Hgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter10.htmlgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/chapter10.htmldelayedx.zJ0-0OKtext/htmlP0b.HSun, 24 Aug 2008 15:55:05 GMTMozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *-zJ0 The B'nai Khaim in America
Chapter 10 - Jewish Identity 

   To what extent has the widening gap between the religious 
observances of the B'nai Khaim and ancestral custom affected 
their ethnic consciousness? Their attitude toward intermarriage 
which we just discussed is one of the possible criteria. It is not 
that their rate of intermarriage runs up to about 10 per cent 
we do not know what the tolerable limit may be. It is the trend 
of their attitude that may have significance. Of the first-generation 
male B'nai Khaim, as we saw, 25 per cent said they would 
not object to their children marrying gentiles. Of the second 
generation 45 per cent said they would not object. And as we 
noted, third-generation B'nai Khaim indicated an attitude that 
would lead to a rate of intermarriage two to three times that of 
their parents.
   In this chapter we examine three other indicators of the 
levels of Jewish consciousness among the B'nai Khaim: 

(1) their own evaluation of their Jewishness; 
(2) their attitude toward the State of Israel; 
(3) their participation in Jewish community affairs. 

We asked first: 
    1. Do you consider yourself 
       (a) an American Jew?
       (b) an American of Jewish extraction? 
       (c) a plain American? 

These results are shown in Table 10. 

    Of the 212 B'nai Khaim and their spouses to whom we 
addressed ourselves, 207 returned statistically valid answers. Of 
these 207, 16 classified themselves as "plain Americans." Since 
five of these 16 were gentile spouses, we can count only 11, or 
not quite 5.5 per cent of the 202 non-gentile B'nai Khaim (See note #1) as 
divesting themselves of direct Jewish identity. 
   On the other hand, 144, (See note #2) more than 71 per cent, declared 
themselves "American Jew" and 47, or over 23 per cent, 
"American of Jewish extraction." In other words; nearly 95 per 
cent of the B'nai Khaim and their spouses avowed identity as Jews 
(Table 10). 
   A larger proportion of female (78 per cent) than of male (69 
per cent) B'nai Khaim claimed to be an "American Jew." Similarly, 
relatively more female spouses (70 per cent) than male 
spouses (61 per cent) declared themselves "American Jew." 
Once more we have the phenomenon that the females in 
our population stand out as more Jewish than the males, and, of 
course, the foreign-born are more Jewish than the native-born, 
for both male and female. Here are the comparative figures: 

    Foreign-born males:    14 out of 19, or 74 per cent, are 
                           "American Jews" 
    Native-born males:     19 out of 29, or 65 per cent, are 
                           "American Jews" 
    Foreign-born females:  21 out of 26, or 81 per cent, are 
                           "American Jews"
    Native-born females:   25 out of 33, or 76 per cent; are 
                           "American Jews" 

   Our second test of Jewish identity is the attitude towards the 
State of Israel. We asked this question: 

   1. Are your feelings towards the State of Israel the same 
      or not the same as to any other foreign country? Explain. 

   We are aware that this question can be asked of gentiles as 
well as Jews. And we are aware also that certain orthodox Jews 
are by tradition antagonistic to Zionism and, therefore, to the 
State of Israel. They think and teach that the Jews can be 
redeemed only through the intercession of a mystical Meshiakh 
(Messiah). There are also Jews in America who argue that a 
friendly attitude towards Israel impugns their American patriotism. 
But we can say in advance, that there are very few of the 
first kind and none at all of the second kind of Jew among the 
B'nai Khaim. Yet again, to some the State of Israel is like a 
precocious child, to be cherished and be given special protection.
  The answers to this test reveal the fact that only 15 per cent 
of the 201 respondents held no special feelings toward the 
State of Israel. Their attitude was that Israel is the same to them 
as is any other foreign country. But this means that as much as 
85 per cent of the B'nai Khaim and their spouses felt an affinity 
toward Israel. 
   Here, too, we find response differences between foreign-born 
and native-born and between males and females. A larger 
percentage (96) of the females avowed affinity towards Israel 
than did the B'nai Khaim males (77 per cent), and a larger 
percentage (100!) of the native-born females than of the 
foreign-born females (91 per cent). On the other hand, 90 per 
cent of the foreign-born males asserted a close affinity, against 
69 per cent of the native-born males, as seen below: 

     Percentage of B'nai,Khaim with Affinity Toward Israel: 

	Foreign-born males                    90 per cent 
	Native-born males                     69 per cent 
	Foreign-born females                  91 per cent 
	Native-born females                  100 per cent 

     For the B'nai Khaim spouses we have the following 

        Husbands of foreign-born B'nai Khaim  78 per cent
        Husbands of native-born B'nai Khaim   94 per cent
        Wives of foreign-born B'nai Khaim    100 per cent
        Wives of native-born B'nai Khaim      60 per cent

   On the whole, a greater proportion of our females have warm 
feelings toward Israel than do our males. 
   Most of the reasons our people gave for their warmth towards 
Israel can be summed up in the phrase: "I am for Israel because 
I am a Jew." Some went so far as identifying with it: "It is not 
a foreign country, it is my country," said one. But others 
hastened to qualify their feelings: "Closer ties, but America is 
my country" or, "great sentimental feelings, no political attachment"; 
"wish it well if it avoids becoming a theocracy or an 
aggressive nation." 
   A case of Jewish identity through feelings toward Israel is 
the following from a totally non-observing native-born wife of a 
foreign-born B'nai Khaim: 
   "I must admit to specially warm feelings toward Israel, 
although I abhor theocracy. I am often critical. Because of my 
heritage and my knowledge of the persecution of the Jews I 
want to see Israel achieve greatly, but in cultural terms, not in 
aggrandizement. It would wound me deeply to have Israel attacked."
(See note #3)
   One gentile husband wrote: "Having lived there 14 months, I 
like it and follow its development with interest," and one 
gentile wife expressed "friendly feelings (and) desire for 
country to succeed." "Feeling not the same as for other foreign 
countries," wrote an American-born wife of a native-born B'nai Khaim 
but "hard to describe; feeling of belonging." Only two 
of the B'nai Khaim who married gentile women and only two of 
the gentile wives expressed no special feeling toward Israel. 
"But," one of these two women added, "I would like to visit 
for benefit of our children." A Catholic before marriage, she is 
raising her children as Jews, although she has not formally 
adopted Judaism. 
   The relatively few who denied having any special feelings 
toward Israel, for the most part stated simply: "America is my 
country; Israel is a foreign country; I have equal feelings for all 
foreign countries." 
   Our third test of Jewish identity is the degree of participation 
in Jewish community affairs. Of the males we wanted to know:
      (1) what Jewish community activities they engaged in 
      (2) membership in the B'nai B'rith 
      (3) membership in Jewish men's clubs 

   The women we asked: 
      (1) about their Jewish community activities 
      (2) membership in Hadassah
   Obviously we have no standard by which to judge the degree 
of participation in any of these activities. We cannot expect 
every adult Jew to be a member of the B'nai B'rith, nor every 
adult Jewish woman to be a member of Hadassah. Most Jews, as 
a matter of fact, are not Zionists. That does not preclude their 
identification as Jews. The returns to our questionnaire seem to 
show that in the matter of participation in Jewish community 
affairs the B'nai Khaim stand quite high. We learn from their 
answers that more than half of them participated in one or 
more Jewish community activities when they filled out the 
questionnaires, not all groups, of course, to the same extent. A 
greater percentage (62) of female than of male B'nai Khaim 
(45) engaged in these community activites, and a greater 
percentage of the foreign-born females (69) than the native-born 
B'nai Khaim females (56). But a greater percentage (50) of the 
native-born male B'nai Khaim were so engaged than the 
foreign-born (40). 
   The reasons for these differences need not detain us here 
long. The relatively greater activity of females than males may 
simply mean that wives have more time than husbands to give 
to community affairs. It may also mean that, as among the 
foreign-born, the men leave it to their wives "to carry on the good 
work." Age also may be a factor. Most of our foreign-born are 
now quite advanced in age and if they still tend to the family 
business they cannot also attend to community business. 
   Community affairs in which the B'nai Khaim engage include, 
for men, Temple, shule and Center committee work, B'nai B'rith, 
men's clubs. The women engage in fund raising for 
United Jewish Appeal and United Jewish Fund; in Sisterhoods, 
in Hadassah, in Jewish Centers. Quite a number are members of 
Hadassah and several are in B'nai B'rith. 
   In short, our evidence seems to show that the B'nai Khaim 
are found to retain a much greater sense of Jewish identity than 
their wide deviations from traditional rites and rituals would lead 
one to expect. Evidently, eating khazar, or not fasting on Yom Kippur 
is one thing; giving up your Jewish identity quite 
another. The first may be a matter of social convenience or even 
of a secularization of one's religious philosophy. The second 
would mean giving up the security of belonging. This, the vast 
majority of the B'nai Khaim, it seems, are not yet ready to do 
despite the high level of their "Americanization." 
   But this is also true. The five per cent who eschew Jewish 
identification by proclaiming themselves as "plain American" 
constitute a hard core of a movement away from cultural identification 
with Judaism. How much this core is likely to grow and 
how fast, we cannot now know. We have been observing its 
formation in a people scarcely one generation removed from 
their shtetl origins. Shortly we shall see how far the third generation 
has traveled away from their home culture. This may give 
us more precise clues. 

Notes to Chapter 10:
(1) This included one converted female spouse who marked herself 
    "an American Jew." 
(2) Including the above converted spouse.
(3) It should be remembered that the comments here cited were made in 
    1964, three years before the Israel-Arab war of June, 1967.

CandleMaker Kaprov
E-Mail: CandleMaker_Kaprov@Yahoo.com

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