|Mel Brooks • Norman Mailer • Ben Bernanke • Barbra Streisand • Isaac Asimov • Albert Einstein • Louis Brandeis • Betty Friedan • Sammy Davis, Jr. • Hank Greenberg • Rahm Emanuel • Steven Spielberg|
|6,489,000 approx. (2008)
1.7–2.2% of the U.S. population
up from 6,141,325 in 2000
|Regions with significant populations|
|New York metropolitan area, Greater Boston, all along the Northeast Megalopolis in the Northeastern United States, South Florida, Washington DC area, the West Coast (especially the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas), the Chicago–Milwaukee corridor|
Traditional Jewish languages
|Related ethnic groups|
American Jews, also known as Jewish Americans, are American citizens or resident aliens of the Jewish faith and/or Jewish ethnicity. The Jewish community in the United States is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, and their U.S.-born descendants. A minority from all Jewish ethnic divisions are also represented, including Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, and a number of converts. The American Jewish community manifests a wide range of Jewish cultural traditions, as well as encompassing the full spectrum of Jewish religious observance.
Depending on religious definitions and varying population data, the United States is home to the largest or second largest (after Israel) Jewish community in the world. The American Jewish population was estimated to be approximately 5,128,000 (only Jews of the age of 18 and older) (1.7%) of the total population in 2007 (301,621,000) and was according to the US census bureau 6,489,000 (2.2%) as of 2008. As a contrast, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the Israeli Jewish population was 5,664,000 in 2009 (75.4% of the total population).
Jews have been present in what is today the United States of America as early as the seventeenth century, if not earlier, though they were small in numbers and almost exclusively Sephardic Jewish immigrants of Spanish and Portuguese ancestry. Until about 1830 Charleston, South Carolina had more Jews than anywhere else in North America. Large scale Jewish immigration, however, did not commence until the nineteenth century, when, by mid-century, many secular Ashkenazi Jews from Germany arrived in the United States, primarily becoming merchants and shop-owners. There were approximately 250,000 Jews in the United States by 1880, many of them being the educated, and largely secular, German Jews, although a minority population of the older Sephardic Jewish families remained influential.
Jewish immigration to the United States increased dramatically in the early 1880s, as a result of persecution in parts of Eastern Europe. Most of these new immigrants also were Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, though most came from the poor rural populations of the Russian Empire and the Pale of Settlement, located in modern-day Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. Over 2,000,000 Jews arrived between the late nineteenth century and 1924, when the Immigration Act of 1924 and the National Origins Quota of 1924 restricted immigration. Most settled in New York City and its immediate environs (New Jersey, etc.), establishing what became one of the world's major concentrations of Jewish population.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, these newly-arrived Jews built support networks consisting of many small synagogues and Ashkenazi Jewish Landsmannschaften (German for "Territorial Associations") for Jews from the same town or village. American Jewish writers of the time urged assimilation and integration into the wider American culture, and Jews quickly became part of American life. 500,000 American Jews (or half of all Jewish males between 18 and 50) fought in World War II, and after the war younger families joined the new trend of suburbanization. There, Jews became increasingly assimilated and demonstrated rising intermarriage. The suburbs facilitated the formation of new centers, 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; the fastest growth came in Reform and, especially, Conservative congregations. More recent waves of Jewish immigration from Russia and other regions have largely joined the mainstream American Jewish community.
Korelitz (1996) shows how American Jews during the late 19th and early 20th centuries abandoned a racial definition of Jewishness in favor of one that embraced ethnicity. The key to understanding this transition from a racial self-definition to a cultural or ethnic one can be found in the ‘’Menorah Journal’’ between 1915 and 1925. During this time contributors to the Menorah promoted a cultural, rather than a racial, religious, or other view of Jewishness as a means to define Jews in a world that threatened to overwhelm and absorb Jewish uniqueness. The journal represented the ideals of the menorah movement established by Horace M. Kallen and others to promote a revival in Jewish cultural identity and combat the idea of race as a means to define or identify peoples.
Siporin (1990) uses the family folklore of ethnic Jews to their collective history and its transformation into an historical art form. They tell us how Jews have survived being uprooted and transformed. Many immigrant narratives bear a theme of the arbitrary nature of fate and the reduced state of immigrants in a new culture. By contrast, ethnic family narratives tend to show the ethnic more in charge of his life, and perhaps in danger of losing his Jewishness altogether. Some stories show how a family member successfully negotiated the conflict between ethnic and American identities.
After 1960 memories of the Holocaust, together with the Six Day War in 1967 that resulted in the survival of Israel had major impacts on fashioning Jewish ethnic identity. The Shoah provided Jews with a rationale for their ethnic distinction at a time when other minorities were asserting their own.
The East European Jews faced tension with Irish and German Catholic neighbors, especially the Irish Catholics who controlled Democratic Party Politics in New York. Jews successfully established themselves in the garment trades and in the needle unions in New York. By the 1930s they were a major political factor in New York, with strong support for the most liberal or socialist programs of the New Deal. They continued as a major element of the New Deal Coalition, giving special support to the Civil Rights Movement. By the mid 1960s, however, the Black Power movement caused a growing separation between blacks and Jews, though both groups remained solidly in the Democratic camp.
The elections of 2000 and 2004 saw continued Jewish support for Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry, a Catholic, remain in the high- to mid-70% range, while Republican George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 saw Jewish support rise from 19% to 24%.
In the 2008 presidential election, 78% of Jews voted for Barack Obama, who became the first African-American to be elected president. Additionally, 83% of white Jews voted for Obama compared to just 34% of white Protestants and 47% of white Catholics, though 67% of those identifying with another religion and 71% identifying with no religion also voted Obama.
For congressional and senate races, since 1968, American Jews have voted about 70–80% for Democrats; this support increased to 87% for Democratic House candidates during the 2006 elections. Currently there are 14 Jews among 100 U.S. Senators: 12 Democrats (Michael Bennet, Barbara Boxer, Benjamin Cardin, Russ Feingold, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Herb Kohl, Frank Lautenberg, Carl Levin, Charles Schumer, Arlen Specter, Ron Wyden), and both of the Senate's independents (Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders; both caucus with the Democrats). Two states have two Jewish Senators: Wisconsin (Kohl and Feingold) and California (Feinstein and Boxer).
There are 30 Jews among the 435 U.S. Representatives; 29 are Democrats and one (Eric Cantor) is Republican. In November 2008, Cantor was elected as the House Minority Whip, the first Jewish Republican to be selected for the position.
In the 2000 presidential election, Joe Lieberman was the first American Jew to run for national office on a major party ticket when he was chosen as Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's vice-presidential nominee.
As a group, American Jews have been very active in fighting prejudice and discrimination, and have historically been active participants in civil rights movements. In the mid-twentieth century, American Jews were among the most active participants and supporters of the black civil rights movement. Contemporaneously, Betty Friedan wrote her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, which is sometimes credited with sparking the second wave of feminism, and was the first of many prominent American Jewish feminists which extended into the feminist third wave. American Jews have also since its founding been largely supportive of and active figures in the struggle for gay rights in America.
Seymour Siegel suggests that the historic struggle against prejudice faced by Jews led to a natural sympathy for any people confronting discrimination. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, stated the following when he spoke from the podium at the Lincoln Memorial during the famous March on Washington on August 28, 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... From our Jewish historic experience of three and a half thousand years we say: Our ancient history began with slavery and the yearning for freedom. During the Middle Ages my people lived for a thousand years in the ghettos of Europe... It is for these reasons that it is not merely sympathy and compassion for the black people of America that motivates us. It is, above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions, a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience. "
During the World War II period the American Jewish community was bitterly and deeply divided, and was unable to form a common front. Most Eastern Europeans favored Zionism, which saw a homeland as the only solution; this had the effect of diverting attention from the horrors in Nazi Germany. German Jews were alarmed at the Nazis but were disdainful of Zionism. Proponents of a Jewish state and Jewish army agitated, but many leaders were so fearful of an anti-Semitic backlash inside the U.S. that they demanded that all Jews keep a low public profile. One important development was the sudden conversion of most (but not all) Jewish leaders to Zionism late in the war. The Holocaust was largely ignored by America media as it was happening.
The Holocaust had a profound impact on the community in the United States, especially after 1960, as Jews tried to comprehend what had happened, and especially to commemorate and grapple with it when looking to 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 [of] God's radiance in the jungles of history."
Jews began taking a special interest in international affairs in the early twentieth century, especially regarding pogroms in Imperial Russia, and restrictions on immigration in the 1920s. This period is also synchronous with the development of political Zionism and the Balfour Declaration. Large-scale boycotts of German merchandise were organized during the 1930s, which was synchronous with the rise of Fascism in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt's leftist domestic policies received strong Jewish support in the 1930s and 1940s, as did his foreign policies and the subsequent founding of the United Nations. Support for political Zionism in this period, although growing in influence, remained a distinctly minority opinion. The founding of Israel in 1948 made the Middle East a center of attention; the immediate recognition of Israel by the American government was an indication of both its intrinsic support and the influence of political Zionism.
This attention initially was based on a natural and religious affinity toward and support for Israel and world Jewry. The attention is also because of the ensuing and unresolved conflicts regarding the founding Israel and Zionism itself. A lively internal debate commenced, following the Six-Day War. The American Jewish community was 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 (rightist) 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. Similar tensions were aroused by the 1977 election of Begin and the rise of revisionist policies, the 1982 Lebanon War and the continuing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Disagreement over Israel’s 1993 acceptance of the Oslo Accords caused a further split among American Jews; this mirrored a similar split among Israelis and led to a parallel rift within the pro-Israel lobby.
A 2004 poll indicated that a majority of Jewish Americans favor the creation of an independent Palestinian state and believe that Israel should remove some or all of its settlements from the West Bank. Despite Israeli security being among the motivations for American intervention in Iraq, Jews were less supportive of the Iraq War than Americans as a whole. At the beginning of the conflict, Arab Americans were more supportive of the Iraq War than American Jews were (although both groups were less supportive of it than the general population).
The Jewish population of the United States is either the largest in the world, or second to that of Israel, depending on the sources and methods used to measure it.
Precise population figures vary depending on whether Jews are accounted for based on halakhic considerations, or secular, political and ancestral identification factors. There were about 4 million adherents of Judaism in the U.S. as of 2001, approximately 1.4% of the US population. The community self-identifying as Jewish by birth, irrespective of halakhic (unbroken maternal line of Jewish descent or formal Jewish conversion) status, numbers about 7 million, or 2.5% of the US population. According to the Jewish Agency, for the year 2007 Israel is home to 5.4 million Jews (40.9% of the world's Jewish population), while the United States contained 5.3 million (40.2%).
The most recent large scale population survey, released in the 2006 American Jewish Yearbook population survey estimates place the number of American Jews at 6.4 million, or approximately 2.1% of the total population. This figure is significantly higher than the previous large scale survey estimate, conducted by the 2000–2001 National Jewish Population estimates, which estimated 5.2 million Jews. A 2007 study released by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute (SSRI) at Brandeis University presents evidence to suggest that both of these figures may be underestimations with a potential 7.0–7.4 million Americans of Jewish descent. Jews in the U.S. settled largely in and near the major cities. The Ashkenazi Jews, who are now the vast majority of American Jews, settled first in the Northeast and Midwest cities, but in recent decades increasingly in the South and West. Within the metropolitan areas of New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami lives nearly one quarter the world's Jews.
|Rank (WJG)||Rank (ARDA)||Metro area||Number of Jews (WJG)||Number of Jews (ASARB)|
|1||1||New York City||1,750,000||2,028,200|
|4||District of Columbia||4.5|
Although New York is the second largest Jewish population center in the world, (after the Gush Dan metropolitan area in Israel), the Miami metropolitan area has a slightly greater Jewish population on a per-capita basis (9.9% compared to metropolitan New York's 9.3%). Several other major cities have large Jewish communities, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. In many metropolitan areas, the majority of Jewish families live in suburban areas. The Greater Phoenix area was home to about 83,000 Jews in 2002, though has been rapidly growing.
Immigrant Soviet Jews began arriving after the Jackson-Vanik laws of the 1970s. In the last decade Miami has become the primary destination for Soviet Jews, although they are also heavily concentrated in Los Angeles and New York City.
Persian Jews began arriving to the United States in large numbers in the late 1970s before the Islamic Revolution and most of them settled in Los Angeles and Great Neck on Long Island. Most Bukharian Jews arrived after the Collapse of the Soviet Union to New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Arizona and elsewhere.
These parallel themes have facilitated the extraordinary economic, political, and social success of the American Jewish community, but also have contributed to widespread cultural assimilation. More recently however, the propriety and degree of assimilation has also become a significant and controversial issue within the modern American Jewish community, with both political and religious skeptics..
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.
Despite the fact that only 33% of intermarried couples provide their children with a Jewish upbringing, doing so is more common among intermarried families raising their children in areas with high Jewish populations. The Boston area, for example, is exceptional in that an estimated 60% percent of children of intermarriages are being raised Jewish, meaning that intermarriage would actually be contributing to a net increase in the number of Jews. As well, some children raised through intermarriage rediscover and embrace their Jewish roots when they themselves marry and have children.
In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. 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.  In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called "ultra-orthodox" (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%). The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%).
About half of the American Jews are considered to be religious. Out of this 2,831,000 religious Jewish population, 92% are White, 5% Hispanic (Most commonly from Argentina, Venezuela, or Cuba; many are Hispanics who converted after finding out they are descendants of Jews forced to convert to Roman Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. See Hispanic#Religious diversity), 1% Asian (Mostly Bukharian and Persian Jews), 1% Black and 1% Other (Mixed Race.etc). Almost this many non-religious Jews exist in United States, the proportion of Whites being higher than that among the religious population.
The American Jewish community includes African American Jews and other American Jews of African descent (such as American Beta Israel), excluding North African Jewish Americans, who are considered Mizrahi or Sephardi. Estimates of the number of American Jews of African descent in the United States range from 20,000 to 200,000. Jews of African descent belong to all of American Jewish denominations. Like their white Jewish counterparts, some black Jews are Jewish atheists or ethnic Jews.
Relations between American Jews of African descent and other Jewish Americans are generally cordial. There are, however, some tensions with a specific minority among African-Americans who consider themselves (but not Ashkenazi Jews) to be the true descendants of the Israelites of the Torah. They are generally not considered to be members of the mainstream Jewish community, since they have not formally converted to Judaism, nor are they ethnically related to other Jews. One such group, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, emigrated to Israel and was granted permanent residency status there.
Jewish religious practice in America is quite varied. Among the 4.3 million American Jews described as "strongly connected" to Judaism, over 80% report some sort of active engagement with Judaism, ranging from attendance at daily prayer services on one end of the spectrum to as little as attendance Passover Seders or lighting Hanukkah candles on the other.
The survey found that of the 4.3 million strongly connected Jews, 46% belong to a synagogue. Among those households who belong to a synagogue, 38% are members of Reform synagogues, 33% Conservative, 22% Orthodox, 2% Reconstructionist, and 5% other types. Traditionally, Sephardic and Mizrahis do not have different branches (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc) but usually remain observant and religious. The survey discovered that Jews in the Northeast and Midwest are generally more observant than Jews in the South or West. Reflecting a trend also observed among other religious groups, Jews in the Northwestern United States are typically the least observant.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of secular American Jews returning to a more religious, in most cases, Orthodox, style of observance. Such Jews are called baalei teshuva ("returners", see also Repentance in Judaism). It is uncertain how widespread or demographically important this movement is at present.
The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that around 3.4 million American Jews call themselves religious — out of a general Jewish population of about 5.4 million. The number of Jews who identify themselves as only culturally Jewish has risen from 20% in 1990 to 37% last year, according to the study. In the same period, the number of all US adults who said they had no religion rose from 8% to 15%. Jews are more likely to be secular than Americans in general, the researchers said. About half of all US Jews — including those who consider themselves religiously observant — claim in the survey that they have a secular worldview and see no contradiction between that outlook and their faith, according to the study's authors. Researchers attribute the trends among American Jews to the high rate of intermarriage and "disaffection from Judaism" in the United States.
American Jews are more likely to be atheist or agnostic than most Americans, especially so compared with Protestants or Catholics. A 2003 poll found that while 79% of Americans believe in God, only 48% of American Jews do, compared with 79% and 90% for Catholics and Protestants respectively. While 66% of Americans said they were "absolutely certain" of God's existence, 24% of American Jews said the same. And though 9 percent of Americans believe there is no God (8% Catholic and 4% Protestant), 19 percent of American Jews believe God does not exist.
The great majority of school-age Jewish students attend public schools, although Jewish day schools and yeshivas are to be found throughout the country. 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 permitted as instructors at elite universities. In 1941, anti-Semitism drove Milton Friedman from a non-tenured assistant professorship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 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. A third of the total student body at Harvard is now Jewish-American.
Today, American Jews no longer face the discrimination in higher education that they did in the past, particularly in the Ivy League. For example, by 1986, a third of the presidents of the elite undergraduate clubs at Harvard were Jewish. Rick Levin has been president of Yale University since 1993, Judith Rodin was president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1994 to 2004 (and is currently president of Rockefeller University), and Paul Samuelson's nephew, Lawrence Summers, was president of Harvard University from 2001 until 2006.
"Hillel's Top 10 Jewish Schools". Hillel. Hillel.org. February 16, 2006. http://www.hillel.org/about/news/2006/feb/20060216_top.htm. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
Today, American Jews are a distinctive and influential group in the nation's politics. Jeffrey S. Helmreich writes that the ability of American Jews to effect this through political or financial clout is overestimated, that the primary influence lies in the group's voting patterns.
"Jews have devoted themselves to politics with almost religious fervor," writes Mitchell Bard, who adds that Jews have the highest percentage voter turnout of any ethnic group. While 2–2.5% of the United States population is Jewish, 94% live in 13 key electoral college states, which combined have enough electors to elect the president. Though the majority (60–70%) of the country's Jews identify as Democratic, Jews span the political spectrum and Helmreich describes them as "a uniquely swayable bloc" as a result of Republican stances on Israel. A paper by Dr. Eric Uslaner of the University of Maryland disagrees, at least with regard to the 2004 election: "Only 15% of Jews said that Israel was a key voting issue. Among those voters, 55% voted for Kerry (compared to 83% of Jewish voters not concerned with Israel)." The paper goes on point out that negative views of Evangelical Christians had a distinctly negative impact for Republicans among Jewish voters, while Orthodox Jews, traditionally more conservative in outlook as to social issues, favored the Republican Party. A New York Times article suggests that the Jewish movement to the Republican party is focused heavily on faith-based issues, similar to the Catholic vote, which is credited for helping President Bush taking Florida in 2004.
Though critics have charged that Jewish interests were partially responsible for the push to war with Iraq, Jewish Americans are actually more strongly opposed to the Iraq war than any other major religious group or even most Americans. The greater opposition to the war is not simply a result of high Democratic identification among U.S. Jews, as Jews of all political persuasions are more likely to oppose the war than non-Jews who share the same political leanings. The widespread Jewish opposition to the war in Iraq is also not simply a matter of the majority of Americans now also opposing the war because the majority of Jews already opposed the war in 2003 and 2004 when most Americans did not.
Owing to high Democratic identification in the 2008 United States Presidential Election, 78% of Jews voted for Democrat Barack Obama versus 21% for Republican John McCain, despite Republican attempts to connect Obama to Muslim and pro-Palestinian causes. It has been suggested that running mate Sarah Palin's conservative views on social issues may have nudged Jews away from the McCain-Palin ticket. Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, is Jewish, as is his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.
American Jews are largely supportive of gay rights, though a split exists within the group by observance. Reform Rabbis in America perform same-sex marriages as a matter of routine and there are fifteen LGBT Jewish congregations in North America. Reform, Reconstructionist and, increasingly, Conservative, Jews are far more supportive on issues like gay marriage than Orthodox Jews are. A 2007 survey of Conservative Jewish leaders and activists showed that an overwhelming majority now supports gay rabbinical ordination and same-sex marriage. Accordingly, 78% percent of Jewish voters rejected Proposition 8, the bill that banned gay marriage in California. No other ethnic or religious group voted as strongly against it.
Jews in America also overwhelmingly oppose current United States marijuana policy. Eighty-six percent of Jewish Americans opposed arresting nonviolent marijuana smokers, compared to 61% for the population at large and 68% of all Democrats. Additionally, 85% of Jews in the United States opposed using federal law enforcement to close patient cooperatives for medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal, compared to 67% of the population at large and 73% of Democrats.
Since the time of the last major wave of Jewish immigration to America (over 2,000,000 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 the broader American culture. Many aspects of Jewish American culture have, in turn, become part of the wider culture of the United States.
Most American Jews are today native English-speakers. A variety of other languages are still spoken within some American Jewish communities, communities that 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 (being exclusively of Ashkenazi descent) are raised speaking Yiddish. Yiddish was once spoken as the primary language by most of the several million European Jews who immigrated to the United States (it was, in fact, the original language in which The Forward was published). Yiddish has had an influence on American English, and words borrowed from it include chutzpah ("effrontery", "gall"), nosh ("snack"), schlep ("drag"), schmuck ("fool", literally "penis"), and, depending on ideolect, hundreds of other terms. (See also Yinglish.)
The Persian Jewish community in the United States, notably the large community in and around Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California, primarily speak Persian (see also Judeo-Persian) in the home and synagogue. They also support their own Persian language newspapers. Persian Jews also reside in eastern parts of New York such as Kew Gardens and Great Neck, Long Island.
Many recent Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union speak primarily Russian at home, and there are several notable communities where public life and business are carried out mainly in Russian, such as in Brighton Beach in New York City and Sunny Isles Beach in Miami.
American Bukharan Jews speak Bukhori (a dialect of Persian) and Russian. They publish their own newspapers such as the Bukharian Times and a large portion live in Queens, New York. Forest Hills in the New York City borough of Queens is home to 108th Street, which is called by some "Bukharian Broadway", a reference to the many stores and restaurants found on and around the street that have Bukharian influences. Many Bukharians are also represented in parts of Arizona, Miami, Florida, and areas of Southern California such as San Diego.
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 Jews, particularly in Miami and Los Angeles, the second largest Jewish community in the United States, immigrated from the countries of Latin America. Many of these Hispanic Jews (many of them of Sephardic origin dating back to the Spanish and Portuguese colonial era, but also many of Ashkenazi descent from recent Central and Eastern European immigration to Latin America) speak Spanish in the home, and some have intermarried with the non-Jewish Hispanic population. Recent Jews from Spain and among their descendants speak Spanish. Spanish may be spoken by other Jews with ancestry outside Spain and Latin America living in areas near predominantly Hispanic populations. There are a large number of synagogues in the Miami area that give services in Spanish. Many Luso-Jews with origin from Brazil and Portugal (Sephardic Jews but including in Brazil, Sephardic Jews with Spanish origin, Ashkenazi, and Mizrahi) speak Portuguese in home. There are a handful of older European immigrant communities that still speak Ladino.
Although American Jews have contributed greatly to American arts overall, there remains a distinctly Jewish American literature. Jewish American literature often explores the experience of being a Jew in America, and the conflicting pulls of secular society and history.
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, to classic Hollywood film stars, and culminating in many currently known actors. Many of the early Hollywood moguls and pioneers were Jewish.
The field of American comedy includes many Jews. The legacy also includes songwriters and authors. Many Jews have been at the forefront of women's issues. Jews have also done well in the field of sport.
Since 1845, a total of 34 Jews have served in the Senate, including the 14 present-day senators noted above. Judah P. Benjamin was the first practicing Jewish Senator, and would later serve as Confederate Secretary of War and Secretary of State during the Civil War. Rahm Emmanuel serves as Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. The number of Jews elected to the House rose to an all-time high of 30. Seven Jews have been appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
In April 1984, an unusual historic connection between American history and American Jewish history was made when President Ronald Reagan read Jewish Navy chaplain Arnold Resnicoff's eyewitness account of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing as his keynote speech to the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Baptism Fundamentalism '84 Washington, DC, convention.
Sixteen American Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
More than 550,000 Jews served in the U.S. military during World War II; about 11,000 were killed and more than 40,000 were wounded. There were three recipients of the Medal of Honor, 157 recipients of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Cross, or Navy Cross, and about 1600 recipients of the Silver Star. About 50,000 other decorations. citations and awards were given to Jewish military personnel, for a total of 52,000 decorations. During this period, Jews were approximately 3.3 percent of the total U.S. population but constituted about 4.23 percent of the U.S. armed forces. About 60 percent of all Jewish physicians in the United States under 45 years of age were in service as military physicians and medics.
Many Jewish physicists were involved in the Manhattan Project, the secret World War II effort to develop the atomic bomb. Many of these were refugees from Nazi Germany or from antisemitic persecution elsewhere in Europe.
Paul Warburg, one of the leading advocates of the establishment of a central bank in the United States, and subsequently one of the first governors of the newly-established Federal Reserve, was Jewish. Several Jews have served as Chairmen of the Federal Reserve, including Ben Bernanke, the current Chairman, and Alan Greenspan, the prior chairman.
Jews have traditionally been drawn to business and academia (see Secular Jewish culture for some of the causes), and have made major contributions in science, economics, and the humanities. Of American Nobel Prize winners, 37 percent have been Jewish Americans (19 times the percentage of Jews in the population), as have been 71 percent of the John Bates Clark Medal winners (thirty-five times the Jewish percentage). While Jewish Americans only constitute roughly 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, they occupied 7.7 percent of board seats at U.S. corporations.
Since many jobs/careers in science, business, and academia generally pay well, Jewish Americans also tend to have a higher average income than most Americans. A 2008 Pew Research Center study found that "46 percent of Jews in the US make more than $100,000 a year."
According to the Glenmary Research Center, which publishes Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States, the 100 counties and independent cities in 2000 with the largest Jewish communities, based by percentage of total population, were:
The 1993 Oslo Agreement made this split in the Jewish community official. Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin’s handshake with Yasir Arafat during the 13 September White House ceremony elicited dramatically opposed reactions among American Jews. To the liberal universalists the accord was highly welcome news. As one commentator put it, after a year of tension between Israel and the United States, “there was an audible sigh of relief from American and Jewish liberals. Once again, they could support Israel as good Jews, committed liberals, and loyal Americans.” The community “could embrace the Jewish state, without compromising either its liberalism or its patriotism”. Hidden deeper in this collective sense of relief was the hope that, following the peace with the Palestinians, Israel would transform itself into a Western-style liberal democracy, featuring a full separation between the state and religion. Not accidentally, many of the leading advocates of Oslo, including the Yossi Beilin, the then Deputy Foreign Minister, cherish the belief that a “normalized” Israel would become less Jewish and more democratic. However, to the hard-core Zionists—the Orthodox community and right wing Jews—the peace treaty amounted to what some dubbed the “handshake earthquake.” From the perspective of the Orthodox, Oslo was not just an affront to the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, but also a personal threat to the Orthodox settlers—often kin or former congregants—in the West Bank and Gaza. For Jewish nationalists such as Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist organization of America, and Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, the peace treaty amounted to an appeasement of Palestinian terrorism. They and others repeatedly warned that the newly established Palestinian Authority (PA) would pose a serious security threat to Israel.</blockqoute>
Abandoning any pretense of unity, both segments began to develop separate advocacy and lobbying organizations. The liberal supporters of the Oslo Accord worked through Americans for Peace Now (APN), Israel Policy Forum (IPF) and other groups friendly to the Labour government in Israel. They tried to assure Congress that American Jewry was behind the Accord and defended the efforts of the administration to help the fledgling Palestinian authority (PA) including promises of financial aid. In a battle for public opinion, IPF commissioned a number of polls showing widespread support for Oslo among the community. Working on the other side of the fence, a host of Orthodox groups, such as ZOA, Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI), and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) launched a major public opinion campaign against Oslo. On 10 October 1993, the opponents of the Palestinian-Israeli accord, organized at the American Leadership Conference for a Safe Israel, where they warned that Israel was prostrating itself before a “an armed thug”, and predicted and that the “thirteenth of September is a date that will live in infamy”. Hard-core Zionists also criticized, often in harsh language, Prime Minister Rabin and Shimon Perez, his foreign minister and chief architect of the peace accord. With the community so strongly divided, AIPAC and the Presidents Conference, which was tasked with representing the national Jewish consensus, struggled to keep the increasingly shrill discourse civil. Reflecting these tensions, Abraham Foxman from the Jewish Anti-defamation League was forced by the conference to apologize for bad mouthing ZOA’s Klein. The Conference, which under its organizational guidelines was in charge of moderating communal discourse, reluctantly censured some Orthodox spokespeople for attacking Colette Avital, the labor-appointed Israel Council General in New York and an ardent supporter of the peace process.</blockqoute>
The Palestinian aid effort was certainly not helped by the heated debate that quickly developed inside the Beltway. Not only was the Israeli electorate divided on the Oslo accords, but so, too, was the American Jewish community, particularly at the leadership level and among the major New York and Washington-based public interest groups. U.S. Jews opposed to Oslo teamed up with Israelis "who brought their domestic issues to Washington" and together they pursued a campaign that focused most of its attention on Congress and the aid program. The dynamic was new to Washington. The Administration, the Rabin-Peres government, and some American Jewish groups teamed on one side while Israeli opposition groups and anti-Oslo American Jewish organizations pulled Congress in the other direction.
Religious Jews regarded those who assimilated with horror, and Zionists campaigned against assimilation as an act of treason.