European American Jews originated from Eastern Europe. Mass immigration of the Jews from Europe to America started in the mid-1880s. This was due to persistent economic challenges and persecution in Eastern Europe (Royal, 2011). It is believed that the American Jews are the descendants of the Jewish community that settled in the region after migrating from Europe. The Jewish community believes in the existence of one powerful God as asserted in the Judaic religion. This paper focuses on the social and cultural structures and practices of the European American Jews (Brenner, 2010).
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Language and communication pattern
The original Jewish language is Hebrew. Currently, Jews speak various vernacular languages of the community they live in. When the Jews first settled in America, they spoke Ashkenazic and Ladino languages (Kessner & Shapiro, 2010). The language of Ladino is a combination of both Spanish and Hebrew languages. It is believed that the Ladino language originated from Sephardic Jews. Ashkenazic language originated from eastern and central Europe, which is a combination of Hebrew and medieval German languages. However, American Jews of Ashkenazi origins speak Yiddish as their primary language. Today, the majority of the American Jewish has adopted English as their native language (Brenner, 2010).
Art and other expressive forms
The most famous art among the American Jews is the visual arts. The common Jewish Visual arts include painting, design, drawing, ceramics, photography, architecture, and filmmaking. Similarly, Jewish community practices fashion and modeling visual arts. Some Jewish arts consist of fine art designs. Common fine arts include sculpture, printmaking, and painting. Other arts practiced by American Jews include art media, craft and handicraft. Secular music is common in the Jews music industry. A number of secular Jewish musicians have composed numerous songs on their lifestyle (Franco, 2012).
Norms and rules
Before and after settling in America, Jews upheld their cultural norms and rules. Jewish norms and rules are based on the customary ethics of Judaism. The basic Jewish traditional rules originate from the Jewish’s mitzvot. Mitzvot are a set of 613 sacred obligations that are found in the Talmud and Torah (Kessner & Shapiro, 2010). The obligation is classified into three categories. These categories are Edot, Mishpatim, and Hukim. Edot is a set of rules that obligate Jews to remain truthful to their faith. Mishpatim is a set of Jewish rules that regulate the behavior of individuals. On the other hand, Hukim is a set of statutes that divine custom rules, which nonprofessionals do not comprehend with ease. One may not observe all the 613 rules, but he or she is expected to obey more than half of the regulations (Royal, 2011).
Jewish culture entails several lifestyle practices. After the birth of a baby, the Jewish babies are given two names in the baby naming ceremony. One name is used on a daily basis, while the other name is used in synagogues and religious matters. Male babies are circumcised on the date of birth. Jews hold a wedding ceremony under a huppah. Huppah is an open awning that symbolizes the commitment of the bride’s family. The ceremony involves blessing the couple and putting the ring on their right hand index fingers (Franco, 2012). The Jews community buries their deceased on any day other than on the Sabbath day. Similarly, the Jewish community celebrates the death of their beloved ones through funeral festivals (Fishman, 2009).
The Jewish relationship heritage is based on robust community and family relations. The community believes that a good relationship between families is paramount for social and peaceful coexistence. The common unifying family factor is the Sabbath day. The Jewish community devotes the day for resting after a working week. Jews use the Sabbath day for community and family come together in meetings. During the day, families share meals and the whole community attend prayers in the nearby synagogues. Furthermore, relationship heritage in the Jewish community is embraced through marriage. Therefore, it is an obligation of every Jew to establish matrimony through church wedding. For individuals who are reluctant to marry, the community has a matchmaker who facilitates finding a mate. However, the parents and the partners are allowed to make the final decision (Royal, 2011).
The Jewish community is highly religious. As such, it holds several rituals to celebrate various annual religious events. The most popular Jewish ritual is the Sabbath day held on every Saturday. The day marks the biblical day of resting in the creation story. Passover ritual celebrates the historical Jewish exodus from Egypt to Canaan (Fishman, 2009). Jews commemorate Passover by preparing a festive meal and displaying the Seder objects in their homes. Rosh Hashanah ritual is a New Year celebration in the Jewish calendar. During this day, Jews wish each other a happy New Year through celebration and prayers. The ritual is commemorated by sending greeting cards and serving honey (Kessner & Shapiro, 2010).
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Degree of assimilation or marginalization from mainstream society
American Jews were initially opposed to American acculturation and assimilation. The first Jews immigrants in the U.S.A settled in small-isolated communities in the cities that hosted synagogues. They continued speaking Yiddish language, which is a mixture of medieval German and Hebrew languages (Kessner & Shapiro, 2010). They remained marginalized for a long period due to their isolated lifestyle. However, the abolition of the Yiddish language in the major institutions forced the Jews to change their lifestyles to conform to the mainstream culture (Brenner, 2010). By the end of the 19th century, American Jews had appreciated the need for assimilation into the American culture. Furthermore, the US constitution protected the freedom of religion for all people residing in the country, which facilitated the willingness of the Jews to be assimilated into the American culture. By the mid 20th century, American Jews were fully assimilated into American culture and lifestyle (Franco, 2012).
Health behaviors and practices
The Jewish community has a long history of health challenges and practices. Historically, Jews suffered from an inherited pathological condition characterized by inbreeding. After settling in America, Jews suffered from disorders more than any other immigrants did. However, they registered lower death rate than other immigrant communities did at the time (Brenner, 2010). Jews believe in medication treatment as a disease and disorder curative method. Judaism states that medical treatment is part of the man’s obligation to care for the body that God granted them. Furthermore, Jews believe that having faith in God as a healer is a sure method of being healed. Therefore, American Jews embrace medical treatment and faith as a reliable disease and disorder cure methods (Kessner & Shapiro, 2010).
Brenner, M. (2010). A short history of the Jews. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Fishman, S. B. (2009). Jewish life and American culture. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York.
Franco, D. J. (2012). Race, rights, and recognition: Jewish American literature since 1969. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Kessner C. S., A. Shapiro (2010). Studies in American Jewish Literature in: A Special Issue in Honor of Sarah Blacher Cohen: Purdue University Press.
Royal, D. P. (2011). Unfinalized moments: essays in the development of contemporary Jewish American narrative. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press.