1) Although Reform Judaism began in Germany, it quickly spread to the U.S. Why were American Jews eager to embrace Reform Judaism? Did it serve as an antidote to assimilation? Explain your answer.
2) Compare the immigrant experiences of the German Jews in the mid-19th century with that of the Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century. What were some of the similarities and differences between them? Although they both, for the most part, abandoned traditional religious observances, they did it for different reasons. What were those reasons?
3) The famous black author, Richard Wright, once wrote: “All of us black people hated Jews, not because they exploited us but because we had been taught at home and in Sunday school that Jews were ‘Christ-killers.”’ At the same time, blacks realized that Jews were not like other whites. They treated blacks much better than other whites, and even when they did own slaves, they treated them much more humanely.” How do you explain the above dichotomy?
4) “There is no hope for Israel in Russia. The salvation of the downtrodden people lies in other parts, in a land beyond the seas, which knows no distinction of race or faith, which is a mother to Jew and Gentile alike. In the great republic is our redemption from the brutalities and ignominies to which we are subjected in this birthplace. In America we shall find rest’ the stars and stripes will wave over the true home of our people.”
The quotation above makes America sound like a garden of Eden but was it really true both at the time it was written, circa 1905, and is it true today? Defend your answer using specific historical evidence.
5) “The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
— Mark Twain, American Author (1835-1910), “Concerning the Jews” Harpers Magazine March 1898
How would you answer Mark Twain’s questions?
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