Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Jews in the Psyche of America

Filed under: World Jewry
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 21:3-4 (Fall 2009)

The American Jewish experience is unique. Singularly different from other Diaspora encounters, one struggles to understand all of the historical, political, and social factors that have contributed to this exceptional national phenomenon. Yet it is as much an individualized encounter with this society as it is a formal connection to the nation called “America.” Just as American society has embraced Jews, American Jewry has fully identified with this nation’s core values, thereby creating a unique and significant relationship.

Introduction: Defining the American Jewish Experience:

This past December when walking through shopping malls, and in fact thinking about this subject matter, I was immediately struck by store signs reading “Happy Holidays” rather than the more traditional seasonal notices of “Merry Christmas.” Listening to the holiday music being played, it became immediately obvious that along with traditional Christmas carols, one could hear Hanukkah songs as well. The pluralistic nature of this society is reflected in how American business has come to understand the diversity of this country. This same access and acceptability can also be found within American popular culture: for example, Jewish humor has served as a bridge between American society and Jewish ideas and values. Americans have come to embrace Jews. Language also reflects this connection: Yiddish terms have become an integral part of the nation’s vocabulary. As one of my colleagues suggested when describing this special connection that Jews have with American society, “Americans like us so much that they want to marry our sons and daughters.”

Five specific concepts are particularly significant in capturing the elements that uniquely define the American-Jewish story:

  1. Framing the Political Engagement: “The Contract with America”
  2. Defining Moments within the American and Jewish Stories: Internal Challenges and External Threats
  3. Emerging Social and Religious Pluralism: The Gateway to Understanding and Engagement
  4. Measuring Jewish Security: The Absence of anti-Semitism and Support for Israel
  5. Creating the “Civil Religion” of American Jewry

1.     Framing the Political Engagement

a.     The Ideal of American Citizenship

The very concept of American citizenship can help to provide an understanding of this nation’s uniqueness and the opportunities readily made available to Jews and others:

“The United States is one of the few countries in the world that does not make citizenship dependent on ancestry, on race, or on membership in a certain religious group. Instead, common principles and values that are enshrined in the country’s constitution bind the citizens of this country – regardless of race, class, or religious creed…. Consider the first three words of the Constitution – “We the People.” Three seemingly innocuous and yet powerful words, here is the essence of why the United States was exceptional at the time of the Constitution’s adoption – the insistence that the authority of government is not derived from God or some higher authority, as was previously thought more or less common, but from the consent of the governed.[1]”

As with every ideal, the realities associated with any social system suggest that efforts to portray a perfect society are offset by a different and less appealing scenario. Societies, including the U.S., must contend with their own historic truths; exemplified in this case by slavery and the internment of the Japanese internment during the Second World War. Similarly, the economic elements of capitalism have at times evidenced how the power of greed and corruption defy and undermine the principles of an open and fair marketplace; the Bernard Madoff affair sadly reflects this latter reality.

b.     Constitutional Guarantees

Beyond the symbolic and personal statements of American leadership, the Constitutional principles of American democracy have clearly enabled and shaped Jewish political engagement. Among the underpinnings basic to this nation’s creation was the commitment of its founding fathers to ensure religious liberty and church-state separation, as expressed in the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[2]

Similarly, Article six of the Constitution contains a further political safeguard: it prohibits any form of a “religious test” as a qualification to hold public office.[3]

c.      The Jewish Contract with America

A set of historical events have, over time, created a kind of mythology concerning Jewish participation in American society, suggesting a “special connection” between America and its Jewish citizens.

With the election of its first President, George Washington, the Jewish congregations of the new republic issued a series of congratulatory letters; the Jewish community of Newport Rhode Island received a return note from President Washington. It represents one of the most extraordinary statements defining the ideals associated with American society and serves as an important element of this notion of a “contract” between the Jews and America:

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.[4]

Washington’s concluding paragraph perfectly expresses the ideal relationship between the government, its individual citizens and religious groups:

“May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.[5]”

Over time, other symbolic statements and defining actions would add to this contractual understanding, including Abraham Lincoln’s decision to overturn General Grant’s Order Number 11;[6] the actions of Presidents Grover Cleveland[7] and Theodore Roosevelt[8] on behalf of Russian Jewry; and, ultimately, President Harry Truman’s decision to recognize the State of Israel.[9]

American Jewry has so identified with the key social norms and political symbols of this society that from the outset Jewish institutions reflected not only the core terminology of American society but also the structural characteristics of the federal government system itself. For example, various American Jewish organizations have taken on names with symbolic “American” references, including United Jewish Communities, American Jewish Congress, Union for Reform Judaism, and United Synagogue of America (USA). Similarly, the governance and structural functions of American Jewish institutions all reflect two core elements: the use of a federalist system involving national, regional or state, and local levels of governance; and the existence ofseparation of powers consisting of the distribution of assignments and roles among the various governing bodies.

2. Defining Moments within the American and Jewish Stories

a. Internal Opportunities, External Threats

These legal and social concepts are joined by a set of particular policies and defining moments that have helped to shape and direct this experience. Initially, the tale must be told through the broad lens of images and expectations that were brought by immigrants to America. For Jews, from the outset America was identified as the “Golden Medine,” that special and safe place devoid of oppression and religious intolerance. The sense of total security and acceptance within American society, however, would emerge over time. In comparative terms, the American experience, even from the outset, was understood to be a far more welcoming environment in comparison to the world of Eastern Europe, the former home of most of those new arrivals.

The vision of American abundance intertwined with the vision of America as a haven. Interpreting American life in intensely spiritual terms, Jewish newcomers tended to view their new material existence as an integral part of the New Jerusalem.[10]

It was in the post-Second World War era that the Jewish story in America was fundamentally redefined and given both expression and direction. It was this period that enabled Jews to see themselves no longer as social outsiders or an immigrant class, but rather as an integral part of the American experience. Suddenly, Jews needed to address the challenges of becoming part of the middle class.

Such transformation was shaped in part by an array of domestic opportunities, including new legislative initiatives, providing Jews and other minorities with the ability to advance their lives and careers. Similarly, the social relocation of Jews from urban centers to suburbia also presented at once new challenges and opportunities to identify with the emerging values of the middle class. At the same time, with the birth of the State of Israel, there was a perceived tension between Jewish identity and American loyalty, resulting in a need to define boundaries and relationships This dilemma raised for some within the community concerns about how they would be perceived by other Americans. In particular, the fear of renewed anti-Semitism, driven by a concern over the issue of dual-loyalty, was one of the factors in this debate.

Possibly no piece of legislation was as responsible for this social transition as the 1944 GI Bill (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act). It afforded thousands of Jews, along with their fellow countrymen, the opportunity to participate fully in the growth of the American middle class through educational opportunities and employment benefits.[11] The Bill provided for loans and grants that enabled veterans to open businesses, secure a college education or professional training, and made available funding so that young families could purchase homes.

Anthropologist Riv-Ellen Prell offers these thoughts about the engagement of Jews with American culture in this post-war period:

“The important scholarship on suburbs located Jews in a dominant discourse of whiteness, consumption, privilege, and cultural shallows. Suburbs proved to be places that for some period of time transformed and democratized ways of being Jewish. They fostered political activism and solidified racial privilege. They held out hopes for acculturation and assimilation and they dashed some as well.[12]”

For some American Jews, the birth of the State of Israel raised the question of “dual loyalty.” The creation of a Jewish state compelled the American Council for Judaism to issue a statement defending their position on American patriotism and loyalty: “To Americans of Jewish faith it is a foreign state. Our single and exclusive national identity is to the United States.”[13]

In order to clarify issues of Israel-Diaspora relations and to set aside any possibility that the dual-loyalty charge would be raised against American Jews, Jacob Blaustein, President of the American Jewish Committee in 1950, set in motion a series of negotiations with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett concerning this question. These negotations lead to a series of letters that served to define and shape understanding on the subject. In setting the tone for these discussions, Blaustein stated that:

“We must…sound a note of caution to Israel and its leaders…. It must recognize that the matter of good will between its citizens and those of other countries is a two-way street – that Israel also has a responsibility in this situation…of not affecting adversely the sensibilities of Jews who are citizens of other states by what it says or does…. American Jews vigorously repudiate any suggestion or implication that they are living in exile…. To American Jews, America is home.[14]”

The promise of Israel, with its repercussions for the status of American Jewry, created, at least for some within the American Jewish community, the challenge of constructing a framework that would serve to define the connection and relationship between the Diaspora and Israel.

b.     The Rise of External Threats

Beyond the internal dimensions of a changing American Jewry in the post-Second World War era, external threats emerged that had profound implications for the American Jewish community and its sense of security. Just as this period offered internal possibilities for Jews, a series of threats loomed beyond the community that might well have undermined and destroyed the possibilities and realities of the “American dream” and the community’s sense of security.

Historian Hasia Diner, writing on this theme, suggests that

“Jewish anxiety about the escalation of anti-Communist rhetoric and the spillover from words into deeds also reflected the fact that Jews had been overrepresented among the supporters of left-wing causes in the United States throughout the twentieth century.[15]”

In 1950 Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage; the charges related to the passing of information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. The couple was ultimately executed in 1953. This case created a great degree of nervousness among Jews in America. The political witch hunts conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the activities of the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the early to mid-1950s raised concerns about an increase in anti-Semitism. Jews “walked a tightrope” which on the one hand condemned Communism and on the other linked anti-Communism to progressive domestic causes.[16]

If the 1950s can be perceived as a decade marked by fear and uncertainty for American Jewry, then the 1960s witnessed the emergence of a heightened sense of political engagement and activism.

Jews emerged as key players in the liberal, progressive agenda of the civil rights era and as activists within the Vietnam anti-war movement. With this came new challenges regarding how far Jews could publicly embrace controversial policies without endangering their self-interests and the community’s well-being. This period was marked as a time at which Jews were seen to be politically at odds with one another; a reality that re-enforced a growing sense of self-assuredness amongst Jews. The 1967 Six-Day War generated a sense of pride among American Jewry.

The years following the Second World War in part defined the challenges facing American Jewry in shaping their role as a minority community within a larger culture. The new realities of the presence of a Jewish State, along with the heightened visibility of Jews within American society, provided this community with an opportunity to embrace fully the American experience. Even the divisions within the community over specific domestic and foreign policies were perceived by the Jews as testimony to their greater sense of civic assuredness and security.

3.     Emerging Social and Religious Pluralism

a.     The Gateway to Understanding and Engagement

How would Jews define themselves? And in turn, how would American society understand and embrace different religious cultures?

Unquestionably, the 1950s launched a period of anxious writing about American religions beyond the shared concerns about meeting the religious needs of the mushrooming suburban populations…[17]

The issue of religious identification and affiliation in a changing American environment represented one of the central post-Second World War issues. Rabbi Stuart Rosenberg suggested that in the mindset of the Jews a new paradigm was being constructed: “America was different.” During this twenty-year span Jews also widely shared the expectation that they would be part of the effort to bring about what he (Rosenberg) called “the America that is yet to be,”[18] arguing that American Jewry would help to develop “the Judaism that can yet be, in such an America.”[19]

Describing the ways in which the larger society embraced Jews and Judaism during the years of the post-Second World War, historian Naomi Cohen reflects that: “Spurred on by Christian awakening to the Holocaust, religious groups moved beyond Brotherhood Weeks and conventional platitudes that denounced prejudice to a new level of encounter, that of dialogue…. Predicated on the reality of religious pluralism which effectively destroyed the nineteenth-century dream of a homogenous Christian America, it affirms the legitimacy of diversity among the faiths. Since it permits meetings among equals, it has served to redress significantly the numerical imbalance between Jews and Christians.[20]”

b.     Impact of Religion on the American Soul

The depth of religious engagement and pluralistic perspective continues to run deep within the American psyche, as reflected in Naomi Schaefer Riley’s Wall Street Journal article: “In the United States, more than half the population attends church at least once a month, 85% of us believe that religious diversity is good for the country and 80% of us think that there are basic truths in many religions. In fact, Americans overwhelmingly believe that people of other religions can go to heaven.[21]”

Political scientists Robert Putnam (Harvard) and David Campbell (Notre Dame) are currently working on a new book, scheduled for release next year, entitled American Grace: The Changing Role of Religion in American Civic Life. The scholars shared some of their findings from a survey of 3,100 people at a recent gathering sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: “They found that Americans have remarkable rates of “religious bridging,” a phrase they use to describe relationships between people of different faiths. Such bridging – at least in part – accounts for Americans’ warm feelings toward people of other faiths.”

If you ask Americans about their five closest friends…it turns out that, on average, between two and three of them are of other faiths. And more than half of Americans are actually married to someone of a different faith from the one in which they were raised.[22]

c.      The End of Executive Suite Discrimination:

In the post Second World War era, the American Jewish Committee, along with other key community relations agencies, sought to open business and professional opportunities for American Jews and other minorities through such programs as the “executive suite.” This initiative provided evidence to representatives from business and professional institutions of the absence of Jews and other minorities in senior administrative and policy positions. It suggested ways in which they could attract and engage minorities to these senior levels. More than many other efforts to break down discriminatory hiring practices, this type of assertive program provided new avenues of full economic participation for Jews in American society and, in turn, allowed for greater social and cultural integration within the mainstream of this nation:

“American business, when confronted with evidence of discrimination in its ranks against members of minority groups, is visibly taking steps to rid itself of such practices, according to an analysis made public today by the American Jewish Committee. Mr. Abram[23] said: “We seem to be heading into a new era in this work. Up to this point the thrust has been largely to prove to American business, whether or not it has been aware of it, that discrimination has been far too common. Now we are in the heartening position of finding American business saying to us, in effect, yes, we have been wrong, and we want you to show us how we can change.” Mr. Abram…explained first that the American Bankers Association, trade association for the nation’s 15,000 commercial banks, earlier this month had renewed a pledge to promote equal employment and promotion opportunities within the banking system.[24]”

Similar efforts to bring down housing barriers, social club discrimination, and university quotas would formally open American society to Jews and to other minorities.

4.     Measuring Jewish Security

a.     Anti-Semitism and the American Jewish Experience:

Surveys of attitudes toward Jews in the U.S. began in the 1930s in the wake of the Nazi triumph in Germany. In an attempt to understand the extent of anti-Semitism in the U.S., and how best to counteract it, Jewish organizations began to conduct various studies. Over the next three decades, over one hundred surveys were undertaken. A summary, compiling and analyzing the findings, was published in 1966 in Jews in the Mind of America.[25] The editors concluded that anti-Semitism was a disappearing problem. Between 1965 and 1982, the Gallup Organization conducted several polls on attitudes toward Jews; their findings were similar to other polls in the same period, reaffirming the normalization of Jewish participation and acceptance within the nation.[26]

Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, in his presentation to the Knesset Committee on Diaspora Affairs in 2008, reported that: “For over 25 years, ADL has systematically tracked reported incidents of anti-Jewish vandalism, including swastika defacements, against synagogues, other Jewish institutions and private Jewish property, as well as harassment, including physical and verbal assaults directed at individuals in the Untied States. Our report for 2007…will show a decline for the third consecutive year. While not all the numbers from each of our 50 states are in, the League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents counted more than 1,350 anti-Semitic incidents across the United States last year, representing a 13% decline from the 1,554 reported in 2006. This, in turn, was a 12% decline from the 1,757 reported in 2005.[27]”

Likewise, Jerome Chanes, who often comments on Jewish community relations issues and public policy matters, noted: “America is different. A review of anti-Semitism in the United States must take place in the singular context of democratic pluralism, associationalism, and American exceptionalism. What makes America “different” are those constitutional protections, particularly those in the Bill of Rights and the separation of church and state that inform a society of democratic pluralism. It is the rich soil of pluralism that has been inhospitable for the nightshade of anti-Semitism to take firm root, whatever manifestations of anti-Semitism there have been and continue to be.[28]”

In the end, the absence of any experience within this society of state-supported or sponsored anti-Semitism must be seen as particularly significant in framing the case for uniqueness of the American experience. Possibly no other factor more distinctively defines and sustains the special relationship that Jews have with the U.S.

b.     Israel and American Society:

Israel is rooted in the American mindset. Nineteenth century Christian Zionism left its mark in framing the centrality of the Holy Land in the religious and social consciousness of America.[29]

Polling data on American attitudes toward Israel have, over time, reaffirmed the “special relationship” that exists between the U.S. and the State of Israel. In many ways, there may be no better indicator of the security and well-being enjoyed by American Jewry than the level of public opinion in support of Israel.

Though similar to the highly favorable attitudes toward Israel in 2005 and 2006, the 71% of Americans viewing Israel favorably today is eight points higher than the 63% recorded last year, and is the highest favorable score for Israel since the 79% recorded during the 1991 Gulf War.[30]

During Israel’s war with Hezbollah in August 2006, when the rest of the world was critical of the Jewish state’s actions, Americans overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support:

“Quinnipiac’s every three-month survey asks Americans to rate 17 different countries on a “friend versus foe” 1-100 index, also known as a thermometer reading. The higher the number, the warmer each respondent feels toward each country. Israel’s latest mean rating was 65.9, which placed it third among the nations tested. The highest was England at 78.3, while the lowest was Iran at 13.9.”

Not only did Israel’s rating go up, but those of Iran and the Palestinian government dropped. The Palestinians dropped from a June score of 25 to 22.8, Iran fell to 13.9 from 16.9, and Syria had a mean rating of 21.7. Along with North Korea, which had a mean rating of 15, the three Israeli enemies were considered the four least friendly nations in the world by the American people. Israel’s rating is substantially higher among men (71.9), than it is among women (60.5). It does slightly better among white evangelical Christians (68.6) and white Roman Catholics (67) than it does among Americans overall.[31]

Possibly no other definitive standards can as effectively be employed to determine a society’s level of connection and openness to its Jewish population as the presence/absence of anti-Semitism and support for the State of Israel. Employing both standards of assessment, the U.S. must be seen as unique in its welcoming of Jews and supportiveness of Israel. In the current political environment, the American model must be seen as both significantly different from other nations, and in turn particularly appealing.

5.     Creating the “Civil Religion” of American Jewry

The political passions of American Jewry have to a degree created what some have called the “Civil Religion” of American Jewry: This concept of civil religion has served to align Jewish interests and social values with American politics. Over time, there has been a blurring of political behavior and engagement with American Jewish culture. American civil religious rituals, such as a presidential inauguration, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day, serve as vehicles of national religious self-understanding. Since the earliest days of the nation, American Jews have maintained their own interpretations of American civil religion, which have usually accompanied ideologies of Jewish civil religion. Some American Jewish writers focused on the necessity of shedding ethnic otherness for rebirth as a new American man, while others have affirmed the central values of liberty, justice, and freedom as stemming from God’s laws. Authors such as J.D. Salinger, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Chaim Potok, Leon Uris, Herman Wouk, Cynthia Ozick and Bernard Malamud, along with more contemporary writers including Paul Auster, Allegra Goodman, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Safran Foer have contributed to the discourses on being Jewish in America and the place of religious identity in the American story. For American Jews, the latter seems most appropriate: it permits the alignment of Jewish ideals with American political interests. As a result, politics became a natural extension and expression of Jewish principles and political priorities.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust and with the rebirth of a Jewish state, a new type of symmetry seemed to take shape reflecting American Jewish identity; “American Jews believed that in some way their fate and that of the Jewish state had been bound together by the Holocaust.”[32] Similarly, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War a heightened sense of American Jewish engagement and connectedness with Israel emerged and “…the burst of identification and creativity awakened by the State of Israel itself was energizing virtually every facet of Jewish life in the United States….”[33] In the years following, Israel became “the dominant focus of American Jewish life. Philanthropy, political activity, education, religious life, and culture all became ‘Israel centered’ – so much so that critics charged American Jews with using Israel for ‘vicarious fulfillment of their Jewish identity’.”[34]

Jonathan Woocher captured the interplay between the Holocaust and creation of the Jewish state on American Jewish consciousness when he suggested that American Jewry had constructed its own “civil Judaism.”[35] As he wrote, “the underlying conviction of the civil religion is that Jewishness and Americanness are mutually reinforcing. A good Jew is a good citizen and a good American – and we have much to bring and much to receive from our involvement in communal welfare.”[36]

Historian Hasia Diner describes the intersection between Judaism and Americanism in this context in the following manner: “Negotiating between American and Jewish identities, they [Jews] operated with a sense of empowerment. They did not believe that they had to accept America, as it was, nor did they see Judaism as a fixed entity that they could not mold to fit their needs. They could put their impress on both to ease the traumas of accommodation and to bring the two into harmony.[37]”

This capacity to “negotiate” between two identities in many ways allowed the Jews of the U.S. to successfully emerge within this society as a force which not only influences the nation’s culture and politics, but also reshapes Judaism in an American context.

In his memoirs, Arthur Hertzberg (1921-2006), a prominent Conservative rabbi, scholar and social activist, also struggles with two competing themes. The first, raised by Henry Adams, regards the nature of “Americanism,” and the second the issues of religious identity and assimilation, was introduced by Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America) and raised again later by the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem in his novel, Motel Peyse, the Cantor’s Son.[38] In referencing these works, Hertzberg raises the question “what does it mean to be a Jew in the Diaspora?” and, more specifically, “what does it mean to be a Jew in the American context?”

This tension can also be seen in different forms of Jewish political expression. As Steven Cohen suggests: “Modernity, then, can be credited with establishing Jewish politics – be it the politics of integration (liberalism) or of group survival (pro-Israelism) – as new forms of group identification.[39]”

As Cohen confirms, American Jews express themselves politically through two competing lenses: embracing liberal ideology as framing Jewish and universal values, or defining political engagement through interest-group politics, specifically defending and embracing Jewish self-interests.


The American Jewish story must be viewed within the frame of this country’s commitment to cultural diversity and religious pluralism. In order to sustain these ideals, the U.S. established a legal framework which embodied them. Over the course of some 350 years of a Jewish presence on the North American continent, Jews have embraced this national opportunity to construct a different type of contractual agreement than that which had existed in other Diaspora settings. In the process of the growing American Jewish experience, Jews have become an essential and highly visible element within the structure and culture of this society.

As part of this emerging experience, Jews have also had occasion to build new forms of religious expression and create a different type of communal system. The creation of competitive, voluntary models of community has been one of the key contributions made by the Jews of America to the contemporary Jewish scene.

The success of the American Jewish experiment can be found through this tension, as Jews are constantly negotiating between their “Jewish” and “American” identities. This identity battle represents the American story, not only for Jews, but for all ethnic communities in the US.

In defining the future of the American Jewish experience, Dr. Steven Bayme suggests that a major challenge faces this community in preserving its identity: “American Jewry, in short, confronts significant challenges, not to its status as Jews in America, but rather to its identity as American Jews…. Whether American Jews envision their future as empowered and enriched by Judaic heritage or as overwhelmed and demoralized by the reality of assimilation will, in many ways, determine the course of future Diaspora history.[40]”

Living in this type of cultural setting reminds Jews of the choices and dilemmas that at times they must face. This in turn results in its own creative energy, allowing minorities the opportunity to flourish, as they at once contribute to the larger American culture and negotiate their own ethnic or religious pathways to preserving their respective heritage and traditions.


*     *     *



[1] Professor Dr. Werner Steger of Dutchess County Community College, Keynote Address at Naturalization Ceremony, 14 April 2005,

[2] United States Constitution, First Amendment (The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights),

3 “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Article 6,


[5] Ibid.

[6] Hasia R. Diner, The Jews of the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 162.

[7] President Cleveland noted in his 1895 State of the Union Address, “Correspondence is on foot touching the practice of Russian consuls within the jurisdiction of the United States to interrogate citizens as to their race and religious faith, and upon ascertainment thereof to deny to Jews authentication of passports or legal documents for use in Russia. Inasmuch as such a proceeding imposes a disability which in the case of succession to property in Russia may be found to infringe the treaty rights of our citizens, and which is an obnoxious invasion of our territorial jurisdiction, it has elicited fitting remonstrance, the result of which, it is hoped, will remove the cause of complaint. The pending claims of sealing vessels of the United States seized in Russian waters remain unadjusted. Our recent convention with Russia establishing a modus vivendi as to imperial jurisdiction in such cases has prevented further difficulty of this nature.”

[8] President Theodore Roosevelt issued a letter to Czar Nicholas II, protesting the 1905 Kishinev Pogrom,

[9] Howard M. Sachar, A History of the Jews in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 610-611.

[10] Andrew R. Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, Jewish Immigrants, Mass Consumption, and the Search for American Identity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 40.

[11] Diner, The Jews of the United States, 260-261.

[12] Ibid., 48.

[13] Sachar, A History of the Jews in America, 720.

[14] Ibid., 721.

[15] Diner, The Jews of the United States, 277.

[16] Ibid., 280.

[17] Riv-Ellen Prell, “Locating American Jews in Post-War America,” in America – From Near and Far: Varieties of American Experience ed. Marc Lee Raphael and Cornelia Wilhelm (Williamsburg: Department of Religious Studies, The College of William and Mary, 2007), 37.

[18] Diner, The Jews of the United States, 261.

[19] Stuart E. Rosenberg, America is Different: The Search for Jewish Identity (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1964), xi.

[20] Naomi W. Cohen, Essential Papers on Jewish-Christian Relations in the United States: Imagery and Reality (New York: New York University Press, 1990), 301-303.

[21] Naomi Schaefer Riley, “Houses of Worship: Getting to Know You,” Wall Street Journal, 15 May  2009.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Morris B. Abram, President of the American Jewish Committee (1963-1968).

[24] American Jewish Committee Press Release, 21 May 1976, on the occasion of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Committee.

[25] Charles Herbert Stember, Marshall Sklare and George Salomon, eds., Jews in the Mind of America (New York: Basic Books, 1966).

[26] Geraldine Rosenfeld, “The Polls: Attitudes toward American Jews,” Public Opinion Quarterly 46/3 (Fall 1982): 431-433.


[28] Jerome Chanes, “Anti-Semitism and Jewish Security in Contemporary America: Why Can’t Jews Take Yes for an Answer?” in Jews in America: A Contemporary Reader, eds. Roberta Rosenberg Farber and Chaim I. Waxman (Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 1999), 127.

[29] Nadav Safran, The United States and Israel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 15-16.


[31] “US support for Israel on the Rise,” 18 September 2006,

[32] Diner, The Jews of the United States, 321.

[33] Sachar, A History of the Jews in America, 742.

[34] Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 336.

[35] Jonathan S. Woocher, Sacred Survival: The Civil Religion of American Jews (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1986), 71.

[36] Max Fisher, “The Role of an American Jewish Leader in Today’s World,” General Assembly Papers, 1967 (Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds), 5.

[37] Diner, The Jews of the United States, 1-2.

[38] Arthur Hertzberg, A Jew in America: My Life and a People’s Struggle for Identity (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 2003) 451-455.

[39] Steven M. Cohen, American Modernity and Jewish Identity (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1983), 153.

[40] Steven Bayme, “Jewish Organizational Response to Intermarriage,” in Jews in America: A Contemporary Reader, ed. Roberta Rosenberg Farber et al., 161.

*     *     *

Steven Windmueller is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Dr. Windmueller serves as dean of the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and holds the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Chair in Jewish Communal Service.