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.

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