The Secularization of Relations between Jews and Non-Jews: An Introduction


Relations between Jews and Non-Jews in the United States | Arthur Hertzberg While North America was a British colony , its Jewish community numbered about 2 , 000 . Most of these Jews lived in the cities , such as Charleston , Philadelphia , and New York , engaged in commerce , and belonged to the middle class . In this initial stage , the Jews in America were a very small group , one that hardly attracted any attention , and the increasing need within the new society in North America for businessmen , particularly those who opened small businesses , prevented conspicuous manifestations of anti-Semitism . In 1789 , when the new country was founded on a constitutional basis , no debate arose in the Constitutional Convention as to the question of granting full equality to the Jews . It was self-understood that such a minority would not pose a problem . In the first decades of the new country until the 1840 s , the number of Jews remained almost negligible , not exceeding 6 , 000 . At that time it was accepted that wealthy Jews - whose numbers were small - enjoyed the social standing reserved for the influential , and in this respect there was no difference between Jews and non-Jews . The change occurred in the 1840 s . Thousands of Jews began to arrive from Germany ( mainly from Bavaria ) , Bohemia , Slovakia , and Hungary . This was not a mass migration of hundreds of thousands , but by the end of the 1850 s , the Jewish community in America had grown , reaching some 500 , 000 souls . Some of the new immigrants brought with them the education they had acquired in their homeland , which facilitated their becoming established as traveling salesmen . Within a short time lost its meaning and relevance . Finally , tremendous changes occurred in the standing of the Jews in the USSR , and then in post-Communist Russia . In the latter , it is once again possible to identify - in the present as well – that mixture between acceptance of Jews by non-Jews and the continued existence of an anti-Semitism that repeatedly flares up in different ways . The considerable decrease in the numbers of Russian Jewry since the beginning of the 1970 s is no less important . Eventually , so it seems , only two numerically significant centers of Jewish life will remain : in Israel and in the United States . Both “ Diaspora ” and “ minority ” are no longer the keys to understanding the relations between Jews and non-Jews under these circumstances . These relations - despite the nadirs they have known and will undoubtedly still know - are dependent today on a new set of factors . They reflect the standing of Israel in the international community , on the one hand , and , on the other , the status of the Jews in the various countries in which they live . The memory of past relations between Jews and non-Jews gradually fades away , even if it is not forgotten . The postmodern world offers new possibilities for Jews everywhere across the globe , together with new risks and new dangers .

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