The experiment of Jewish social life in the U.S. is an excellent instance of how a community has maintained its identity and also taken care of individual members in the age of globalisation, says LUV PURI.
Strong and well-knit the Jews in America.
STROLLING through the streets of Manhattan, one inevitably comes across members of the Jewish community. The attire of its male members, with their black skullcaps, is the strong symbol of the community's identity. It has become a cliché that the famous Jewish lobby wields considerable influence in the United States' economic, political and foreign policy. But its success story, according to members of the community is due to its strong knit society, which provides a strong social back up for building a resourceful human capital.
In an American society where the nuclear family is the pattern and market forces dominate, it is the social organisation of the Jewish community, which is the secret formula for their economic and educational achievement in the last three centuries. The individual success stories of Jews have been discussed but not much is known about the community life of the Jewish diaspora, which has been a subject of renewed importance for scholars.
The Semitic race, which completed 350 years of its presence in the U.S., has come from diverse parts of the world at various time intervals but a strong community bond still exists between them. New York, in this respect, has a unique position as it is widely viewed as both the business and cultural "capital" of the U.S. The city has the oldest and largest Jewish community in North America and after Israel, has the highest concentration of Jews all over the world. With nearly two million Jews, New York city alone accounts for over one-third of all Jews in the U.S.
New York city remains the principal port of entry and site of settlement for new Jewish immigrants and this includes the Iranian, the Israeli and the Russian Jews. Diversity among the Jews is immense. The overwhelming majority of New York Jews are second, third and fourth generation Americans and trace their roots to the East European Jewish immigration of the late 19th and early 20th-Century which brought more than one million Jews to the U.S. in a very brief period. But it is in the early 1990's after Glasnost that many Jews crossed the Atlantic to come here and start a new life. The largest of these groups is the Russian Jews and some say that there are as many as 4,00,000 Russian Jews and their descendants, primarily in the suburbs of New York. But there are smaller, but nonetheless quite significant, enclaves of Iranian Jews and Israeli Jews, as well.
The majority of major American Jewish organisations maintain their offices in Manhattan and for many it becomes difficult to separate local New York Jewish history from the larger national picture. Associate National Director, Department of Contemporary Jewish Life American Jewish Committee, Rabbi Noam E. Marans says, "The study of Jews coming to New York is very complex. Recently, thousands of other immigrants came from Russia, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Moldova city. They constitute one of the largest ethnic groupings of immigrants to New York during the 1990s. More than 30,000 came from Ukraine during the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is this section, which was exceptionally of poor financial status, but swift community support is helping them shine. For instance when the Jews came from erstwhile Soviet Union, initial help in the form of first-rate healthcare, as well as improving access to and awareness of health-related issues, was provided by the American Jewish Committee of New York's mission. "Our agencies and guarantees provide the Jewish and broader community with an extraordinary breadth of health services, helping to care for children, the elderly, and new immigrants, she adds. Specific genetic problems are also being dealt by the community organisations.
An example to follow
The strong organisational structure is the envy of the rest of the ethnic communities. Christopher M. Dumm, executive director of the Indian American Center for Political Awareness, says, "No community in the U.S. has such a strong well knit set up as the Jews. It is the best example of how the bulk of society can come forward to help the economically poor to build human capability so that they can find suitable jobs in the market."
The family structure of the Jews also differentiates them. In sharp contrast to nuclear families, the Jews are more integrated as most children prefer to stay with their parents. American Jews are particularly close and communally conscious, says Rabbi Noam E. Marans.
There is, too, a broad attraction among young Jews to be with other young Jews. Many term the community as insular, which is reflected in the lowest, inter-marriage rate (outside the community) of the United States i.e. 22 per cent. The impact of intermarriage on Jewish family life, on raising and educating children in Jewish interfaith households, and on the ultimate survival of the Jewish community has been a major issue of national and local Jewish communal debate for decades.
The conventional wisdom is that the relative affluence of American Jews (notwithstanding the significant pockets of Jewish near-poverty particularly among some elderly) is directly related to their high level of educational attainment. There is a culture of emphasis on education among American Jews which has been the principal factor behind its resounding success, says Ann Schaffer, Director of the American Jewish Committee. The experiment of Jewish social life in the U.S. is an excellent instance of how a community has maintained its identity in what used to be called a melting pot and also take care of individual members in the age of globalisation by assuring a minimum amount of egalitarianism in its ranks.
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