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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Paul Burstein
SOC 377
Seattle Campus

The American Jewish Community

Development and current status of American Jewish community: immigration; changes in religious practice, institutions in response to circumstances in American society; creation of new types of secular communal organizations; assimilation; confrontation with antisemitism; family life; social, economic mobility; religious, secular education; intermarriage, and future of community. Offered: jointly with JSIS C 377.

Class description

Tens of millions of Americans are immigrants and the children of immigrants. As individuals, families, and communities, they confront hundreds of challenges, from the mundane–where to get the foods they like–to the more serious–how to find, or create, a supportive community, how to deal with prejudice and discrimination–to the existential–what will happen to the community? Can it hold onto its culture? And the U.S. faces challenges, too, trying to teach newcomers what it means to be an American, while the very meaning of “American” may be influenced by the newcomers.

This course focuses on a group present from the beginning of American history but which arrived in large numbers mostly between the 1880s and the 1920s–Jews. It considers the way of life they brought with them; their hopes for religious freedom and economic opportunity; what they did to win acceptance from their mostly Christian neighbors while holding on to tradition; their creation of new types of schools, religious and community organizations; their rise to economic success and their worries about assimilation; their impact on the movie industry, universities, and other aspects of American life; how their developing views of race, ethnicity, and cultural pluralism helped other immigrant groups–including those arriving today–find their place in American society. The course concludes with an analysis of the opportunities and challenges faced by Jewish young adults as they try to define the American Jewish community of the 21st century.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

-Lectures and discussion

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites

Class assignments and grading

Grades in this course will be based on brief response papers addressing the readings (25 percent of the grade), two midterm exams (the first counting for 15% of the course grade, the second for 20%), a final exam (30%), and class participation (10 percent). It will also be possible to get extra credit for optional, additional work.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Vinh C Trinh
Date: 06/18/2013