The Future of American Jewry:
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.
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