This chapter charts the origins of Judaism in America. In the early twentieth century, American Jews imported and developed a variety of surrogate ideologies—Yiddishism, socialism, Unionism, and Zionism. These ideologies were intended to supplant religious Judaism; thus these secularist movements play a role analogous to that of fringe Christian movements. On a broader plane, many American Jews in the first half of the twentieth century found the comfort of ethnic neighborhoods, family circles, occupational environments, and the kitchens of wives and mothers the linchpin of their Jewish identity. Not accidentally, that period corresponded to the ethnic highpoint of Jewishness and the highest percentile of Jews in the overall American population. Judaism as practiced religion, therefore, has often been an ancillary element in an individual Jew's identity. This chapter begins with the caveat that Jewry and Judaism are distinguishable before turning to a discussion of four movements that characterize the history of Judaism in America: Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, and Reconstructionist Judaism.
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