other Texts
     We will use Hasia Diner’s The Jews of the United States of America as a sort of history textbook and Daniel Elazar’s Community and Polity as a political science text. Still, I will generally require you to read a number of works each week offering a variety of perspectives on a given topic.


Week 1: What is an American? What is American Jewish History?

Week 2: A Century of Jewish Migration and Life

Week 3: Jewish Political Life and the Genesis of the Jewish Institutional Landscape

Week 4: Institutions at Work: The Jewish Institutional Base 1920-1950

Week 5: The Suburban Jew

Week 6: The Holocaust, Israel, and America’s Institutional Base

Week 7: Assessments of the Contemporary Community

Week 8: Contemporary Los Angeles: East Meets West, Jewishly Speaking of Course