Words of the Week

“While there’s plenty of TV and books that I love about American Jewry, I rarely saw (and still rarely see) myself or my family in them. Almost inevitably, they define ‘American Jew’ in a very specific way. That definition assumes a number of things: an English-speaking house (maybe with an allowance for a German- or Yiddish-speaking bubbe), a settled middle class existence, and participation in a cultural narrative that almost inevitably leads back to a turn of the century tenement. There’s an assumption that we were immigrants, past tense. In our dominant cultural narratives, immigrant Jews, ESL Jews, and second-generation Jews stopped existing in America about 50 years ago.”

“There are real consequences to stopping the story there. For one, it’s inaccurate. It’s not a secret that huge swaths of American Jewry are not personally connected to that narrative. What about Jews from the Former Soviet Union? Iran? Syria? Or families like mine, Israeli expats? What about Latin American Jewry? What about the Jews who come here from literally anywhere else in the world? It’s not a secret we exist in the American Jewish community, and yet we rarely make it into the discourse. As far as I can tell, the only piece of mainstream media that has discussed a recent American Jewish immigration story with any depth is The Shahs of Sunset. It goes without saying that when our options for alternative stories are limited to Bravo reality shows (as much as I love them), something has gone wrong.”

Source: A.R. Vishny, “Jewish Immigrants Aren’t Just a Theme of the Past” (Alma)

One thought on “Words of the Week

  1. barbara baer says:

    I’m glad to read Vishny’s post, thank you. I lived in the former U.S.S.R., working as a teacher, and met many Russian Jews who were surprised at my American-ness. When so many left and came to the U.S., so many at the same time preceding and following the break up of the USSR, it’s no surprise that they take pleasure, relief, solace among their own, as our forbears did a century ago.

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