4: Quotation, Charles Liebman, 1970.
This quotation, from an important essay by the respected sociologist Charles Liebman, is the first item in a list of “the major ideas, symbols, and institutions arousing the deepest loyalties and passions of American Jews.” It is a clear statement, which Liebman believes expresses a value shared by “most American Jews,” of what the historian Jonathan Sarna has called the “cult of synthesis in American Jewish culture." This is Sarna’s term for the historical insistence among many American Jews that Jewish and American values are completely complementary.
Suggested activity: Before showing the quotation, have students discuss Ozzie’s question about the Jews as “the Chosen People” and the Declaration of Independence’s statement that “all men are created equal”; ask them why this bothers Ozzie. Once students have a clear sense of what the conflict is between a core Jewish value on the one hand and a core American value on the other, discuss the claim Liebman presents. Aside from Ozzie’s example, does it seem true? Can the students think of concrete situations in which Jewish and American values might be in conflict? Ask students why they think this idea of synthesis between American and Jewish values would have been so important to American Jewish thinkers and leaders throughout history.
Source: Charles Liebman, "Reconstructionism in American Jewish Life," American Jewish Year Book 71 (1970), 3-99, at 68.