Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jews In America

The fact that the Jews have their own website already defines them as a group that is apart from the “norm” and as a minority as opposed to your “average” American. They speak of their own history similarly to the websites of other minorities we have looked at – Natives, Hispanics and other immigrants. After being outcase from society, eg. The Holocaust in Europe in an extreme case, they seem to have separated themselves from American society.

There are lots of references in popular culture though, notable The OC and the Cohen family within the show. The father and son are Jewish, and the mother is Christian. Adam Brody, the actor who plays the son is actually Jewish in real life too. In the show they celebrate ‘Christmukkah’, which is a holiday made up of both Christmas and Hanukkah. This helps put Jews out to a wider audience, especially as they are likeable characters in the show. Maybe it is done to put the religion to a younger audience and to populise as main characters on this popular television show? ‘The Nana’ is Jewish, there are numerous references to the son Seth’s Bar Mitzvah. Also they throw a  Chrismukkah Bar Mitzvahkkah’ for one of the non-Jewish characters Ryan, so emphasising the religion to those not of Jewish faith.




There are loads of other popular culture icons who are Jewish; Zach Braff, Mila Kunis, Jake Gylenhaal, Natalie Portman (born in Israel), Lisa Kudrow, Ben Stiller, Beastie Boys, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan. Quite a prominent one was Elvis Presley, who had the star of David carved onto his mother’s grave, learned the Hebrew alphabet, donated to Jewish charities, had a Rabbi as a spiritual leader and always wore a chai necklace (meaning life in Hebrew) to celebrate his heritage. There are so many more Jewish entertainers, which just shows that it is accepted to be Jewish in American culture, although many of these references are modern, so may not have been acceptable in earlier years.

“Our Story” – already separating themselves as another group.
The song on the homepage Is by a composer called Aaron Copland, who was Jewish and born in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is known for being quite a Jewish area, Brooklyn Beach was recently named “little Russia” because of it’s Russian population most of which originally were Jewish. Previous Russian Jews became American Jews, so have been accepted to American society. Most Jews have become concentrated in Borough Park over the years. The song on the homepage is from the ballet ‘Billy The Kid’, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, a Jewish conductor, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

They are described as American Jewish – not just Jewish or just Americans, they are defined in terms of their faith. We wouldn’t often describe Christians as American Christians, only ‘Americans. Why can American Jews not just be ‘American’ too?

Their website shows their history in sections, and explains things like the date the first Jewish colony was established in North America, when there was hardly one Jew for every thousand in the population. Facts like this remind people that they were once a massive minority in America. It talks about how they strived to become accepted as completely American, however every religious group in America had their enemies. It explains that in the period between 1820-1880, 150,000 Euro-Jews moved to America as a result of economic change and the restrictions they faced from the government. They emigrated in search of opportunities and political rights, and in time that’s what they achieved.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The religious group that I have chosen for this blog post is the Lutheran Christian faith.
My reason for choosing this specifically is partially because of a friend living in America who accepts it as their belief, which has encouraged my curiosity to understand more about it, how it differs from other forms of the christian belief, and of its place in American society.
Here I will provide a brief background on how it came into being:
. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed over 20 years ago, and is the result of the formation of three seperate church bodies, namely The American Lutheran Church, The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and The Lutheran Church in America.
.The chosen combination was the result of shared beliefs and "missions" between the three churches.
.The website claims that the church is now compromised of 4.8 million members.
.Founded by the German priest Martin Luther.

Reading through the ELCA Social Messages tab, it reveals how many topics of debate - including the death penalty and Euthenasia, are viewed by this religion and how they do not appear to deny, but instead confront them much more sensitively and even attempt to look differently at the issues that surround the topics.
Whilst I am not extremely familiar with various religious outlooks and practices, ELCA comes across as a very world-wise website that very much focuses on aiding the wider community and encourages its followers to support others living in different nations as well as their own in their time of need, as exampled in the segment located on the front page of the website which has a feature titled "Japan Response". It also appears to function as a communicative tool to create awareness of poverty and disease, such as the advertisement for World Malaria Day also on the front page. In this sense, it may also act as a news source for how Lutherans could be contributing to the wellbeing of others.
To me this portrays American identity to be compassionate and supporting, whilst at the same time very modest and open-minded in keeping with the incentive to "Love thy neighbour".

Monday, April 25, 2011

African Muslims.

I have a strong connection to the Islam faith. I defend it to no end, and am constantly talking about it even though there are areas in which I disagree. But I know that within this task, Islam is quite possibly going to be a large contender as it has so much history, culture, difference and media to it, especially in the United States. I am though, going to specify with African Muslims. The stereotype of a Muslim is a person of an Asian origin, most commonly Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran etc. But what most people tend to forget is that Africa is largely Islam.

African Muslims first arrived in America during the slave boom, being sold to British from the western countries – Senegal, Gambia etc. – and were encouraged or forced to conform to Christianity. And although many practiced Islam in secret, this soon wore off as the generations died out. And so now-a-days, it’s rare to hear about African Muslims in particular unless you search for it. This is what I found…

A gun shot on an innocent woman because of her faith? And 3 African Muslim men being attacked after a prayer session? This doesn’t define the American identity of faith as very well. They boast about having this freedom country yet what they do not seem to tell people is that there is a small print; some terms and conditions. You can have this amazing life of believing in whatever God you would like, and have the right to practice this, but only if that faith is the correct one. Maybe this is Christianity or the Jewish faith, but Americans have no right at all to be hurtful towards a faith that is doing nothing wrong.

It really shows the American public to be very ignorant. Through research carried out in America, hate crime on Muslims have soared since 9/11, but these people doing these hate crimes are just ignorant. It doesn’t take much common sense to realise that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not Muslims. They have this name of “Extreme Islam” but it’s not Islam, it’s not. If it was, would not everybody who followed the Islam faith be terrorists. And sure, most of them get called this, but I don’t know why. Muslims seem to hate Al-Qaeda more than the normal American for the extreme hate crimes that they have encountered.

But I also believe that Asian Muslims feel the hatred more than the African Muslims, purely because Al-Qaeda is Middle-Eastern and not African.

So in answer to the blog post, how do African Muslims define the American identity in terms of faith? They do it well. They do not let other people tell them what faith they should and are rightly allowing themselves the freedom of America. They’re generations of family have most probably been there as long as the Christian families, and atheists families. For the rest of the American public, or just those few ignorant, horrible people, they do not shape the American identity very well.