Gaines has a Master of Science in Education with a focus in counseling.
Jewish Early History
The Jewish people are one of the oldest continuously existent ethnic groups that has a history dating back more than 4,000 years. During that time the Jews, whose homeland is a crossroads between larger nations, have been enslaved and dispersed throughout the world. After Rome destroyed the Jewish temple and banished the people in 70 CE, they roamed the world for more than 1850 years. Only as recently as 1948 has a portion of land been given to them and now approximately a third of the world's Jews live there.
Jewish culture largely revolved around their belief that they are the chosen people of God. They believed that they were either blessed or cursed based on the adherence to their God's laws. The people, made up of twelve tribes, followed ancient customs established by Moses such as animal sacrifice, dietary laws (not eating pork, washing hands, etc.), and family construction. Some Jews, labeled orthodox, still follow these same customs.
After Rome defeated the Jews and scattered them abroad, they landed in many different nations. Of the twelve original tribes, ten disappeared and many believe they settled in parts of Africa and Asia. However, many Jews moved north to Greece then northern European nations. European Jews were broken into two groups:
- The Sephardim who settled in Spain and Portugal
- The Ashkenazim who settled in Germany and other Germanic countries
These two groups experienced different levels of persecution which led to further emigration. The Sephardim were heavily persecuted during the Inquisition period and dispersed to other areas of Europe to escape. The Ashkenazim were persecuted almost from the time they arrived in the northern European nations, but they managed to carve out a fairly stable life. However, during the latter part of the nineteenth and first two decades of the twentieth centuries, roughly 4 million Jews emigrated from this region to the United States due to European political upheaval (which included the rise of Kaiser Wilhelm in Germany and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia). During WWII, only 150,000 Jews managed to enter the US due to immigration restrictions.
Immigration to the United States
Jewish people had been moving to the Americas long before the United States was a country. A look at census data shows that there were approximately 2,500 people of Jewish ancestry in America prior to the Revolutionary War. The people largely settled in areas with large populations where they also lived and worked as a community.
The nineteenth century saw an explosion in the number of Jews who came to the US, which only ended with laws restricting the number of immigrants from other countries in the 1920s. By this time, there were approximately 5 million Jews in the United States. As a group, they have stayed in the larger cities along both the East and West coasts.
The Jewish people enjoy a culture that has stood for more than 4,000 years with stable traditions and celebrations. Thus, it was at times difficult for the people to become a part of the larger US culture. However, because they were such a stable influence in the communities they occupied, Jewish customs and the people, have been widely accepted. Like any other group, Jewish Americans became more acculturated as more generations were born in the United States. Despite this, they have maintained a cultural separateness throughout those generations.
Unfortunately, the antisemitism the Jews faced in other areas of the world began to surface in the US in the late nineteenth century. Many of the Jewish immigrants to the US from northern Europe were poor and they did not want to assimilate. They built insular communities that maintained their culture. Eventually, the American Jews became the largest population of Jews (outside of the reformatted Israel) in the world.
Issues American Jews Face
There are important issues relating to the American Jewish population today. People of Jewish heritage have been very successful in the worlds of finance, cuisine, and entertainment. However, even though they have been successful, Jews still face antisemitism. Throughout their history, American Jews have been targeted with hate speech and action. Synagogues and homes have been victimized with events not diminishing greatly over time. Due to their different beliefs, Jewish Americans still have to deal with those who don't accept them.
In the United States, Jewish Americans are considered a successful ethnicity, but they still have problems. Jews began entering the colonies prior to the formation of the United States and the population grew steadily (if slowly) through the nineteenth century. In about 1880, poor Jews from northern Europe (known as the Ashkenazi as opposed to the Sephardim from southern Europe) began immigrating to American, due to oppression and lack of opportunity. Most of these people settled in large cities on the coasts of America. This influx lasted until the 1920s, at which time the Jewish population in the US was about 5 million. During the reign of Hitler prior to and during WWII, 150,000 Jews entered the US. Jewish Americans still deal with antisemitism in the US, but they have been very successful in the fields of finance, cuisine, and entertainment.
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