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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 2004 / 28 Elul 5764

350 years after first Jewish settlers, Judaism thrives in America

By Ron Grossman


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Since 1654 the diverse American Jewish experience has been marked by struggle, determination and success


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (KRT) Having fled the Inquisition and survived capture by pirates, a small and bedraggled party of Jews landed here 350 years ago to a less than enthusiastic welcome.


The fervently Christian governor of New Amsterdam had no patience for religious minorities and ordered them to leave what was then a Dutch colony. But the "23 souls big and little," as those refugees described themselves, were exhausted by the adventures that brought them to "the end of the inhabited earth" in early September 1654.


They appealed to the authorities in Holland and were allowed to stay — thus becoming the founding fathers and mothers of America's Jewish community, which now numbers more than 5 million.


The milestone of their arrival, on the eve of the High Holy Days, is being commemorated with museum exhibitions, lectures and synagogue programs. But perhaps the most telling witness to 350 years of Jewish history in America is the sheer diversity of the present-day community — a rainbow of lifestyles ranging from pious and traditional to secular and trendy.


America has been the launching pad for major new movements in Judaism, as well as a place where Old World traditions still flourish. The Jewish community includes ethnic subgroups drawn from virtually every corner of the Earth through which Jews passed during centuries of wanderings.


Scholars argue that the breadth of contemporary Jewish life can be traced to a common factor in the American Jewish experience — something that distinguishes the Jews' history in this country from chapters transacted in other lands.

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"From the beginning, Jews in America had the challenge of an open society," said Shuly Rubin Schwartz, a historian at the Jewish Theological Seminary. "They could say to themselves: `What kind of Jew do I want to be?'"


Today, the implications of that question are felt with special force. Most American Jews no longer live in tight-knit neighborhoods like their immigrant forebears. Having entered the mainstream, they can — and increasingly do — marry people of other faiths. Some community leaders fear that a weakening sense of Jewish identity might be an unavoidable side effect of assimilation.


But Schwartz argues that this very freedom — for Jews to pick and choose among personal definitions of Jewishness — is what has made their experience in his country unique.


Such opportunity is virtually unprecedented. Although Jews in America have faced prejudice — well into the 20th century, elite universities maintained quotas limiting the number of Jewish students they would accept — anti-Semitism was never written into this country's political institutions, as it was elsewhere.


Jeffrey Gurock, a historian at Yeshiva University, grew up in New York in the 1950s. He recalls how his European-born father would marvel at the sight of a policeman standing watch over a synagogue on the Jewish holidays.


"My father would say: 'In America, the police are here to protect you. In Europe, when you saw a policeman, you were afraid,'" Gurock said.


The Jews who arrived in 1654 trace their roots to Spain and Portugal, where the Inquisition offered Jews two choices: convert or leave.


Some went to Holland — an unusually tolerant country for that age — and then to Brazil after it became a Dutch colony in the 1630s. Prominent among the merchant class in both places, they identified themselves as "Sephardim" from the Hebrew term for Spain.


In 1654, the Portuguese captured Brazil and forced its Sephardic Jews into still another exile. Some sailed for different New World ports, including the 23 who, after misadventures en route, made it to New York.


"Those poor people: captured by pirates, rescued by a French frigate which brought them here, then almost forced to move on again," said Ruth Schulson, 83, sitting in her apartment overlooking Central Park. "But their descendants did well."


She was speaking from family history, which traces to the original group that landed in New York. In an old Hebrew Bible, the opening leaves are inscribed with handwritten records of her ancestors' births and deaths.


Schulson's walls are lined with oil portraits of other family members. Elegantly dressed and striking formal poses, they bear visual witness to how those Jews prospered in their third adopted homeland — and adopted the style and manners of America's social elite.


"Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem that's on the Statue of Liberty, was a relative," Schulson said. "So was Benjamin Cardozo, who sat on the Supreme Court and belonged to our congregation."


The current sanctuary of that congregation, Shearith Israel, sits among the fashionable apartment buildings of the Upper West Side. Its first synagogue was built in 1730, the earliest in North America. Previously, its members had worshiped in rented quarters, and later the congregation moved several times.


The sanctuary reflects both the civilization its founders came from and the one they found here. Prayers are chanted according to rhythmic patterns echoing the Moorish world where Sephardic Judaism was born. For Sabbath services, the president and vice president of the synagogue don top hats and tails.


By the 19th century, Jewish life in America was being influenced as well by Hamburg and Munich, as immigrants began to arrive from Germany, many seeking economic opportunities. Known as "Ashkenasim" — from a Hebrew term for Germans — these Jews settled not just in New York but westward with the expanding frontier.


In 1847, there were already enough German Jews in Chicago to establish Kehilath Anshe Maariv — Congregation of the Men of the West — on an upper floor of a commercial building. They were a rough-and-ready lot, according to Leopold Mayer, who was brought from Germany as the synagogue's Hebrew teacher and left a vivid account of Wild West Judaism.


"The narrow, uninviting entrance was unpleasantly obstructed by the goods of an auctioneer who occupied the storefront below," Mayer wrote. "Instruction in both the tenets and morals of Judaism was lacking. Every Jew was his own teacher and rabbi."


Nonetheless, the community and its formative congregation prospered, with KAM, as it came to be known, moving progressively southward to its present location in Hyde Park. German Jews generally were accepted into mainstream society. In Chicago, they were already being elected to political office in the 1850s.


"There were lots of German speakers in Chicago, so culturally the German Jews fit in," noted Irving Cutler, author of "The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb." "They played a significant role in the city's economic development."


Among the enterprises established by Chicago's German Jews were Florsheim Shoe Co., Hart Schaffner & Marx clothiers, the Brunswick billiard-table empire, Spiegel mail-order company and Mandel Brothers department store, long a fixture on State Street.


Germany had been home to a movement aimed at modernizing Judaism with innovations such as sermons in the vernacular. That movement found a ready audience in America, where some congregations had begun to relax the strict rules of Orthodox Judaism — including a dietary code proscribing certain products, like pork and seafood, as treif, or ritually impure.


"It was impossible to come to the frontier and continue Jewish life without being liberal," said Gary Zola, a historian at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. "There simply was no infrastructure to maintain traditional Jewish life."


By the last quarter of the 19th Century, the Reform movement became the dominant voice in American Judaism.


Hebrew Union College was founded to train rabbis in the new approach — which sometimes seemed to go out of its way to thumb its nose at tradition. At a banquet marking the college's first graduating class in 1883, the menu included forbidden foods: clams, shrimp and frog legs.


Traditionalists decried the treifa banquet, as it was dubbed; reformers countered that "kitchen Judaism" was outmoded.


The traditionalist view shortly found reinforcements from abroad, as a third wave of immigration brought 2 million Jews to America between 1881 and 1914. Many were refugees from pogroms, a rash of anti-Jewish violence then sweeping Eastern Europe. They were much poorer and had been less exposed to the modern world than their Sephardic and Germanic predecessors. Their numbers transformed the American Jewish scene.


New York, with Ellis Island in its harbor, became the largest Jewish community in the world, home to 2 million Jews by 1940. In Chicago, whole neighborhoods seemed transformed into outposts of a foreign culture, as a reporter noted of Halsted Street during the heights of the Eastern European immigration.


"After passing 12th Street," he wrote, "one could well imagine himself out of Chicago. Every shop sign is painted in the angular characters of the Hebrew alphabet."


Coming to America could be a wrenching experience, culture shock being magnified by poverty. Family ties often were strained by separation.


"My father came to Chicago ... and worked for years to earn the money to buy tickets for my mother and sisters," Cutler said. "But World War I broke out, and they couldn't come over until 1921. I was born on Maxwell Street, where my mother sold chickens illegally out of the basement of where we lived."


With their Old Country ways, and speaking Yiddish — a linguistic stew of German, Polish and Hebrew — the Eastern European Jews weren't alien just in gentile eyes. Their German-Jewish predecessors were wary too. Old-timers and newcomers kept their distance.


As low-paid workers in sweatshop industries, many of the new immigrants were drawn to the socialist vision of a world without the distinction between worker and boss. They became enthusiastic members of the trade-union movement, often its organizers.


"Intermarriage in those days," Cutler said, "was when an Eastern European Jew married a German Jew."


After World War II, those distinctions and animosities began to soften. Jewish ex-GIs used their veterans benefits to go to college and buy homes, often in the mushrooming suburbs that developed around American cities in the 1950s and 1960s. They grew less conscious of whether their ancestors had come from Germany or Eastern Europe.


The first suburbanized generation often lived in highly Jewish suburbs. But children raised there often moved on to an outer ring of suburbs, where they likely have gentile neighbors.


"Today, you can't absorb Jewishness just by walking down the shopping street of the old, cohesive Jewish neighborhoods, like Roosevelt Road or Lawrence Avenue once were in Chicago," said Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, director of the National Jewish Population Survey. "You have to work at being Jewish today."


Maintaining tradition on the suburban frontier is as challenging as it was on the Western frontier. Orthodox Judaism forbids riding in a car on the Sabbath, but amid shopping centers and housing developments it can be the only way to get to a synagogue.


Partially for that reason, Conservative Judaism became increasingly popular in the years right after World War II, National Jewish Population Survey Director Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz said. Originating within the Orthodox community, the Conservative movement went on to become a kind of middle-ground American Judaism, avoiding the wholesale changes of the Reform movement while making allowances for the realities of contemporary life, such as driving to Sabbath services.


Yet although Orthodoxy once seemed destined to be a victim of suburbanization, neighborhoods still remain that look like throwbacks to the immigrant communities of a century ago — especially because of the belated arrival of the Hasidic tradition in this country.


The most observant of the observant, the Hasidim, long resisted leaving Eastern Europe, fearing America's temptations would sap the purity of their faith. Then came the Holocaust, and many who survived regrouped in New World enclaves, such as Brooklyn's Williamsburg community.


Fifty thousand Hasidim live there on streets dotted with dozens of synagogues bearing the names of Jewish villages destroyed by the Nazis. At the hour of morning and evening prayers, the streets fill with bearded men wearing the black hats and long coats that mark the ultra-Orthodox .


"In this community, we speak Yiddish; English is a second language," said Rabbi Leib Glanz, a member of the Satmar Hasidim, one of the movement's numerous subsects. "Basically we're unplugged from the outside world."


Ann and Ronald Kleiman live at the other end of the spectrum. He is Jewish, she is not, and their home is in a largely non-Jewish subdivision, north of Chicago. They attend Temple Shir Shalom, a Reform congregation in Arlington Heights, Ill., where 40 percent of the members have mixed marriages.


Ronald Kleiman was raised in a Conservative synagogue but drifted away as an adult. Services left him cold, he recalled. After the couple was married (it is a second marriage for both), Ronald Kleiman felt a religious tug and found a spiritual home at Shir Shalom. He said he thinks this is because the congregation puts feeling above form in its services. Guitars hang on the walls of the cantor's office.


"He reminds us of Pete Seeger," Ronald Kleiman said.


Ann Kleiman, who was raised Christian, serves on Shir Shalom's sisterhood.


"I was asked to join by a woman who isn't Jewish either," she said.


In outline form, the Kleimans' story typifies that of many contemporary Jewish families. According to the National Jewish Population Survey, these days when American Jews get married, 47 percent of the time it is to non-Jews. Kotler-Berkowitz, who directed the study, thinks that statistic is one reason why Reform Judaism has emerged as the largest of three main groups.


"The Reform movement was quicker to respond to the phenomenon of intermarriage," Kotler-Berkowitz said. "Reform congregations have been more receptive to non-Jews than others."


Of course, more traditional Jews, such as the Hasidim of Williamsburg, think making accommodations to intermarriage would be the death of Judaism. Some scholars worry about the future, noting that fewer than half of American Jews belong to a synagogue. How long can the American Jewish community survive numbers like that, they wonder.


The Jewish Community Centers of Chicago date to an era when such concerns scarcely existed. The movement began with a settlement house in the Maxwell Street neighborhood whose mission was to help Americanize newly arrived immigrants.


A century later, the JCC has another priority. At suburban centers around Chicago, instructors teach American-born children and adults about their heritage.


"We're are looking at our role as Judaizing American Jews," said Avrum Cohen, general director of the Chicago-area JCC.


Others note that a sense of Jewishness has always been about something more than being observant. Among them is Eric Gordon, the latest director of the Los Angeles branch of the Workmen's Circle, a century-old organization of Jewish socialists. Its founders were self-consciously non-observant, thinking religion an impediment in the struggle for a more just world.


But going through the group's archives, Gordon was struck by how often its programs — a reading by a Yiddish poet, say, or a political lecture — were held on Friday evenings, the beginning of the Sabbath.


"They were Jews, after all, and it was Friday," he said, "They wanted to do something Jewish."

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Ron Grossman is a feature writer for the Chicago Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

© 2004, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.