Commentary Magazine


The Future of American Jewry:
Part II

The main trends in the development of the American Jewish community can be traced most clearly in the changes that take place between generations. These, in turn, are reflected, at least to some extent, in the kind of upbringing that parents give their children from one generation to the next. Part I of this essay, in the May number, began with the way East European Jewish immigrants raised their children, and then went on to describe what happened to Jewish life in America when these children—the second generation—matured and became the majority in the American Jewish community.1 In this concluding part, I want to show, first, how the second generation has been raising its own children, the third generation, and then go on to examine some major tendencies in Jewish life today that may shed light on the type of community that will emerge when the third generation grows into adulthood. Finally, I shall project these trends into the distant future in an effort to weigh the possibilities of Jewish survival in America, and to guess at the forms that the Jewish community of the future might take.

As I pointed out in Part I of this essay, the Jews of the second generation strove, with considerable success, to attain the level of income and the way of life of the American middle class. This mobility drive, plus the fact that they grew up suspended between two cultures—the American and the Jewish—had the effect of weaning them away from what I called “traditional Judaism.” Yet they remained members of the Jewish community; they continued to consider themselves Jews, never even showing an awareness of any alternative to being Jewish.

Many of them did, however, believe that they could choose not to raise their children as Jews, but most of them soon found that they had no wish to do so; or if they had, they discovered that the world around them—by labeling the children Jewish—prevented realization of the wish. In the course of rearing the children, then, they became conscious of how Jewish they themselves felt and of how real, although sporadic, was their need to express their feelings of Jewishness.2 The evolution of suitable forms of expression which could also be transmitted to the children led to what has commonly been considered a revival of “traditional Judaism.”

But as I suggested, even before the postwar period traditional Judaism was being transformed into what I called “symbolic Judaism,” a conglomeration of ceremonies and customs whose main purpose was to manifest these newly experienced feelings of Jewishness in those areas of life allotted to religion and related activities by American middle-class culture. I described three of the major elements composing the new Judaism: an “objects culture” in which physical objects used in traditional practices are taken out of their original context to serve as independent symbols of Jewish religious feelings; a Jewish popular culture in which a Jewish flavor is given to themes from American leisure culture; and a Jewish “problems culture” within which Jews moralize about such questions as assimilation, intermarriage, and anti-Semitism in a manner calculated less to find solutions than to affirm their identification with Jewry.

The picture I have sketched of the second generation contrasts sharply wtih the situation of the youthful third generation. While the Jew of the second generation spent his childhood in a distinctly Jewish home, first absorbing Jewishness unconsciously and effortlessly from his parents, and then rejecting the Judaism that accompanied it, the third-generation Jewish child is brought up in an American middle-class home relatively devoid of Judaic traditions. Until he reaches school age he may not even be aware that he is Jewish, but once he discovers this fact, either from his elders or his peers, his parents will take great care to see to it that he learns to feel Jewish.

In the first-generation family, the father was the overseer of the child’s Jewish training; in the middle-class family of today, the mother usually takes charge. But mothers tend to be less concerned with tradition, religious observances, and scholarship—the elements of Judaism—than with the child’s social and emotional adjustment—his feelings of Jewishness. However, neither the mother nor the father possesses any great confidence about how to make their children feel Jewish. Consequently, when the child is old enough he is sent to Sunday school, an indigenous American institution which offers training in Judaism, but is utilized by the parents mainly as a means of strengthening the child’s sense of Jewish identity.

Meanwhile the parents hover over the child to make sure of his progress in this regard. They try to help the Sunday school out by creating a “Jewish atmosphere” at home—that is, by using the material and non-material appurtenances of the symbolic Judaism mentioned above. However, the parents see to it, consciously or not, that this kind of Jewish atmosphere does not conflict seriously with the general middle-class American tone of the home.

As for the children, they have been infused with the culture and symbols of the child’s America before ever setting foot in the Jewish school. They are not strongly motivated to learn the themes and symbols of yet another culture, especially one that is strange, and endorsed only qualifiedly by parents and peers. Most of them come away from Sunday school understanding that they are Jews, but with only a smattering of information about the implications of being Jewish and a scant interest in Judaism.

Jewish educators, whose concern is to insure the survival of a Jewish culture and of Jewish religious institutions that perpetuate traditional Judaism, appear to be committed to an endeavor that is of little importance to parents and of even less concern to the children. The constant discussion of pedagogic techniques and the re-definitions of Jewish education at conferences, in speeches, and in magazines are all symptoms of the dissatisfaction Jewish leaders feel at the thinness of the Jewish knowledge spread by the schools.

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The teachers see the problem largely as an educational one and, disputing over methods, fail to realize that they are actually trying to reverse a powerful trend toward cultural assimilation. In other words, their difficulties stem from the fact that they are attempting to persuade the third generation to accept, and to internalize, the patterns of a traditional Judaism which the parents, who are the major influence on the child’s cultural attachments, gave up when they were children. Most parents are neither willing nor able to reassume an attachment to traditional Judaism that would provide the impetus to direct the child toward the goals of the Jewish school. Often, parents leave the job to the rabbi—or teacher—almost entirely (thus endowing him with greater authority than he has had before), although he alone is unable to motivate the children. Other parents make it plain from the outset that they do not want their children taught traditional Judaism, and ask no more of boards of Jewish education than that their children be told “about Judaism, but not how to practice it.” “Don’t make him too religious,” they ask. “After all, I don’t want my child to become a rabbi.”

There is not enough information as yet to assess the attachment of the confirmed or Bar Mitzvah third generation to Judaism, traditional or symbolic. However, the regularity with which summer camps and teenage youth groups go on repeating elementary material over and over again, suggests that only a handful of third-generation youngsters seem to absorb anything they learn in school. Most of them forget all but a few large facts and symbolic impressions soon after they graduate. On the other hand—as attitude studies conducted among Jewish youths show—the parents’ concern with the children’s feelings of Jewishness does seem to bear fruit. The home, and the Jewish schools, not to mention non-Jewish society, combine to make the children think of themselves as Jews, and to feel Jewish. Among teen-agers, for example, after-school sociability is still largely restricted to other Jews, and the synagogues reinforce this tendency by offering themselves as centers of Jewish adolescent activity.

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Adult American Jewry today is primarily of the second generation. Third-generation adults are still few in number, and besides, almost nothing is known about them. Therefore, in trying to visualize the kind of Jewish community that will emerge when the third-generation youngsters come of age, the best we can do is to make some guesses based on their upbringing and on more general trends in American life. The speculations that follow largely depend on three assumptions about the future that should be made explicit at the outset.

The first assumption is that the Jews—despite certain differences setting them apart—will follow in the main the evolutionary pattern of other American ethnic groups, many of which have already gone through something analogous to the present experience of the Jewish community and are now approaching a more advanced stage of cultural, if not social, assimilation. I am referring here to the Scandinavians, Germans, Irish, and others, who have been in America for four or more generations,3as well as to the Italians, Poles, Czechs, Greeks, etc., etc., many of whom came about the same time as the East European Jews.

My second assumption is that discrimination against Jews is decreasing, and that eventually, the economic, legal, and political disabilities once attached to Jewish identity will virtually disappear from the American scene. Public education, the Americanization of other ethnic groups, and the urban middle-class spirit of tolerance are all working to this end. Organized anti-Semitism is already confined mostly to the lunatic fringe, although the anti-Semitism latent in American society may prove more persistent. Also the physical attributes by which Jews were once characterized or stereotyped have become less conspicuous. Jewish children grow up taller and less “Mediterranean” in appearance than their parents. And as Jewish names grow much more Americanized, it becomes harder and harder to tell Jew from non-Jew—a difficulty that can only increase with the years.

Finally, my speculations are grounded in a set of admittedly hopeful assumptions concerning the evolution of American society itself. I assume here that the long-term trends of high productivity and employment and the steady increase in the standard of living can be maintained, and that tendencies toward a greater democratization of consumption, and of the social, economic, and political structure generally, will win out over other, more centralist and authoritarian tendencies. Regional, rural-urban, and ethnic diversities in American culture should continue to diminish. Conversely, the increase in leisure time, educational level, and exposure to new experiences (through the mass media and travel) should lead to a diversification of consumption styles, while encouraging experimentation with new ways of using leisure. And of course, everything I say is predicated on the hope that international relations will be more stable than today, and that no major war will occur.

Thus, the picture I am about to sketch of the future of American Jewry does not claim to be prophecy, but is rather a projection of trends and assumptions. My forecast will be accurate only to the extent that my assumptions are valid, and only if the few trends I have selected out of the large number observable turn out to be the significant ones. I might add that while the perspectives and techniques of sociology have guided me in my notion of which trends are significant, the projecting done here should not be mistaken for sociology.

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Perhaps the major distinction between the second and third generations of American Jewry lies in the differing degree to which being Jewish affects their lives. Because the former grew up in an all-embracing Orthodoxy that they could reject only with a struggle, they have continued to react to it ever since, sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively, but usually with some intensity. The third generation, on the other hand, comes to maturity in middle-class homes in which Jewish culture and religion play only a small, and circumscribed, role. Since the only traditional Judaism the third-generation child meets is in the Sunday school, Judaism, far from being a symbol of parental authority and hence a source of future emotional importance, becomes merely one of the many things he learns about.

Furthermore, the permissive rearing of the third generation breeds a mild and thoroughly middle-class Jewishness; any contradictions in values between secularized home and Sunday school Judaism are minor and superficial, giving rise to few cultural conflicts. This is so not only because the second generation has erased many of the cultural differences that used to separate Jew from non-Jew, but also because of changes in American middle-class society that have brought greater tolerance.

Consequently, the upbringing of the third-generation Jew bears little resemblance to what I characterized as the “marginal” upbringing of his parents. Rather than growing up as they did, straddling two cultures, the third-generation Jew has a childhood much the same as that of other members of the American middle class, with only the slight difference arising from his ethnic background. Thus, although socially the third-generation Jew remains a member of an ethnic group, he tends to wear his ethnicity rather lightly, as one of several roles and allegiances he possesses in American society: it may trouble him a bit if he should encounter incidents of anti-Semitism, and it may edify and please him when he participates in the Judaism which accompanies his feeling of Jewishness.

This decrease of marginality is accompanied by a weakening of the drives that have sent so many second-generation Jews into the upper reaches of the middle class. As a rule, the third-generation Jew is born into an economically comfortable family. Almost from the cradle he is assured of a college education, while his choice of career no longer need be dictated by purely economic necessities. Jewish students are getting more and more to resemble non-Jewish ones, and it seems that the scholarly, intellectual Jewish youngster is becoming a rarer type.

There are also indications that the grades, along with the academic aspirations, of Jewish students are less likely to be above average than they used to be. Third-generation Jewish college graduates now seek careers in many of the same fields that attract non-Jews, and they seem to be impelled by a desire for similar kinds of job security and status. Many youngsters, of course, end up in their father’s businesses, especially if these are respectable and endowed with prestige, rather than “fringe” ventures. They will operate appliance businesses, but will not go into delicatessen stores or the junk business—unless they can make over the latter into a “waste removal” firm. The driving young promotor who quits school because of need or an impatient urge for the business world is less frequently seen nowadays.

Again, many of the changes described here are responses to what is happening in American society at large. There seems to be fairly widespread agreement, for example, that the role of the lone innovator or promoter—be it in business or the sciences—has shrunk (though this is less true of the consumption goods area, where Jewish businessmen are numerous). Moreover, many of the occupations and industries closed to the second-generation Jew, plus the new service industries that have sprung up in his own lifetime, are today being opened to his children.

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It would appear from all this that the adult third-generation Jew will be very much like any other American in the higher middle-class brackets in the way he both earns and spends his money. If the Jews were more comparable with other ethnic groups, we could predict with some confidence that the third-generation Jew would loosen his ties to the Jewish community and soon cut them altogether. Since his Jewishness is mild, and his attachment to Judaism slight, he would drift steadily in the direction of social assimilation, seceding bit by bit from Jewish institutions, friends, and even family.

However, the indications are that such will not be the case. For one thing, the decline of discrimination, along with the development of what Kennedy and Herberg have called the “Triple Melting Pot,” has weakened the incentive for moving away from Jewish institutions. Furthermore, the likelihood that third-generation Jewry will largely live in the suburbs means that religious and social affiliation—at least of a nominal kind—is bound to be encouraged by the community, though to a lesser extent than before. An additional deterrent to full-scale assimilation is the fact that, in seeking friends, the third-generation Jew will want to associate primarily with people equal to or above him in income, education, and standard of living. This would limit his associations to the professional, proprietary, and managerial upper middle classes among Jews and non-Jews alike. But it is unlikely that the non-Jews of these groups, which are still conservative with respect to social differentiation, would accept the Jew as a social intimate—as the still nearly complete separation in dating, fraternity organization, and many other areas of social life in the “better” American colleges indicates. Nor is there any irresistible incentive that might persuade Jews to try to “pass” (as there is in the case of Negroes). Finally, because the third-generation Jew will feel some obligation to his parents, he cannot be expected to deviate too sharply from their preferences, especially in the absence of powerful temptations. The strong taboos on intermarriage characteristic of the second generation, for example, cannot disappear overnight when there are few incentives to challenge or defy them.

Lacking both sufficient invitation from the non-Jewish world or any strong need to escape from his own, the third-generation Jew seems destined, then, to remain within the group in which he was raised. Unless major changes overtake American society, the third-generation Jewish community may be expected to differ little from the current one—at least on the surface. Underneath, however, new forces will begin to take shape, and these should make themselves felt as the third passes over into the fourth generation.

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For one thing, while Jews may not seek wholesale acceptance from the non-Jewish world, they will probably begin to penetrate the social barriers that still exist today. Relations that in our time are limited largely to business hours, neighborly acquaintance, or distant friendship, may become more personal, and third-generation Jews may increasingly number non-Jews among their close friends. Intermarriage rates may be expected to rise slowly, for the number of Jews whose cultural and emotional affinities with non-Jews are strong enough to overcome remaining social barriers will multiply. Jewish organizations may find that while Jews on the whole will be more socially active than ever, a larger proportion of them will gravitate toward non-sectarian groups. Among the Jewish ones, a growing “community apathy” will probably manifest itself in reduced membership lists, shrunken budgets, and the sapping of organizational strength in general. Small or specialized organizations, including those that base their existence on differences between East European and German Jews, or between particular East European localities, may merge or disband altogether. The Yiddish-language groups, who are going through this process at the moment, will all but disappear in the third generation.

As the third generation begins to feel less strongly about its Jewishness, the need to express it may be expected to decrease. A proportionate drop in religious attendance seems likely, although absolute numbers may be swelled by the population increase due to the post-World War II upsurge of births. As attendance declines, an increasing proportion of the remaining worshippers will be made up of those who go to synagogue or temple for religious reasons—that is, for the Judaism of the services, rather than the familiar Jewishness of the surroundings.

A process of simplification may develop in Jewish services and synagogue practices adjusted to the level of interest obtaining in the third generation. An eventual union between Reform and Conservative groups is already being forecast today, and the tendency towards non-denominationalism observed in Protestantism but restrained among contemporary Jewry by East European prejudices against Reform (which once was dominated by Germans) may appear in the Jewish community too.

Outside the synagogue, traditional religious practices will probably yield more and more before the spread of the “objects culture.” At the same time, however, the “objects culture” itself may undergo simplification. Some of the less frequently used objects will be discarded, while the more significant symbols associated with the major holidays and ceremonies will gain in significance. As the level of popular knowledge about Jewish traditions continues to decline, eventually only the most impressive and most easily comprehensible among the major objects and symbols may survive. The function and meaning of these will gradually be exaggerated as they become, in later generations, practices that represent the entire range of traditional Jewish religious life.

It is difficult to make predictions about the fate of Jewish popular culture. The nostalgia and guilt which the second generation expressed in “Judaizing” themes from American culture are not likely to affect the third. This would seem to portend the disappearance of Jewish popular culture. Yet given continued prosperity, no one knows what avenues future seekers of leisure activity will explore.

As for the third major element of second-generation Jewishness, the “problems culture,” it too faces eventual extinction. The reduction of discrimination and the breaking down of the barriers between Jews and non-Jews should soften concern about anti-Semitism, while the weakening of the Orthodox image of Jewish life may mitigate, or even eliminate, guilt feelings about assimilation. If these things happen, the “problems culture” will be compelled to concentrate on the problem of Jewish survival, over which rabbis, scholars, and community leaders will voice more and more alarm while getting less and less attention.

On the whole, then, the third-generation Jewish community will still resemble the present one in many ways, but is likely to move in the direction of what, from present perspectives, will seem to be greater social assimilation.4 This will be reflected in changes that should come to fruition in the fourth generation, especially with respect to the raising of children.

Those third-generation Jews whose attachment to Judaism or whose reaction to the attitudes of the outside world inspire strong feelings of Jewishness will, of course, bring up their children within the Jewish community. But for those who have no deep attachment to Judaism, the desire for self-segregation seems bound to fall off as opportunities develop for Jews to live without being differentiated as Jews. This situation, already apparent today in the biggest cities and among intellectuals, artists, and in the entertainment world, could become more typical in the years ahead. In that case, some third-generation Jews might decide not to give their children a Jewish education—nor would the children ask for one. While this by itself cannot extinguish the children’s sense of Jewish identity, it can affect their relation to the Jewish community when they become adults. Similarly, more third-generation parents may be led by their own milder feelings of Jewishness to approve intermarriage when their children desire it—with obvious consequences for fourth-generation Jewry as a whole.

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What then, are the chances for ultimate Jewish survival in America? Of course, it is impossible to say with any certainty. All we can do is to isolate the most important trends, and continue to project them into a future America which, we must remember, is likely to bear no more resemblance to the contemporary one than our age does to the early industrial United States. But in the long run, the cohesiveness of the Jewish community is a function of two things—attachment to Judaism and the minority status of the Jews, each of which affects the other. I have suggested that both these factors are growing progressively weaker and could conceivably disappear altogether in the distant future. This would mean the virtual disappearance of a Jewish community from American life. But, as always, the continued existence of Jews depends at least as much on the non-Jewish world as on the Jews themselves, and I have implied that in the case of most American Jews, it depends far more on the former than on the latter.

If social barriers of any significance continue to be imposed on Jews by American society, the Jewish community of the future may not be much different from the one we know today, although the chances are that it will be smaller and retain only as many “separatist” codes and institutions as are required by external barriers on the one hand, and Jewish reactions against them on the other.

Concomitantly, however, these very institutions would probably continue to respond to changes in American society, becoming Americanized according to the fashion of the day. Jewish religious practice, for example, might follow in the path of the non-denominationalism that more and more characterizes American middle-class religion, with emphasis on only a few services a year. Moreover, it might re-define religious concepts somewhat in line with what seems to me to be an increasing affinity for humanist credos. What remained of traditional Jewish culture in that case would probably coalesce into a set of themes and symbols reserved for expression at periodic festivals and pageants recalling the past. This, at least, has been the experience of earlier immigrant groups.

But if the barriers between Jews and non-Jews are eliminated, so that the two are able not only to mix freely in all respects but to give up the distinction between Jew and non-Jew itself, the Jewish community would almost certainly lose its present cohesive power. A considerable number of those now calling themselves Jews would disappear into American society at large, there to be sorted under whatever classifications would then obtain for categorizing the members of society at large.

Some Jews, of course, in order to retain their religion, and the social functions associated with religion, may choose to remain separate, at least to some extent, and thus a new and smaller kind of Jewish community might evolve that included only those who considered themselves religious. If so, its organization would perhaps resemble the then current form of a contemporary liberal, Protestant middle-class denomination, and its religion might be much like the one I have described in preceding paragraphs, the most important difference being that it would probably eliminate any beliefs and codes reflecting the past minority position of the Jews.

Yet whether the barriers between Jews and non-Jews persist or fade away, there is likely to be a small Jewish group that will seek to uphold and continue traditional Judaism. Its rabbis and scholars may very well devote much time and energy to the preservation of the traditional culture—or at least its theological and intellectual elements—through publications, libraries, and museums, and through extensive scholarship.

At what point in time this picture might be realized cannot even be surmised. These speculations—both about the third generation and beyond—are a projection of current trends into an uncertain future, not a prediction. And the future is all the more uncertain when we consider that the deciding factors lie more in what happens to American society as a whole than in the independent efforts of the Jewish community. Moreover, projections must by their very nature ignore the effect of trends yet unapparent and of events that are unpredictable. For example, the immigration of a large number of Jews, such as those now living in Russia, might create a recurrence of the situation that followed upon the arrival of East European Jewry in the late 19th century: a large new group in American Jewry could spring up almost overnight, and perhaps even alter the relations between Jew and non-Jew once again.

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Any hypothesis suggesting the thorough-going assimilation of Jewry and the virtual disappearance of present Jewish culture argues against history; in the past no degree of assimilation has ever been able to eliminate the role of the age-old traditions. Large-scale assimilation has taken place before, but later events, and even catastrophes which brought death to many Jews, served in the end to strengthen the cohesion of the remnant, and enabled them to re-group around the ancient religion. But the situation of American Jewry differs considerably from that of Jewries in other countries and times. In America, the Jews are but one of several minorities, and despite widespread anti-Semitism they have not been persecuted enough to prevent them from sharing in the general socio-economic rise. Rarely have Jews settled in a society which, despite its obvious inequalities, is less stratified, or more propitious to social, economic, and cultural mobility—that is, to assimilation. Nor have they ever before lived in a place where the standard of living and the attractions of the dominant culture (and intellectual sub-cultures) have held out greater temptations to surrender the more confining traditional Jewish culture. Moreover, the rapid social and technological change that is distinctive of our age would sorely test the staying power of any set of traditional norms. For all these reasons, extensive cultural assimilation seems much more likely than ever before in Jewish history.

But even apart from these considerations, it should be pointed out that the “age-old traditions” of Judaism are not nearly so stable as one might suppose. Popular and exhortatory thinking about Jewish history—perhaps because it serves the same need as symbolic Judaism—stresses the idea of unbroken ancient traditions and is inclined to neglect the equally pertinent fact that over the past four thousand years many changes have overtaken the people who call themselves Jews. Jews have lived as nomadic tribesmen, farmers, merchants, and financial specialists employed by theocratic or feudal rulers; they have worked as artisans, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, and innovators in a consumption-oriented society. This by no means exhausts the list. Certain major ideas, symbols, and texts may have persisted over the centuries, but the everyday religion, culture, and communal life of Jews (which are our subject here) have undergone great transformations in accordance with their varying social and economic roles. Even the interpretation of the major theological concepts and the distribution of religious emphases have probably varied from period to period, depending on the conditions and needs of the time. In these articles, I have suggested that further changes are to be expected, and that these may eventually lead to a different kind of Judaism and Jewish community. Like the sacrificial religion of the Hebrews of the Temple, the Orthodoxy of the ghetto, and the symbolic Judaism of today, the Jewish religion and culture of the third and fourth generations, and of the more distant future, will be a combination of old and new elements adapted to the needs of the Jews of that time.

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Compared with current conceptions of what a Jewish community should be like, my speculations may call up images of decline and disintegration, but I intend no such picture myself, and would observe that such evaluations are relative to the larger Weltanschauung of the observer. For example, to the Orthodox Jew the contemporary Jewish community has long seemed in a lamentable state of disintegration, whereas to the third-generation Reform Jew who feels no urge to measure it against the Orthodoxy of the past, it may seem to be vital and, indeed, growing. How the future I have attempted to sketch—and the present as well-should be interpreted is an extremely difficult question, and one which will require much self-searching for an answer.

If these articles have a “moral,” then, it is that the future of American Jewry—or that area of its future not shaped by events in the larger society—will be determined by the needs and desires of the average Jew. The ideas of even the most thoughtful defenders of past or present traditions will fall on deaf ears unless these ideas also respond to the real needs and objectives—as distinguished from merely verbalized ones—of the rank and file. This means that the off-demanded rethinking of the goals of Jewish religious, cultural, and communal life in America cannot take place without considerable research into the present conditions of the total community. Unless we understand the present, we cannot hope to be able to state the goals that will help shape the future.

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Footnotes

1 I, defined generation in “cultural” rather than “chronological” terms. Thus, the second generation includes all those who were raised in a family of East European Jewish background, regardless of date.

2 Jewishness is one’s sense of identity as a Jew, while Judaism I defined as the religious and secular culture of the Jewish people, and “traditional Judaism” as the Orthodox East European culture, together with its Conservative and Reform redefinitions.

3 The German Jews, who have also been here for four generations, are a special case because their assimilation was slowed down by the later arrival of the East European Jews. Nevertheless, someone should study the descendants of these families, to see what has happened to them and their relation to the Jewish community, generation by generation.

4 This account of the third generation is at variance with the well-known thesis of Marcus Hansen that “what the son [the second generation] wishes to forget, the grandson [the third generation] wishes to remember” (see his “The Third Generation in America,” Commentary, November 1952). Hansen evolved his theory of “third generation return” from his studies in cultural and literary history, and illustrated it mainly with examples of reviving interest in Swedish, Scotch-Irish, and Confederate historiography. These revivals, however, involved a relatively minor aspect of the culture, and at best a small minority in the ethnic groups concerned. While Hansen’s thesis is undoubtedly broader than his illustrations suggest, it seems to me unlikely that it could be extended to the more fundamental elements of a culture, that is, those shared by a large proportion of its members. Hansen saw evidences of a dialectical “return” in what I should regard—for instance, in the case of his Swedish example—as a step in the “ob-jectification” of ethnic culture; it was not a casting back, but another point along what in my view is a more or less straight line of cultural and social assimilation. Therefore, recent suggestions by Jewish writers that the third generation will “return” to adopt some form of the ethnic tradition as a living culture seem to me to be unlikely.

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