A new Melton course starts in January— Jews in America: Insiders and Outsiders

by | Dec 15, 2022 | What’s Happening

Begins Wednesday, January 18, 6:45 pm, online

Nearly two and a half million Jews emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. New to a foreign country and unlikely to speak English, these Jews tended to confine themselves to an urban immigrant ghetto. Their children and grandchildren, however, assimilated at a remarkable pace, integrating almost seamlessly into the highest strata of American society. They grew up to make enormous contributions to American theater, journalism, politics, the arts, finance, the academy, and more.

But Jewish success in becoming insiders raised a critical question: Should Jews merge into the American melting pot, or should they become their own distinctive color in America’s developing multi-cultural tapestry? And, is there room for ethnic and religious distinctiveness, and if so, what form should that distinctiveness take?

Most American Jews answered these questions in their practice as Jews and as Americans. Their stance was reflected in the decisions they made about where to live, how to educate their children, what friends to share, what professions to enter, and how to spend their time, money, and energy.

In a new 10-week Melton course offered by the Konikoff Center for Learning of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, students will be guided in considering these points and more.

The course focuses almost exclusively on the time between 1880 and the present, when the American Jewish population went from a handful of individuals and tiny communities scattered here and there to a rather influential and active minority within America’s multicultural spectrum. Through text learning and discussion, students will consider the dynamism and diversity of American Judaism. Sources range from the high-brow theology of figures such as Abraham Joshua Heschel to a video clip from the television series, All in the Family.

This course will be taught by Dr. Amy K. Milligan. The Batten Endowed Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies at Old Dominion University, Milligan is also the director of the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding. She specializes in the study of small American Jewish communities, especially in the South.

For more information or to register for this course, or to learn about other opportunities to engage in deep Jewish learning in Tidewater, visit JewishVA.org/KCL or contact Sierra Lautman at

Sierra Lautman