Learn more about American Jews
American Jews, also commonly Jewish Americans, are Americans who maintain an active connection to the Jewish community in the United States or abroad, either through an active practice of Judaism, or through cultural and historical affiliation, or both. This article describes the demographic groups usually designated by the term. The United States has the largest Jewish population in the world, larger than Israel by more than a million. The United States Jewish community are mostly Ashkenazi Jews.
Though Jews arrived in the United States as early as the 17th century, Jewish immigration grew in the 19th century. During the mid 19th century, many secular Jews from Germany arrived in the United States, and primarily became merchants and shop-owners. There were approximately 250,000 Jews in the United States by 1880, and many of them were educated and secular. As a result of persecution in parts of Eastern Europe, Jewish American immigration increased dramatically in the 1880s, with most of the new immigrants Yiddish speakers from the poor rural populations of Russia and Eastern Europe. Over two million Jews arrived between the late 19th century and 1924, when immigration restrictions increased. Most settled in New York City and its immediate environs, establishing what became one of the world's major concentrations of Jewish population.
At the beginning of the 20th century, these newly-arrived Jews built support networks consisting of many small synagogues and Landsmannschaften (associations of Jews from the same town or village). Jewish American writers of the time urged assimilation and integration with the wider American culture, and Jews quickly became part of American life. Five hundred thousand American Jews (or half of all Jewish males between 18 and 50) fought in World War II, and after the war Jewish families joined the new trend of suburbanization. There, Jews became increasingly assimilated as rising intermarriage rates with non-Jews combined with a trend towards secularization. At the same time, new centers of Jewish communities formed, as Jewish school enrollment more than doubled between the end of World War II and the mid-1950s, while synagogue affiliation jumped from 20% in 1930 to 60% in 1960.
 Politics and Civil Rights
The German Jews were primarily Republicans. However the Yiddish speakers were either Socialists (especially if they were connected with the garment industry), or nonpolitical until the 1930s. Polls showed Jews gave 90% support to Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman in the elections of 1940, 1944 and 1948. They gave about a third of their vote to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. In 1960 Jews voted 83% for Catholic Democrat John F. Kennedy. In 1964, when the Republicans nominated arch-conservative Barry Goldwater, of Jewish descent, 90% of Jews voted for his opponent. <ref> Mark R. Levy and Michael S. Kramer, The Ethnic Factor (1973) p. 103</ref> Since 1968 Jews have voted about 70%-80% Democratic, surging to 87% for Democratic House candidates in 2006.<ref> 2006 exit polls at  They were 74% for John Kerry, a Catholic, in 2004.</ref> After the 2006 elections there were 13 Jews in the Senate (up from 11) and 30 in the House (up from 24).<ref>See Ynet News at </ref>
Jews were leaders of movements for civil rights for all Americans, including themselves and African Americans. Seymour Siegel argues the historic struggle against prejudice faced by Jewish people led to a natural sympathy for any people confronting discrimination. This further led Jews to dialogue about the relationship they had with African Americans. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, stated the following at the March on Washington on 28 August 1963: "As Jews we bring to this great demonstration, in which thousands of us proudly participate, a twofold experience--one of the spirit and one of our history" <ref> Staub (2004) p. 90</ref> Yet there was dissension within Judaism about this civil rights involvement. Rabbi Bernard Wienberger exemplified this point of view, warning that "northern liberal Jews" put at risk southern Jews who faced hostility from white southerners because of their northern counterparts. Jewish responses to the civil rights movement and black relations lean toward acceptance and activism against prejudice, demonstrating the important role that this community played in race relations during the 1960s. <ref> Staub (2004)</ref>
The Holocaust had a profound impact of the community in the United States, especially after 1960 as Jews tried to comprehend what happened and especially to commemorate and grapple with it going into the future. Abraham Joshua Heschel summarized this dilemma when he attempted to understand Auschwitz: "To try to answer is to commit a supreme blasphemy. Israel enables us to bear the agony of Auschwitz without radical despair, to sense a ray God's radiance in the jungles of history" <ref> Staub (2004)p. 80 </ref>
 International Affairs
Jews began taking a special interest in international affairs in the early 20th century, especially regarding pogroms in Imperial Russia, and restrictions on immigration in the 1920s. They organized large-scale boycotts of German merchandize during the 1930s. They strongly supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's domestic and foreign policies in the 1930s and 1940s, and supported the United Nations. The founding of Israel in 1948 made the Middle East a center of attention. However an internal debate followed the Six-Day War. The American Jewish community divided over whether or not they agreed with the Israeli response; the great majority came to accept the war as necessary. A tension existed especially for leftist Jews, between their liberal ideology and Zionist backing in the midst of this conflict. This deliberation about the Six-Day War showed the depth and complexity of Jewish responses to the varied events of the 1960s. <ref> Staub (2004)</ref>
Jewish community estimates place the number of American Jews to be near 5.2 million. Jews in the U.S. settled largely in and near the major cities, first in the Northeast and Midwest but in recent decades increasingly in the South and West. In descending order, the metropolitan areas with the highest Jewish populations are New York City (1,750,000), Miami (535,000), Los Angeles (490,000), Philadelphia (285,000), Chicago (265,000), San Francisco (210,000), Boston (208,000), and Baltimore-Washington (165,000). New York is the second largest Jewish population center in the world, after Tel Aviv in Israel. . Several other major cities have large Jewish populations per capita, like Cleveland, Baltimore, and St. Louis. Also, some areas of the Sunbelt outside of Florida and California (in which both states have always had significant Jewish communities) that have seen a large general population growth have also seen both the size and proportion of their Jewish population grow significantly. Examples of this are Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Charlotte, and especially Atlanta and Las Vegas. In many metropolitan areas, the majority of Jewish families live in suburban communities.
The Israeli community in the America is less widespread. The three significant Israeli immigrant communities in the United States are in Chicago (50,000), Miami (105,000), and New York City (162,000).
 Assimilation and population changes
The same social and cultural characteristics of the United States of America that facilitated the extraordinary economic, political, and social success of the American Jewish community have also contributed to assimilation, a controversial and significant issue in the modern American Jewish community. While not all Jews disapprove of intermarriage, many members of the Jewish community have become concerned that the high rate of interfaith marriage will result in the eventual disappearance of the American Jewish community.
Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40%-50% in the year 2000. Only about 33% of intermarried couples raise their children with a Jewish religious upbringing. This in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s.. In addition to this, when compared with the general American population, the American Jewish community is slightly older. 
However, it is much more common for intermarried families to raise their children as Jewish in areas with high Jewish populations, like the greater New York City metropolitan area, Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore-Washington, Chicago, and Cleveland (which has the highest Jewish-American population per capita for smaller, major U.S. cities). In the Boston area, 60% percent of children of intermarriages are being raised as Jews by religion; intermarriage is contributing to a net increase in the number of Jews. Detroit stands out in particular, because the Jewish population is particularly concentrated in suburban Oakland County. As well, some children raised through intermarriage rediscover and embrace their Jewish roots when they themselves marry and have children.
In contrast, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. Daniel Pipes noted in an essay in 2005 that the proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number.
Judaism is generally considered an ethnic identity as well as a religious one. Jewish religious practice in America is quite varied. Among the 4.3 million strongly connected American Jews, over 80% have some sort of engagement with Judaism, ranging from Passover Seders to lighting Hanukkah candles.
The survey found that of the 4.3 million strongly connected Jews, 46% belong to a synagogue. Among those who belong to a synagogue, 38% are members of Reform synagogues, 33% Conservative, 22% Orthodox, 2% Reconstructionist, and 5% other types. The survey discovered that Jews in the Northeast and Midwest are generally more observant than Jews in the South or West.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of secular American Jews returning to a more religious Orthodox lifestyle, called Baal teshuva, though it is not clear how widespread or demographically important this movement is.
American Jews are generally more educated than the American public as a whole. 55% of Jewish adults 18 years of age and older have at least a bachelor's degree, and 24% have a graduate degree. The comparable numbers for the general population are about 25% with a bachelor’s degree or higher and 6% with a graduate degree.
The great majority of students attend public schools, although there are Jewish day schools. Jewish cultural studies and Hebrew language instruction is also commonly offered at synagogues in the form of supplementary Hebrew schools or Sunday schools.
Until the 1950s, a quota system at elite colleges and universities limited the number of Jewish students. Before 1945 only a few Jewish professors were at elite universities. In 1941 anti-Semitism drove Milton Friedman from an untenured assistant professorship at the University of Wisconsin.<ref name=Friedmans> Milton Friedman and Rose D. Friedman, Two Lucky People: Memoirs (1998) p. 58 online</ref> Harry Levin became the first Jewish full professor in the Harvard English department in 1943, but the Economics department decided not to hire Paul Samuelson in 1948. Harvard hired its first Jewish biochemists in 1954. <ref>Morton Keller, Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America's University. (2001), pp 75, 82, 97, 212, 472. </ref> By 1986 a third of the presidents of the elite undergraduate clubs at Harvard were Jewish. </ref name=Friedmans>
 Jewish American culture
- See also: Secular Jewish culture
As the last major wave of Jewish immigration to America was the two million Eastern European Jews who arrived between 1890 and 1924, Jewish secular culture in the United States has become integrated in almost every important way with American culture more broadly. Many aspects of Jewish American culture have, in turn, become part of the wider culture of the United States.
Several staples of Jewish cuisine have been adopted into mainstream American culture; bagels and lox (cured salmon) are examples, and to a lesser extent, corned beef and pastrami. Initially, they were adopted as part of New York City's culture, and then spread to the rest of America. For example, bagels have been a staple of New Yorkers both Jewish and non-Jewish for decades, but really didn't spread "west of the Hudson" until the 1980s. Archaeologists have studied changes in the foodways of immigrant Jews in California in a study that can be downloaded here >  (see Chapter 3, starting at page 68).
Although almost all American Jews are today native English-speakers, a variety of other languages are still spoken within some American Jewish communities, communities which are representative of the various Jewish ethnic divisions from around the world that have come together to make up America's Jewish population.
Many of America's Hasidic Jews of Ashkenazi descent are raised speaking Yiddish. The language was once spoken as the primary language by most of the several million European Jews who immigrated to the United States. Yiddish has had an influence on American English, and words borrowed from it include chutzpah ("effrontery", "gall"), nosh ("snack"), schlep ("drag"), and schmuck ("fool", literally "penis").
America's Iranian Jewish community, notably the large community in and around Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California, primarily speak Persian in the home and synagogue. They also support their own Persian language newspapers.
Additionally, some American Jews speak Hebrew, and many more study it or have at least a basic understanding of it, since Classical Hebrew is the language of most Jewish religious literature, such as the Tanakh (Bible) and Siddur (prayerbook). Modern Hebrew is also the primary official language of the modern State of Israel, which further encourages many to learn it as a second language. Some recent Israeli immigrants to America speak Hebrew as their primary language.
Some of the Jews in Miami, the second largest Jewish community in the United States, immigrated from the countries of Latin America. Many of these Hispanic Jews speak Spanish in the home, and some have intermarried with the non-Jewish Hispanic population. There are a large number of synagogues in the Miami area that give services in the Spanish language, as well as a French Creole language synagogue in Miami's Little Haiti.
 Jewish American literature
Although American Jews have contributed greatly to American arts overall (see the following section), there remains a distinctly Jewish American literature. Generally exploring the experience of being a Jew, especially a Jew in America, and the conflicting pulls of secular society and history, the literary traditions of Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Chaim Potok, Leon Uris, Herman Wouk and Bernard Malamud all fall in this category. Younger authors, like Paul Auster, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Safran Foer continue this view of Jewish American literature, examining the Holocaust, and the meaning of being an American Jew.
 Jewish contributions to the United States
 Popular culture
- List of Jewish actors and actresses
- List of Jewish American writers
- List of Jewish American artists
- List of Jewish American musicians
- List of Jewish American show business figures
- Secular Jewish culture
Many individual Jews have made significant contributions to American popular culture. There have been many Jewish American actors and performers, ranging from early 1900s actors like Carmel Myers, Fanny Brice and the first cowboy film star, Broncho Billy Anderson, to classic Hollywood film stars like Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe (a convert to Judaism), and culminating in many currently known actors, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Winona Ryder, Alicia Silverstone, Natalie Portman, Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Zac Efron, Evan Rachel Wood, Adrien Brody, Lisa Kudrow, Adam Sandler, Sara Paxton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Maggie Gyllenhaal, amongst others. Many of the early Hollywood moguls and pioneers were Jewish, such as Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, William Fox, Jesse L. Lasky, Carl Laemmle, Marcus Loew, Adolph Zukor, and the original Warner Brothers. The characteristically Jewish field of American comedy includes the Marx Brothers, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, and Gilda Radner. The legacy also includes songwriters as diverse as Irving Berlin, Burt Bacharach, Arlo Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman (aka "The Sherman Brothers"), Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Jeff Barry, Lou Reed, and Paul Simon and writers as diverse as J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, E.L. Doctorow, Lillian Hellman, Allen Ginsberg, Isaac Asimov, and Harlan Ellison, in addition to the authors listed above. On the countercultural and radical political front, Jewish hippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, with help from Allen Ginsberg, formed the controversial Youth International Party ("Yippies"), and the four main organizers of the 1969 Woodstock Festival concert were all Jewish, as was Max Yasgur, the man on whose farm the legendary concert took place. In addition, master sound mixer and producer Eddie Kramer was Jewish, as is Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, his first wife, Sara and sons Jesse and Jakob.
 Government and military
Since 1845, 29 Jews have served in the Senate, including present-day senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl (both D-WI), Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both D-CA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and seven have served on the United States Supreme Court. Sixteen American Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Judah P. Benjamin, was a member of the Confederate cabinet.
The Manhattan Project, America's World War II effort to develop the atomic bomb, included the contributions of American Jewish physicists, many of whom were refugees from Hitler's Germany or from anti-semitic persecution in other European nations: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Richard P. Feynman, Wolfgang Pauli, Leo Szilard, Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, Isidor I. Rabi, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, Otto Frisch, Samuel Goudsmit, Jerome Karle, Stanisław Ulam, Robert Serber, Louis Slotin, Walter Zinn, Robert Marshak, Felix Bloch, Emilio G. Segrè, James Franck, Joseph Joffe, Eugene Rabinowitch, Hy Goldsmith, Samuel Cohen, Victor F. Weisskopf, and David Bohm. Hans Bethe and Niels Bohr both had Jewish mothers, which also necessitated their fleeing from Nazi-occupied lands during the war.
 Science and academia
Ashkenazi Jews have traditionally been drawn to academia (see Secular Jewish culture for some of the causes), and have made major contributions in science and the humanities. Of American Nobel Prize winners, 37% have been Jewish Americans (19 times the percentage Jewish population), as have been 71% of the John Bates Clark Medal winners (35 times the percentage Jewish population).
- Antler, Joyce., ed. Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture. 1998.
- Cohen, Naomi. Jews in Christian America: The Pursuit of Religious Equality. 1992.
- Cutler, Irving. The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb. 1995
- Diner, Hasia. The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000 (2004) online
- Dinnerstein, Leonard. Antisemitism in America. 1994.
- Dollinger, Marc. Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America. 2000.
- Eisen, Arnold M. The Chosen People in America: A Study in Jewish Religious Ideology. 1983.
- Glazer, Nathan. American Judaism. 2nd ed., 1989.
- Goren, Arthur. The Politics and Public Culture of American Jews. 1999.
- Gurock, Jeffrey S. From Fluidity to Rigidity: The Religious Worlds of Conservative and Orthodox Jews in Twentieth Century America. Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, 1998.
- Hyman, Paula, and Deborah Dash Moore, eds. Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. 1997
- Lederhendler, Eli. New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity, 1950–1970. 2001
- Moore, Deborah Dash. To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A. 1994
- Moore, Deborah Dash. GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation (2006)
- Novick, Peter. The Holocaust in American Life. 1999.
- Raphael, Marc Lee. Judaism in America. Columbia U. Press, 2003. 234 pp.
- Sarna, Jonathan D. American Judaism Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-300-10197-X 512pp
- Shapiro, Edward S. A Time for Healing: American Jewry since World War II. Jewish People in America, vol. 5. 1992.
- Sorin, Gerald. Tradition Transformed: The Jewish Experience in America. 1997.
- Staub, Michael E. ed. The Jewish 1960s: An American Sourcebook University Press of New England, 2004; 371 pp. ISBN 1-58465-417-1 online review
- Svonkin, Stuart. Jews against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties. 1997
- Waxman, Chaim I. "What We Don't Know about the Judaism of America's Jews." Contemporary Jewry (2002) 23: 72-95. Issn: 0147-1694 Uses survey data to map the religious beliefs of American Jews, 1973-2002.
- Wertheimer, Jack, ed. The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed. 1987.
- Whitfield, Stephen J. In Search of American Jewish Culture. 1999
 Distribution of Jewish-Americans
According to the Glenmary Research Center, which publishes Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States , the 100 counties in 2000 with the largest Jewish communities, based by percentage of total population, were:
 Major Jewish-American communities
- Northern California
- Southern California
- Agoura Hills, California
- Bel Air, California
- Beverly Hills, California
- Brentwood, Los Angeles, California
- Burbank, California
- Calabasas, California
- Coachella Valley, California
- Fairfax District, Los Angeles, California
- Glendale, California
- Irvine, California
- Lake Forest, California
- Newport Beach, California
- Palm Springs, California
- Pasadena, California
- San Fernando Valley -- western and southern portions
- Santa Monica, California
- Sun City, California
- Thousand Oaks, California
- Ventura County, California
- West Hollywood, California
- Westlake Village, California
- Westside Los Angeles
- Buffalo Grove, Illinois
- Chicago, Illinois -- mainly in the West Ridge, Chicago area
- Deerfield, Illinois
- Des Plaines, Illinois
- Evanston, Illinois
- Flossmoor, Illinois
- Glencoe, Illinois
- Highland Park, Illinois
- Lincolnwood, Illinois
- Northbrook, Illinois
- Northfield, Illinois
- Skokie, Illinois
- Wilmette, Illinois
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Washington, D.C. area
- New Jersey (See Note at the bottom)
- Cherry Hill, New Jersey
- East Brunswick, New Jersey
- Edison, New Jersey
- Elizabeth, New Jersey
- Englewood, New Jersey
- Fair Lawn, New Jersey
- Highland Park, New Jersey
- Lakewood, New Jersey
- Livingston, New Jersey
- Manalapan Township, New Jersey
- Marlboro Township, New Jersey
- Millburn, New Jersey
- Morristown, New Jersey
- Newark, New Jersey
- South Orange, New Jersey
- West Orange, New Jersey
- Passaic, New Jersey
- Springfield, New Jersey
- Teaneck, New Jersey
- Tenafly, New Jersey
- Wayne, New Jersey
- Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
- Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
- Paramus, New Jersey
- Fort Lee, New Jersey
- New York (See Note at the bottom)
- Kiryas Joel, New York
- Long Island
- Baldwin, New York
- Bellmore, New York
- Dix Hills, New York
- East Hampton, New York
- "Five Towns", New York
- Great Neck, New York
- Huntington, New York
- Jericho, New York
- Merrick, New York
- Oceanside, New York
- Old Bethpage, New York
- Plainview, New York
- Roslyn Heights, New York
- Port Washington, New York
- Garden City, New York
- Rockville Centre, New York
- Woodbury, New York
- Monroe County
- New York City
- Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
- Borough Park, Brooklyn
- Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
- Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
- Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
- Coney Island, Brooklyn
- Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
- Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
- Sheepshead Bay, Broklyn
- Crown Heights, Brooklyn
- Forest Hills, Queens
- Kew Gardens, Queens
- Lower East Side, Manhattan
- Inwood, Manhattan
- Midtown, Manhattan
- Little Neck, Queens
- Fresh Meadows, Queens
- Midwood, Brooklyn
- Rego Park, Queens
- Riverdale, The Bronx
- Co-Op City, The Bronx
- Woodlawn, The Bronx
- Norwood, The Bronx
- City Island, The Bronx
- Pelham Gardens, The Bronx
- Pelham Parkway, The Bronx
- Castle Hill, The Bronx
- Van Cortlandt Village, The Bronx
- Upper West Side, Manhattan
- Williamsburg, Brooklyn
- Rockland County, New York
- Westchester County, New York
- North Carolina
- Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania
- Overbrook, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Upper Dublin Township, Pennsylvania
- Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania
- Narberth, Pennsylvania
- Richboro, Pennsylvania
- Spring House, Pennsylvania
- West Chester, Pennsylvania
- Oxford Circle, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Rhawnhurst, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Note: Long Island, New Jersey, New York City and Westchester County have large Jewish communities throughout, but the areas mentioned above have the highest concentrations of Jews.
 See also
|European Americans||Image:Flag of the United States.svg|
| Demographics of the United States
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| Demographics of the United States • Demographic history|
Economic - Social
Educational attainment • Household income • Homeownership • Immigration • Income quintiles • Language • Middle classes • poverty • Religion • Social structure • Unemployment by state • Wealth
- History of the Jews in the United States
- Lists of American Jews
- Secular Jewish culture
- Model minority - Highly successful minority ethnic groups
 External links
- American Jewish Historical Society
- Short article on the archaeology of immigrant California Jews see Chapter 3.
- Resources > Jewish communities > America > Northern America The Jewish History Resource Center, Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Feinstein Center. Comprehensive collection of links to Jewish American history, organizations, and issues.
- United Jewish Communities of North America. Also site of population survey statistics.
- Jews in America from the Jewish Virtual Library.
- American Jewish Literature
- Jewish-American History on the Web
- Jewish American Hall of Fame
- List of Famous Jews
- Ben Stein talks about the very large Jewish element in Hollywood
- The Jewish Impact on America
- Jewish Success In The American Media
- 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey
- 2005 Great Boston Jewish Community Studyde:Juden in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika