Jewish Life and American Culture

By Sylvia Barack Fishman

Subjects: American Culture
Series: SUNY series in American Jewish Society in the 1990s
Paperback : 9780791445464, 260 pages, May 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445457, 260 pages, May 2000

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures



Analyzing the Evidence

Coalescing American and Jewish Values

Tracing Educational and Occupational Patterns

Learning about Jewish Education

Educating for Jewish Living

Forming Jewish Households and Families

Observing Religious Environments in Jewish Homes

Profiling Jewish Organizational Connections

Negotiating Both Sides of the Hyphen



Subject Index

Index of Names

Illustrates how some Jews have created a new, hybrid form of Judaism, merging American values and behaviors with those from historical Jewish traditions.


Jews in the United States are uniquely American in their connections to Jewish religion and ethnicity. Sylvia Barack Fishman in her groundbreaking book, Jewish Life and American Culture, shows that contemporary Jews have created a hybrid new form of Judaism, merging American values and behaviors with those from historical Jewish traditions.

Fishman introduces a new concept called coalescence, an adaptation technique through which Jews merge American and Jewish elements. Analyzing the increasingly permeable boundaries in the ethnic identity construction of Jewish and non-Jewish Americans, she suggests that during the process of coalescence, Jews combine the texts of American and Jewish cultures, losing track of their dissonance and perceiving them as a unified Jewish whole.

The author generates data from diverse sources in the social sciences and humanities, including the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey and other statistical studies, interviews and focus groups, popular and material culture, literature and film, to demonstrate the pervasiveness of coalescence. The book pays special attention to gender issues and the relationship of women to their Jewish and American identities.

A blend of lively narrative and scholarly detail, this book includes useful tables, accessible figures and models, and fascinating illustrations which present the educational, occupational, and behavioral patterns of American Jews, organizational profiles, family formation, religious observance, and the impact of Jewish education.

At Brandeis University, Sylvia Barack Fishman is Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life/ Sociology of American Jews in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department and the Co-Director of the Hadassah International Research Institute on Jewish Women. She is editor of Follow My Footprints: Changing Images of Women in American Jewish Fiction, and author of A Breath of Life: Feminism in the American Jewish Community, which was named 1994 Honor Book by the National Jewish Book Council.