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:
- · Gain a deeper appreciation for an historical understanding of Jewish identity in America and the world.
- · Be able to identify within the American narrative specific events and movements of significance to the American-Jewish community.
- · Be able to identify prominent American Jews and articulate their significance to the history of America and American Jewry.
- · Be able to identify the American Jewish Community’s most prominent institutions, and explain both their historical genesis and contemporary significance.
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.
- · Diner, Hasia, The Jews of the United States, 1654-2000, University of California Press; (May 30, 2006)
- · Daniel Elazar, Community and Polity: The Organizational Dynamics of American Jewry, Jewish Publication Society of America (1995).
Week 1: What is an American? What is American Jewish History?
- · Hector St. John De Crevecoeur—What is An American?
- · Frederick Jackson Turner—The Significance of the Frontier in American Life
- · Horace Kallen—Democracy Versus the Melting Pot
- · Daniel Elazar Introduction, Assimilation and Authenticity, 3-43
- · Oscar Handlin—“Our Unknown American Ancestors” (File Download)
- · Hasia Diner—Introduction , 1-9
Week 2: A Century of Jewish Migration and Life
- · Hasia Diner, 71-112
- · Hasia Diner 113-154
- · Shelley Tenenbaum—“Culture and Context: The Emergence of Hebrew Free Loan Societies in the United States (File Download)
Week 3: Jewish Political Life and the Genesis of the Jewish Institutional Landscape
- · Hasia Diner, 155-202
- · Daniel Elazar, 190-219
Week 4: Institutions at Work: The Jewish Institutional Base 1920-1950
- · Hasia Diner, 205-258
- · David Levering Lewis, “Parallels and Divergences: Assimilationist Strategies of Afro-American and Jewish Elites from 1910 to the Early 1930s.” (File Download)
- · Rona Sheramy, “’There Are Times When Silence is a Sin”: The Women’s Division of the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Nazi Boycott Movement” (File Download)
- · Naomi W. Cohen, “The Transatlantic Connection: The American Jewish Committee and the Joint Foreign Committee in Defense of German Jews, 1933-1937” (File Download)
Week 5: The Suburban Jew
- · Hasia Diner, 259-304
- · Excerpts From Deborah Dash Moore, To the Golden Cities, (File Download)
- · Daniel Elazar 219-233
Week 6: The Holocaust, Israel, and America’s Institutional Base
- · Hasia Diner, 321-334
- · Peter Novick, Introduction and Conclusion to, The Holocaust in American Life, (File Download)
- · Peter Novick, Chapter 10, The Holocaust in American Life, (File Download)
- · Daniel Elazar 431-451
Week 7: Assessments of the Contemporary Community
- · Hasia Diner, 305-321, 334-358
- · Excerpts From Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism, (File Download)
- · Daniel Elazar, 313-354, 277-312
- · Guest Speaker:A Personal Account of the Institutional Evolution of the Jewish Community
Week 8: Contemporary Los Angeles: East Meets West, Jewishly Speaking of Course
- · Tom Tugend, “The Persian Path Through LA (File Download)
- · David Wolpe, “When Ashkenazi and Persian Worlds Collide—Community Healing Begins at Shul (File Download)
- · Steven J. Gold, “Patterns of Economic Cooperation Among Israeli Immigrants in Los Angeles” (File Download)