How Economics Helped Shape American Judaism

Carmel Ullman Chiswick

in The Oxford Handbook of Judaism and Economics

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195398625
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

How Economics Helped Shape American Judaism


The United States presents an economic environment unlike any other in the millennia-long experience of the Jewish people. As the “Great Experiment” in democracy and religious freedom, America broke with its European roots in ways that greatly reduced the economic penalties imposed by society on Jews per se. The major focus of this article happens to be how economics helped shape American Judaism. American Jews were subject to no special taxes and faced no laws restricting their freedom. Although anti-Semitism was not completely absent, other minority religious and ethnic/ racial groups also faced challenges in America. The article explores the economic forces that facilitated and supported these and other changes in American Judaism. It deals first with the immigrant experience and a change in economic incentives associated with upward educational and occupational mobility and then looks specifically at how this context affected the economics of Jewish religious education in the twentieth century.

Keywords: economics; American Judaism; Great Experiment; religious freedom; anti-Semitism

Article.  7847 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Economic History

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