Jews have lived in what became the United States for 366 years. The contribution by American Jews to this nation has been extraordinary, in large part because of the freedom afforded to not only Jews but to other minority communities, as well. There has been a long-standing fear that Jews in America are doomed to assimilate, that they cannot survive in an environment of religious freedom and church-state separation. In the United States, where religion is totally voluntary, where religious diversity is the norm, where everyone is free to choose his or her own brand of Judaism—or no Judaism at all—many have assumed that sooner or later Judaism will disappear. And so, each generation has had to wrestle anew with the question of whether its own children and grandchildren would remain Jewish, whether Judaism as a faith would end and carry on as ancestral memory alone.
Amazingly, then, Judaism in the United States has not only survived but thrived. This course will look at why this is the case. How have America’s Jews adapted to living in a land of freedom? And, what has America’s Jewish community contributed to this, its home. Note: This course is intended to be part 1 of a multi-semester offering.
This will be a lecture course, with plenty of time set aside for questions and comments.