Jewish American culture represents a cultural heritage based upon ethnicity, religion and a surprisingly diverse heritage. While many people may be quick to label all Jewish people as similar, this is most certainly not the case. Jewish American culture depends upon a number of factors. These include the type of Judaism practiced by the individual or group, whether or not the person considers himself or herself to be culturally Jewish or a practicing Jew, and the region of the world from which the person’s family emigrated. It is important to recognize that there are two dominant groups of Jewish people in the world based upon ethnicity. The Jewish people in American are recognized by whether or not they are Ashkenazi or Sephardic. Ashkenazi Jews are Jewish people whose ancestors came from Eastern Europe. The vast majority of Jews in the United States are descendants are Ashkenazi. Sephardic Jews are Jewish people who came from the Iberian Peninsula and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. While the religious beliefs are the same, there are minor differences in the way they are practiced. This includes what types of food may and may not be eaten during Passover. Furthermore, there are cultural differences regarding the naming of children in the families. The naming of children in the Jewish culture is taken very seriously, regardless of the group to which the family belongs. Jewish people put a lot of thought into the name of a child, since it is believed that the name will express the child’s character, as well as the heritage of the child. Ashkenazi Jews do not name a child in honor of a living relative. Rather, they honor a child with the name or a similar name to a deceased relative. This is believed to bring honor to the deceased. Sephardic Jews do not believe a child should be named after a deceased person. Therefore, they will name a child after a close living relative. It may be difficult if a person of one heritage marries another. This is more likely to happen in the United States due to the melting pot makeup of the American culture. It will creates some challenges though for a Jewish family. Both families will expect that their tradition is followed. Therefore, a child may be given a name that starts with a letter that is from a deceased family member on one side and a living family member on the other side. In this way, both cultures are honored and respected. This is one of the ways in which Jewish American culture is different than other Jewish groups around the world. There may need to be a melding of cultural traditions from Jewish tribes across the globe.
One thing that all Jewish cultures can agree upon is food. While there are some differences in what may or may not be eaten during Passover, the culture is dedicated to specific foods. Jewish American food is a type of ethnic food, much like Mexican and Italian food. Any good deli in New York City can clearly show that there are wonderful Jewish foods, such as knishes, gelfite fish, latkes, and brisket. Specific foods are eaten during specific holidays for symbolic reasons though. Apples and honey are eaten during the New Year, which falls during the fall of the calendar year. They symbolize the hope for a sweet coming year. Foods fried in oil are eaten during Passover as a way to remember the oil that burned for eight days.
It is also important to recognize that there are some ultra-conservative groups, such as Hasidic Jews, and some very liberal groups of Jewish people. Jewish people who are liberal in their religious practice consider themselves reform. Reform Jews do not eat kosher on average. They also do not practice any strict dress code. While it is easy to spot a conservative Jewish male in a group, it is not easy to do so with a reform person. As a result, the Jewish American culture continues to evolve and meld into the American culture in a number of different ways.
Jewish American culture represents a distinct culture based upon a shared heritage of religion. However, it should be noted that not all Jewish people practice the religion anymore. Furthermore, there are Jewish tribes from around the world and there are ethnic differences among them.