Religion and the adaptation of Catholic and Jewish minorities in the U.S.A., 1840–1960

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Religion and the adaptation of Catholic and Jewish minorities in the U.S.A., 1840–1960

Religion and the adaptation of Catholic and Jewish minorities in the U.S.A., 1840–1960

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  • 1. Student n0 217716 RELV210 ! Religion and the adaptation of Catholic and Jewish minorities in the U.S.A., 1840–1960 ! ! ! Regarding religiosity the United States is considered as an exception amongst industrialized countries. Indeed, the feeling of religious belonging is far more important in the United States than it is in Europe, for instance. There are more than 80 million Protestants, 65 million Catholics, 6 million Jews and 3 million Muslims. In a certain way, the United States is the biggest protestant country in the world, but also the biggest Jewish country and one of the biggest Catholic countries (Lherm 2005). The historical formation of the United States is also closely bound to immigration because of the huge proportion of the population they represented in the past centuries. Migrants are not only a part of American history; they are this history (Ahlstrom 1970:515). The immigrants’ religions were often different from the one of the first settlers, and they have been fighting to show that their religions can adapt to what is usually called “the American values”. They were determined to show that believing in another religion and still being a true American was possible. Focusing upon how two religious groups (Catholics and Jews) have melted into the society will allow us to understand how they adapted and how they dealt with xenophobia. The period 1840–1960 corresponds to the period between the arrival of the first wave of migrants (essentially Irish) and the acceptation and adaptation of the first non-Protestant – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a Catholic – to the US Presidency. In this paper, I will try to explain what has been the role of religion in the adaptation of Catholic and Jewish minorities to the American way of life and its idiosyncratic individualist culture. ! 1
  • 2. Student n0 217716 Until the beginning of the 17th century, the American territory was still a dead space for Europeans, except for a few fleeting settlements. However the access of the British kings James I (1603–1625) and Charles I (1625–1649) to the throne marked a real turning point. Both of them were deeply Anglican, and many Calvinist Puritans were afraid of their religious stringency, and so decided to flee and move to the New World. Their most important motivation was religious: they wanted to establish a religious community led by the Bible, a community into which people would live and act guided by the rules of God. The first group of settlers, known as the Pilgrim Fathers, landed in the future state of Massachusetts in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. This event carried out an important symbolic dimension, since they were linked by a contract, the “Mayflower Compact”, which was meant to be the future Constitution of the colony (Richet 2001:7). !  ! Fig. 1. William F. Halsall, The Mayflower on Her Arrival in Plymouth Harbor (1882) Source: Artcom Museums. But it was only with the arrival a few years later (in 1629) of a far more numerous second group that the Puritan experience made its most dramatic leap forward. Their final purpose was to purify England by exporting the utopian society model they wanted to create in America. In this way, the Calvinist doctrine of predestination became the organization principle of the society. The Puritans believed that God had selected some people - “the chosen ones” - who would be saved at the Last Judgment. All their life, Puritans tried to discover if they were among the chosen ones or not, but they did not try to save themselves by charity (Ahlstrom 1972). This is especially important because it is the basis of the individualist culture in the United States. Protestant religion advocates a universal priesthood and emphasizes the direct link between God and the individual. Protestants have therefore to be active in their faith. There are two major axioms in this individualism. First, the moral 2
  • 3. Student n0 217716 autonomy of the individual: the adhesion to the religious community is voluntary. Each person has an intimate relationship with God; there is a direct link, a direct communication between God and the worshipper. The second point can be called the “self-made saint”: the individual can only rely on himself and embodies the figure of the free citizen. Those religious values became the values of the whole nation after claiming independence from Britain on the 4th of July 1776. This is shown, for example, by the fact that President Jefferson wrote his own bible, a compilation of his teachings called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. From this study, questions arise such as: How did later immigrants adapt to a different culture and became Americanized while keeping their own religion? (Richet 2001:41). Did they want to adapt, to become “true Americans” or did they want to keep their own identity? It is important to consider the religious fragmentation that became predominant in the religious landscape of the United States since the first arrivals of immigrants. This fragmentation made coexistence necessary, because it was the only way to avoid conflicts. This spirit of the first settlers was made concrete by the American Constitution, which assures the separation between State and Church. One did not have to belong to a special denomination to become a member of the Congress, and the Congress did not have the authority to legislate about the establishment of a religion or the forbidding of its practice. Despite this, there are still many official religious references in the U.S.A., as the famous “In God we trust”, which is written on dollar bills and coins and became the National motto in 1956, during the ideological conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. (lectures notes, Histoire des Etats-Unis, Lycée du Parc, Lyon, spring 2011). Another important aspect about religion in the United States since the beginning of the colonial period is pluralism. Indeed, from the beginning, there were two main forms of Protestantism in the country: Lutheranism and Calvinism, so Protestantism is bound to be plural. The Lutheran Church was born in Germany under the influence of Martin Luther (1483–1546). The distinctive characteristic of this church can be summarized by four Latin locutions: sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, solo Christo. That is to say: justification only by the faith and without charity, we have to trust God, the primordial importance and authority of the Bible, and the direct link with Jesus Christ who is the only intercessor. The Reformed Church was born in France and directed by Jean Calvin. He insisted on God’s sovereignty, predestination theory, the supreme authority of the Bible, that original sin is not erased by baptism, and condemnation of “Catholic mistakes”. There is also a third Church 3
  • 4. Student n0 217716 stemming from the Protestant Reform: the Anglican Church, born in England. Far before Reformation, the English Church already had a kind of independency. The official doctrine was written by Archbishop Cranmer and the reformists Brucer, Laski and Knox. The main points are: respect for Church Tradition, Bible inspiration and symbols of Apostles, and a condemnation of what they regarded as Catholic mistakes like mass, purgatory or the celibacy of priests (Baubérot 1987). ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Fig. 2. Protestants denominations Source : http://christianityinview.com/protestant/denominations.html.
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  • 5. Student n0 217716 ! ! Since the first colonization, there had been a ramification of these main forms of Protestantism. Indeed, there were several religious groups among the first settlers. There were the Puritans, who were dissidents of the Anglican Church and whose final goal was to restructure this Church, and they claimed that only the one who believed in God and followed his principles would be saved. There were also the Quakers, who were against every institution, clergy as well as sacrament. They believed they were faithful in their own Church because of their direct link with God (no middle-men such as priests), and were deeply egalitarian and pacifist (Richet 2001:30). The religious awakenings and different forms of Evangelicalism that were on the air since the beginning of the 18th century were also affecting the fragmentation of the religious landscape in the United States. The prevailing idea carried by those streams was that the individual faith had to be the driving force of religious life. Evangelicalism was spread by successive waves. The first one started in 1730, the second one at the beginning of the 19th century and the third one at the end of that century. The first great awakening provoked the spreading of Baptist (against religious formalism, baptism of infants and for more congregationalism) and Methodist congregations (the most important thing is to read and to follow the Bible). The third awakening wanted to end the moral decadency in which America was going to be drowned by what was regarded as corrupt immigrants; it is linked with the prohibition of alcohol: immigrants were accused of getting the people drunk. This awakening led religions to start using new means of communication and advertisements to convert people. The spreading of new groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the ideological division about whether African-Americans should have churches of their own or be integrated into the churches of the majority were other factors contributing to pluralism (Richet 2001:35). ! *** ! In the middle of the 19th century, the United States was seen by many Europeans as a land of promise. There was a true drawing power and immigrants came by successive waves: a huge amount of available grounds and an agricultural and mining wealth attracted them. But there was also fantasy: immigrants thought the United States was a perfect land, without starvation (cf. the agricultural crisis and famine in Ireland in 1846), without discrimination 5
  • 6. Student n0 217716 (cf. the pogroms against Jews in Russia), where everybody could become successful in life. The shipping companies and the employers contributed to spread this vision of the United States, because they needed skilled labor force. The railway companies had also an interest in this migrant stream, because they had a lot of lands to sell. The first wave of immigrants can also be explained by the reduction of travel prices, the shorter duration of travel and the better conditions in which migrants sailed. Between 1835 and 1850, almost 5 million persons migrated from Europe to the United States, and 30 million between 1870 and the beginning of the 1920s (Vincent 2012:133). !  ! The first wave of immigrants was especially problematic because most of them came from Ireland and were not Protestants but Catholics. Integrating them turned out to be difficult as they did not share the same beliefs, and Americans were ill prepared to welcome them. The Catholic Church was seen as incompatible with American values, because of the clerical mediation between God and the faithful and, above all, the Roman Catholic Church distance from individualism advocated by Protestantism. Before this massive wave of immigrants came to the United States, the few Catholics who were already settled, for example in Louisiana, had adopted the independent model of the free American Protestant Church. But since the Irish were determined to build an Irish Church, this organization was deeply 6
  • 7. Student n0 217716 modified. Even if there was no official Church support in the U.S.A. like there was in Ireland and despite the fact that the French catholic clergy tried to stop them qualifying them of la canaille irlandaise, the Irish Church kept expanding. The Irish already mastered the English language, their fertility rate was high and often one child per family became a priest, but most importantly, they had been able to integrate themselves into the American society and made the Irish Church an inherent part of American culture and diversity. But despite this, there were a lot of conflicts and they were criticized and stereotyped by American Nativists, which sometimes led to extremely violent protests against this Catholic community (Richet 2001:42). This nativist movement was against Catholic immigrants. Americans felt threatened by those strangers and by the social changes they brought along with them, and that deeply disrupted the country. Indeed, the first settlers had the mission to make the world Protestant. To join forces against strangers was therefore a way to strengthen the links between them and make them feel more powerful. Catholics were also criticized because they were regarded as being subjects of the Holy See, and therefore not independent. This was opposed to the core American value of freedom, where religion was not organized in a hierarchy. Thus Irish Catholics were considered inapt to become true American citizens (Gillis 2003:36). The Roman Catholic Church has always been criticized, but the 1820s were a watershed, and both ideology and actions became more and more politicized. The most violent incident occurred in Philadelphia in 1844, where the riots led to 13 deaths and several damaged buildings. Furthermore, a xenophobic movement called “Know Nothing” started to develop in 1854. In addition to ideology, this movement used violent actions (such as the Ursuline monastery's blaze, which shocked the whole nation) and it created a stereotype of Catholics that became diffused in the press. In this way, a genre salacious literature saw the light of day. The most famous example was the so-called autobiographical novel of Mary Monk, relating among other things how she was abused in a convent and how priests had made some underground clandestine passage between the monastery and the convent. More than 300 000 copies of this book were sold (Richet 2001: 43). Nevertheless, this experience led to a positive reinforcement of the Irish Church, and the anti-Catholic movements started to calm down with the war against Mexico and the Civil War. This strengthening of the Irish community ended up with a creation of a subculture, which was finally accepted as compatible with the American model. Indeed, if individualism is a core American value, family and community are also key to the model, even if it can 7
  • 8. Student n0 217716 appear contradictory. Indeed, individualism makes us look for people who share the same values and the same aspirations and with whom one can form a community (O’Brian 2003: 20). Immigrants were well aware of this fact and built communities, which were constructed upon their religious identity, and the fact they helped each other because they belonged to the same community was a precious help for assimilation. The Irish proved to be apt to integrate the American population without having to keep their religious and cultural backgrounds hidden. Their experience showed that assimilation worked as a two-way process: the Irish did not have to conform to the dominant religion; they became a part of the United States and have contributed to building the country as it is today. At the same time, the United States has influenced them in various ways, in the construction of their identity and in the development of their values. The election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency of the United States indicated the definitive acceptation of the Irish and the end of all anti-Catholic movements. The discourse he made was significant: “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters – and the church does not speak for me” (Richet 2001:48). ! *** ! With the second wave of immigration, the nativist movement woke up again, and tensions became much more common. We can use the denomination of “the new immigration” to qualify this second wave of migrants. There was an important quantitative difference compared to the first wave (13 million immigrants reached the United States between 1900 and 1915, 1,3 million in 1907), but also a qualitative one: this time, most of the immigrants came from Southern or Eastern Europe. Their integration and adaptation to the United States was much more problematic because they were non-English-speakers and most of them (80%) were unqualified workers. Between 1908 and 1915, 3,7 million of these immigrants would return to their home countries, showing how difficult it was to melt into American society (Statistical review of immigration to the United States, 1820 to 1910. Senate Documents, 1911). ! 8
  • 9. Student n0 217716 Others Southern and in the United States Origin of migrants Eastern Europe 0,25 0,47 0,80 0,75 0,53 0,20  1880 1890 1900 Fig. 4. The origin of immigrants into the U.S.A. between 1880 and 1900: share of persons from southern and eastern Europe. Source: Statistical review of immigration to the United States, 1820 to 1910. Senate Documents, 1911. ! The religious integration of those new migrants was difficult. The Catholics were rejected, even by Irish, who were now well integrated in society and saw the new immigrants as “ultramountain papists”, as most of them were Italians. The religion lived, experienced and practiced by the new Catholic immigrants was often very different from the official religion because it was impregnated with syncretism, that is to say that their religion mixed nonreligious local beliefs with magic, old convictions and Catholic liturgy. Their national identity was partly defined by their religion and most of them did not want to melt into Irish-American Catholicism, because they were afraid of losing their values and their identities (Gillis 2003:34). As a consequence, a true problem arose: how could these Catholics reconcile their religion with American values, most of them defined by the ideals of Protestantism? The role of the bishops was difficult, especially as they had to prove to the Pope that to be American did not take them away from a Catholic religious ideology and Catholic values (Richet 2001:45). Some more open-minded bishops, in favor of Americanism, like James Gibbons, an Irish bishop in Baltimore, tried to modernize the Catholic Church by establishing a more democratic model, respectful of the individual. Most of the people in favor of Americanism agreed about the fact that Americanization was necessary, even if they had different ideas about how to implement it. Another example, the one of Isaac Hecker, shows the attempts for the integration of Catholic into American culture. Hecker was a former Catholic who had been convinced by Evangelicalism and who became a transcendentalist (an important stream 9
  • 10. Student n0 217716 in New England). He developed his own spirituality based on an inner spiritual life and tried to spread his message to Catholics. He was misunderstood in Europe, and the pope Leo XIII forbid Americanism in 1899. Americanism had developed among Roman Catholic Church leaders in the United States, but was considered heretic by the Vatican, because it advocated freedom of thought, new relationships with other religions and political commitment. To put it in a nutshell, this stream intended to adapt the Catholic Church to American culture and society. But on the contrary, in the United States, immigrants who were trying to adapt had been really receptive, because it was a way to finally fit into American society (O’Brian 2003:19). Although they tryied hard to adapt, this massive wave of strangers who still had problems to integrate themselves provoked new tensions and a phenomenon of rejection, which was not always based upon religious consideration. One example is the slaughter of Italian people in New Orleans in 1891. The crack of 1893 provoked an economic crisis that led to a rise of unemployment and social difficulties and xenophobia. Strangers were accused of making salaries go down, especially by trade unions such as “American Federation of Labor”, led by Samuel Gompers. They asked for restrictions of immigration to protect American workers from what they used to call “strike-breakers”. In the same context, Henri Ford set up the Dearborn movement in 1894, a league against immigration. A new scientific idea began to rise, and especially a new lecture on Darwinism by Herbert Spencer, who applied the evolution theory to the human societies. He claimed that the ones who dominate are the strongest, the more advanced, and so the more industrialized and capable of economy, war, science; in one word, civilization. Those people who have a better access to civilization were supposed to correspond to the Nordic peoples, including British and American, and were said to be superior to all other “races”. The defenders of this theory considered immigration as an invasion of inferior races, which, according to them, would lead to a weakening of the superior race and to a feminization of the United States. In 1907, a commission for immigration designated by the Congress defined and proposed a race dictionary which would develop a hierarchy between immigrants (the former ones would be superior to the new ones, who were considered as non-assimilable). This commission also imposed restrictions and alphabetization tests before authorizing the access to the United States. People from Southern and Eastern Europe were seen as incompatible with American society, because they were seen as being hostile toward society and as having moral values preventing them from becoming good Americans. To this group one reckoned thieves, dissented people, or Communists who 10
  • 11. Student n0 217716 wanted, supposedly, to destroy American society. The Jews were also included in this group (lectures notes, Histoire des Etats-Unis, Lycée du Parc, Lyon, spring 2011). After the First World War, everything went back to normal. From 1917, the provision of 2 million American soldiers had been decisive for the victory, and they were welcomed back in triumph. Xenophobia was forgotten. Besides, the major concern after the war was the cost of living. ! Cost of living (base 100) 240 180 120 60 0  1913 1919 1920 Fig. 5. The costs of living in the U.S.A. between 1913 and 1920. Source: Inflation.Data.com ! In seven years, the cost of living was multiplied by two, but wages did not increase along the inflation. There was also a strong desire for consumption, like usually in an after-war period, and this created a pressure of demand, which again contributed to the rise of prices. The wage earners, annoyed, began to be restless in the factories where they received very low wages. 1919 can be qualified as the year of strikes, as the latter began to have a considerable sweep. There were approximately 3000 strikes in one year, gathering more than 4 million people. The only response the strikers were given – violence and strength – used to decrease the strikes, which stopped in January 1920, without any negotiation. In some minds there was the idea of a strike epidemic, which would in fact be a manipulation from abroad. The industry bosses were afraid of a revolutionary contagion, and after the founding of the Third International in 1919, a fear of communists started to spread and measures against them were taken in most of the states, even if Communism had very little success in America. This fear of Communism slid little by little to a renewed anger for strangers (Vincent 2012:236). 11
  • 12. Student n0 217716 The case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti revealed that this anger against new immigrants was still persisting and creating tensions. In the beginning of 1920, two men murdered the responsible for the workers’ salary of a shoe factory. No one really saw them, but everyone agreed to say they looked very Italian and were tanned. A few quick researches were made among anarchist Italians, and one found two of them, Sacco and Vanzetti, who were arrested without further investigations. They did not speak English very well and contradicted themselves; so they were condemned and executed in 1927 (Vincent 2012:235). We know since 1977 that they were innocent, but there is still a denial of making justice in this case among many Americans (Frankfurter 1927:1). !  Fig. 6. Sacco (right) and Vanzetti in handcuffs. ! Source: Boston Public Library Nativism came back again, and the immigration was anew considered as a danger for the United States. Earlier, soft assimilation was privileged, but it was now a strong and quick Americanization, which was imposed on all strangers. One wanted to give them a new identity as soon as possible, and especially a religious identity. They had to leave their previous values and religious beliefs. The Americanization was much more unbending than the assimilation; it tried to train people to become good American citizens. Naturalization and the learning of English had to be made quickly. The whole immigrant behavior was controlled, and naturalization was solemnized by huge collective ceremonies in order to teach the immigrants to give importance to the fact of officially becoming Americans. Henri Ford even instituted a control upon the way of life of his employees outside the factory (checking of morality, sobriety, sense of savings). The stress was especially put on women, because they were an important factor in the integration. If they were integrated, the whole family would 12
  • 13. Student n0 217716 also be (lectures notes, Histoire des Etats-Unis, Lycée du Parc, Lyon, spring 2011). But strangers were still considered inferior, something which was especially stressed out by Madison Grant’s theory about the passing of the Great Race (Grant 1924:167). He claimed that there are three important human races (African-Americans – “Blacks” at that time – were not considered human): Alpines (Slavic and Asians), who were farmers, the Mediterraneans, mixed with what was called a “negroïd” race, and supposed to be light-minded and thieves, and finally the Nordics (United States, Great Britain, Germany, the Scandinavian countries) who were considered as the higher race and the purest ones. Madison Grant denounced what he called the passing of the Great Race, which was threatened by the floods of Alpines and Mediterraneans. To keep the higher race alive, sterilizations were made under duress. The religion of the new migrants had made them hated and now people tried to find an ethnic justification to this anger. To cope with this rise of racism, strangers often gathered in their own communities based on the model of the ghetto, often with a religious criterion of belonging. The Catholic Church withdrew into its own network of institutions like religious schools or hospitals, and its values. Catholicism had no longer the vocation to open itself to the world. The Second World War moved deeply this subculture and Catholics would at last be regarded as true Americans, becoming closer to Protestants at a social level (Richet 2001:47). They started to reach a participation in the liberal debates of their times and to accept plurality. It was a true cultural revolution, which was at stake; it was the end of an era of withdrawal. This withdrawal kept the Catholics together and helped them protecting themselves against Nativism; now they had achieved assimilation. The election of the Catholic John Fitzgerald Kennedy at the Presidency of the United States evoked sooner is a good example. It was in this positive context of integration that the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) took place in Rome. It was the most important event in the Catholic history of the 20th century. It symbolized the opening of the Catholic Church to the world and to the contemporary culture, by means of an aggiornamento. This aggiornamento recommended a more horizontal Church, and asked for ecumenism and inter-religious dialog, which began with the mutual recognition of other Christian Churches and the abolition of the deicidal accusation against Jews. The Church wanted from now on to be closer to the faithful; Latin was replaced by the country idiom during masses. This council was a turning point for the Catholic Church, as it decided to integrate itself in the contemporary era. This new figure of Catholic religion made it more compatible with American culture and values, and allowed Catholics to keep their religion while fitting into American society (Richet 2001:48). 13
  • 14. Student n0 217716 ! *** ! Jewish experiences in the United States, on the other hand, were different. Even if most of them were poor and not always literate, they succeeded in their adaptation and gave a cultural contribution to the country. Most of them were Germans, and were therefore less targeted by xenophobic movements (Esposito 2003:9). Not only had they in general been able to adapt to American values, but there was also Reform Judaism in the United States. There have always been Jewish people involved in American history since the beginning of colonization (Ahlstrom 1972:569). At the time of the British colonies, they were a really small community and used to form a homogeneous group. Those first Jews landed in America in 1654 after having been chased away from Brazil by the Portuguese. They lived in a Dutch colony but came from Spain or Portugal. Their presence was old but also symbolic, considering that they were not numerous. At the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, more Jews came to America, but they still remained a small group: in 1776, there were only 2500 Jews of 3,5 million inhabitants in the United States (Kaspi 2006). They were rather well-welcomed by British settlers, and there was like a feeling of fraternity from Protestant people toward Jews. But at the beginning of the 19th century, many Jews began to immigrate in the United States, because ways of transportation to the United States began to be faster and cheaper. They were not the only ones to immigrate, but they shook up the small Jewish community in the United States in two ways. First, the number of Jews increased in a significant way, and that destroyed the unity of the previous Sephardic community, which gathered around their own values. In addition, and this is the second point, most of the new Jewish migrants were Ashkenazi (Ahlstrom 1972:573). After the French Revolution, Jews became emancipated in France but the liberties acquired there were carried by the French conquest all over Europe. But when this conquest era and the Empire were over, there was a reaction from the German state: strong restrictions against Jews, for example about marriage or what occupation they were allowed to practice. To escape those discriminations, America was the country they dreamed of. Furthermore, most of them were poor and saw this country as the one where one could become rich from one day to the next. But when they finally arrived in the United States, they knew only the job they practiced in Europe, often a non- 14
  • 15. Student n0 217716 skilled one, but it allowed them to settle quickly and to have the opportunity to climb up the social ladder (Kaspi 2006). In 1880, there were already 250 000 Jews (of 60 million inhabitants). One century later, the Jewish population had multiplied by 100. There was a strong German culture that remained but also a wish to fit into society and to climb in the socio-economic hierarchy. At the same time, a phenomenon of liberation from archaic structures in Jewish tradition began to emerge, when more and more people did not respect the laws anymore. Those difficulties gave birth to Reform Judaism (Richet 2001). It started first in German synagogues, and asked the government for more liberties but also worked for a modification of the ceremonial process. This reform was spread in the United States by German Jewish migrants. They changed religious laws so deeply that a strong modification in attitudes toward religion followed. One of the main figures of this reformist movement in the United States was Isaac Mayer Wise, who started establishing Reform synagogues in 1850. His modern thought of a more liberal religion had considerable impacts upon the way Jews looked at the Scriptures. This modern current had modern ideas about most of contemporary problems; it was for example against slavery. In 1885, during a meeting about Reform Judaism in Pittsburgh, an eight-point platform was adopted and claimed that Judaism was “a progressive religion, ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason” (Heller 1965:465). This declaration is essential because it matched the fact of being Jew with that of being American, because it showed that religion was capable of adapting itself to modernity. This explained why Reform Judaism was more effective in the United States than elsewhere (Ahlstrom 1972). The third wave carried much more migrants than the two first ones. It started in 1880 and lasted until the beginning of the 1920s. It was more or less 4 million Jews who landed in the United States during this period (they were 4,5 million in 1925). But this time, most of them did not come from Germany but from Russia (that included Poland until 1918). They left Russia because of large-scale discrimination against Jews: they were obligated to live in a restricted area, did not have the right to settle in towns, and above all, there were pogroms against them. This situation of violence was not bearable anymore, and explained why they tried by every way they could to escape. This wave of immigration also concerned nonJewish people, and therefore, an immigrant nation began to emerge. The Jewish population is concentrated around New York City, but there were also other smaller communities around 15
  • 16. Student n0 217716 Boston and Chicago (still in the North-West, though). Everything stopped in 1924 when a restrictive law against immigration was adopted. Americans did not want migrants who did not speak English and did not correspond to the American myth anymore. It was not an antiSemitic legislation, but a xenophobic one. When Hitler came in power in 1930, many Jews asked for permission to immigrate in the United States, but legislation was not in their favor (Kaspi 2006). Finally, the Jewish community fit in American society quite quickly. Indeed, in spite of a few orthodox rabbis who decided to keep tradition, arrival in the United States provoked an absolute culture shock and the views of these rabbis stuck to tradition had little influence. American society grabbed people, and they became Americans, without being aware of it, in an unconscious way. While Americanizing, they left behind them some traditions, and this was accentuated by the fact they had diverse ideologies: they diversified the Jewish community, but made it at the same time included in American society (Esposito 2003:9). Besides, many Jews turned away from religion because of many factors, like the necessary adaptation to the Christian calendar, access to public schools, influence of radical workforce movements, etc. (Richet 2001). Furthermore, there was no barrier preventing them to reach important functions. Anti-Semitism existed (no laws forbidding subversives opinions), there was for example a Nazi party in the 1930s, but there were very few members and even fewer votes (Kaspi 2006). ! *** ! The history of the United States is closely bounded to all religious groups that have to work together, including Jews and Catholics in addition to the many Protestant denominations, and more and more new religious minorities in the course of time. One may think this diversity will lead to tolerance, but instead of being a power, it has sometimes brought about a reinforcement of Protestant Fundamentalism. In order to protect themselves from this massive wave of people the Protestant majority considered as a threat, they withdrew on their own values and became even more fundamentalist, claiming the superiority of the WASPs (White Anglo-Saxons Protestants). To conclude, partly because of their religion, migrants had trouble being accepted and included into the American society. Nevertheless, and despite all xenophobic movements, they tried hard to adapt and to make themselves and their religion suitable for the American 16
  • 17. Student n0 217716 culture while keeping their own identity. Religion allowed them to group together and resist the fights directed towards them while evolving into more malleable religions. But in addition to that, they became part of the society, which is neither homogeneous nor standardized anymore. There is no more only one culture and one religion that can define the United States, even if Protestant denominations remain more important. The process that made the immigrants true American also worked in the other way, because they made society suitable for their religions by resisting xenophobia and struggling for freedom. This adaptability of religion in the United States sparks off the American religious mosaic and makes the country an exception amongst industrialized countries because of its high religiosity. ! ! ! 17
  • 18. Student n0 217716 ! ! References Non-published material ! Kaspi, André. 2006. L’immigration juive aux Etats Unis, Conférence, Paris-Sorbonne. See: http://www.akadem.org/sommaire/themes/histoire/diasporas/les-juifs-d-amerique-du-nord/limmigration-juive-aux-etats-unis-28-04-2006-6640_66.php ! Lherm, Adrien. 2005. Religion et laïcité aux Etats Unis, Seminar “Du modèle américain à la superpuissance ?”, Paris-IV. ! Ogier, Pascal. Histoire des Etats-Unis, Lycée du Parc, Lyon, spring 2011. Lecture notes. ! Publications ! Ahlstrom, Sidney E. 1972.  A Religious History of the American People. New Haven: Yale University Press. ! Alba, Robert, A.J. Raboteau & J. DeWind. 2009. Immigration and Religion in America: Comparative and Historical Perspectices. New York: New York University Press. Baudérot, Jean. 1987. Histoire du protestantisme (Que sais-je ? 427). Paris: PUF. ! Frankfurter, Felix. 1927. The case of Sacco and Vanzetti.  Atlantic Monthly March 1927; reprinted in book form as  The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti: A Critical Analysis for Lawyers and Laymen. Boston 1927: Little, Brown and Company. ! Gillis, Chester. 2003. American Catholics: neither out far nor in deep. Religion and Immigration: Christian, Jewish and Muslim Experiences in the United States, pp. 33–52. Ed. by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Jane I. Smith and John L. Esposito. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ! Grant, Madison. 1921. The Passing of the Great Race. C. Scribner’s sons ! Heller, James. 1965.  Isaac M. Wise: His Life, Work and Thought. New York: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations. ! O’Brian, David J. 2003. The changing contours of American religion. Religion and Immigration: Christian, Jewish and Muslim Experiences in the United States, pp. 19-32. Ed. 18
  • 19. Student n0 217716 by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Jane I. Smith and John L. Esposito. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ! Richet, Isabelle. 2001. La religion aux Etats-Unis, (Que sais-je? 3619). Paris: PUF. ! Vincent, Bernard. 2012. Histoire des Etats-Unis. Paris: Edition Flammarion. ! 19