How Was the Situation for Jews Different in America Than in Europe?
Violence against Jews and their property was on the rise. During Kristallnacht in 1938, synagogues, businesses, and homes were burned and thousands of Jews were interned for varying periods of time in concentration camps.
My father, among other parents, asked God to bless my newly born child. Before the event, I was told by my parents to not give a name before my baby’s circumcision. I remember asking my father the reason behind this request, however, he was reluctant to answer me. I was so upset with this requirement since I did not understand the logic behind it. It was only after the rabbi’s teaching that day, that I learnt a lot about the naming of children according to the Jewish law. According to the ‘Halacha’, the naming of boys occurs eight days after they are born; that is, during their circumcision. On the other hand, naming of girls occurs on the Sabbath following their birth. I have also observed this in the naming of my youngest twins. In addition, in providing chairs to the participants of the circumcision of my son, I realized that my mother had provided an extra seat. As if this was not enough, she also provided some wine, which she said was for the little baby. I wondered how my mother could give wine to such an innocent infant though I did not give it much thought. Once the ceremony was over, I did not hesitate to ask my mother about the significance of the extra seat and the wine. She told me that the extra seat signified the presence of Elijah. It is meant for the continuation, or rather for the propagation, of the Jewish faith in all generations. As cited in Cohen’s article (2000), …women have been more involved in the intimate aspects of their families than men …Jewishly committed fathers, in contrast with jewishly committed mothers, emerge as principled, learned, educationally oriented, and involved in synagogue life. Mothers are remembered for their immediate relationship with the children and other family members, for their greater responsibility for the home, holidays, and kashrut (pp.55-56).
In Poland, Jews remained a nation apart, fighting for minority rights while in the Soviet Union, Judaism itself, was almost extinguished by government politics. The increasing influence of anti-Semitism and anti-democratic parties in many European countries destabilized Jewish existence even before the Holocaust.
Cohen, S. (2000). The Jew Within: Self, Family, and Community in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Cohen, S. (2008). Identity and Jewish education. In R. Goodman, A. P. Flexner, & L. D.
Bloomberg, L. D. (Eds.), What we know about Jewish Education: Prospectives on Research for Practice (pp. 75-82) Los Angeles: Torah Aura Productions.
National Museum of American Jewish History. Choices and Challenges of Freedom, 1945-Today
Silver, J., dir. (1975). Hester Street. USA: Midwest Films.