Chapter

Marriage, Americanization and American Jewish Culture, 1900–1920

Peter Y. Medding

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry: Volume XIV: Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century

Published in print May 1999 | ISBN: 9780195128208
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854592 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195128208.003.0002

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Marriage, Americanization and American Jewish Culture, 1900–1920

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The American popular culture that created a nation out of the marriage of opposites was turned on its head by Jewish immigrants and their children. In both cases, love created new possibilities for new families in a new 20th-century nation. Even as Jews sought an American Jewish life, they found themselves beset by the same conflicts that haunted most early 20th-century Americans who looked to marriage as a source of a new division of labor, pleasure, and romance. Marriage as the Zion — where aspiring middle-class Jews realized their desires — created conflicts between men and women whose limited resources were constantly pulled between consumption and production, between the domestic world and the world of labor and business. Even as it assured Jewish cultural autonomy, marriage as the gateway to the middle class created tensions between Jewish men and women. For all subsequent generations, Jews have had to meet the demands of the middle-class life within the family, the sphere most responsible for reproducing Jewish identity in the United States. The inexorable link between class and Jewishness within the intimate ties of marriage and family powerfully shaped the formation of a 20th-century American Jewish culture.

Keywords: Jewish immigrants; intermarriage; American culture; middle class

Chapter.  13007 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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