Jews and the New American Scene, by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab
In the early 1980′s, the sociologist Charles Silberman published A Certain People, a book that depicted the American Jewish experience as an unqualified success and the American Jewish future as a golden prospect. By the late 1980′s, the mood among students of American Jewry had turned more cautious; a group of scholars known as “transformationists” were conceding that American Jewish life was undergoing a change, even if they were not yet prepared to say that it was declining. Now, two veteran observers of the Jewish community, Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, have given us Jews and the New American Scene, a book that administers the intellectual equivalent of a cold shower to American Jewry.
Pessimism regarding Jewish life is usually associated with a deep concern about anti-Semitism, but this is not what animates Lipset and Raab. Indeed, as they see it, anti-Semitism is at present a marginal phenomenon in American society. What preoccupies these writers is not the external but the internal threat: a sharp fall-off in Jewish identity and a serious weakening of Jewish commitment. Lipset and Raab argue forcefully that American Jews have become victims of their own success, achieving integration and acceptance in the larger American society at the price of a declining sense of their own Jewishness.
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