Sociology and American Jews
To the Editor:
The summary of the sociological findings in Nathan Glazer’s article, “What Sociology Knows About American Jews,” is, in my opinion, the most adequate and well-reasoned which we yet have in the field. . . .
With regard to Glazer’s two main conclusions: First, that the Jews have advanced more rapidly than other ethnic groups; it seems to me that the full implications of this are not developed as much as they might be. If it is true, for example, that as an ethnic group the Jews have advanced more rapidly in the social scale, this might help to explain some of the stereotypes held of Jews by the dominant community, and some of the behavior characteristics which occur among Jews.
With respect to the second main conclusion, regarding intermarriage, is it not important to note, as Ruppin does, that the rate of endogamy is dependent upon the concentration of Jews within a certain community, and that the greater the concentration, the greater the endogamy? The estimates Ruby Kennedy gives from New Haven, of which Glazer makes so much, are evidence from a pretty highly concentrated Jewish community, which forms a large portion of the entire city, where we would expect a low rate of intermarriage. What we really need is more studies of this same kind both in large cities, where the concentration of Jews is more evident, and in smaller cities, where it is less evident. I believe that if this were done, we would see that endogamy is a function of group solidarity.
Finally, Glazer mentions in his last paragraph that there is need for more intimate sociology of Jewish life. My own observation is that the weakest aspect of the sociology of the Jews is a lack of family studies. There is only one monograph on the subject in English that I know of, and only one article in the sociological journals. . . .
If we are to understand the Jewish community at all, we must first begin with the family relationships; until then we shall lack the fundamental key to the entire subject.
R. A. Schermerhorn
Western Reserve University
To the Editor:
I think Nathan Glazer’s “What Sociology Knows About American Jews” an excellent assessment of the present state of sociological research concerning American Jews, and I am looking forward to his next article on the subject.
I should like, however, to take exception to his use of the term “Jewish sociology,” and to his use interchangeably of the terms “Jewish sociology” and “sociology of the Jews.”
“American sociology” or “German sociology” usually refers to sociology which has been produced by Americans in America or Germans in Germany, regardless of the subject matter. “Jewish sociology,” in my opinion, is used correctly only in the case of sociological writings produced in Israel, and perhaps also in the case of sociological works written in Yiddish or Hebrew.
American sociologists who are Jews, as well as those who are non-Jews, writing sociological works in the English language, are producing American sociology, even if their writings be concerned with Jews. As to the term “sociology of . . .,” this should be used sparingly, and only in the case of a well-recognized field.
Brooklyn, New York
To the Editor:
I found Mr. Glazer’s article intelligent, well done, and rewarding. . . . In his concluding article I hope Mr. Glazer will devote some attention to the criteria which he thinks research on American Jews should fulfill. He mentions in the present article the abundance of research on the American Negro. Does he think research on American Jews should follow the same pattern? Does it make sense scientifically to do a study of the Negro family? Or to put this another way, if a researcher were given fifty thousand dollars to do research on American Jews, should it be a study of the Jewish child or the Jewish adult? the Jewish family or the Jewish worker? Jewish personality or Jewish political patterns? From a scientific point of view, what are the most crucial areas of research and why?
Part of the same problem is to suggest, however tentatively, the limits of such research. Is there a point beyond which research on American Jews is merely precious? I have the impression that we have too much research on the American Negro. Rather than informing social action, it tends to paralyze it. In any case, I would like to see some discussion of this question.
Thelma Herman McCormack
U. S. Department of Agriculture
To the Editor:
. . . As an American Jew and a sociologist, I see very little merit in Mr. Glazer’s terms “Jewish sociology” and “American Jewish sociologists”. . . . May I ask what is “Jewish sociology,” and who are “American Jewish sociologists”? These terms seem to convey to the layman the false notion that if an American Jew is a sociologist, he is by definition concerned with the study of American Jews, and that Gentiles who are sociologists study Gentiles. Mr. Glazer’s own references to the contributions of individuals such as Warner and Kennedy would show the contrary.
My other comments concern Mr. Glazer’s remarks on assimilation and intermarriage. Although he does not formally define the term “assimilation,” he appears to use it synonymously with “absorption” and “disappearance.” With this in mind he asserts that when Jews marry non-Jews in large numbers they assimilate. All we have to test his assertion, for America, is the relatively small measured incidence of intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles, and the cases therein do not show that intermarrying Jews are inevitably absorbed by their Gentile mates. Indeed, in many cases the opposite is true, and the children of such marriages often marry back into the Jewish group.
Finally, it is important to bear in mind that Mr. Glazer and others are handicapped by the fact that no scholarly findings are available as yet on American Jewish intermarriage since Dr. Kennedy’s research in New Haven in 1940. It may be that Mr. Glazer’s generalization that “Jews show very little tendency to assimilate: they intermarry less than any other ethnic group” lags behind the facts.
Milton L. Barron
Ithaca, New York
In Emil L. Fackenheim’s article, “The Modern Jew’s Path to God,” in the May issue, one line was dropped out, thus destroying the meaning of two sentences. These sentences, which ran from the bottom of page 453 to the top of page 454, should properly have read as follows:
Modern man is tempted to describe it as the peculiar mental habit of a religious civilization. But this, if we truly try to understand the faith of our fathers, is an absurd prejudice.