The Jewish Middle Class in an Age of Social Justice
Part of the series, “Six Days Shall You Labor”: Perspectives on Work in Jewish Text and Tradition
October 25, 2021
This session will explore the historian Lucy S. Dawidowicz’s challenging essay, “The Business of American Jews: Notes on a Work in Progress” (1992), which called for a reassessment of Jewish economic social mobility as a positive value in Jewish life.
Today—in our moment of social justice reckoning—many Jews, particularly younger cohorts, express ambivalence about capitalism and the middle class, and the Jewish community’s “investment” in what they argue are systems of oppression and racism. The session will begin with a survey of earlier critiques of Jews and their concentration in the middle class, and then focus on Dawidowicz’s essay, which anticipated the current “economic turn” in American Jewish historiography, as a jumping off point for a discussion of what moral, social, and political challenges face the middle class Jewish community when that status is considered “privileged.”
With JTS alum Dr. Nancy Sinkoff, Professor of Jewish Studies and History, Rutgers University.
ABOUT THE SERIES
Many of us spend more time at work than anywhere else over the course of our lives—but are we defined by what we do? In this text-based series, JTS scholars will explore ideas about the meaning of work and rest in Jewish tradition, Jewish social movements around work, as well as the roles that gender, geography, and shifting economic and social circumstances have played in Jews’ professional paths and our understandings of the meaning and value of work.