From the Banks of the Rhine River to the Banks of the Mississippi River :
a New Cultural Beginning.
Jewish Migrants who had settled along the Rhine Valley from the XIXth to the XXth Century.

PHD defended in Strasbourg, Université Marc Bloch, November 24th, 2006.

Abstract :

French and German Jewish migrants have settled along the Rhine valley for four generations and have told the story of their travels and their adaptation to the new continent.

The life stories which they have given from themselves or from their descendants question the ways in which they settled, the professional model adopted, peddlers, dry goods shopkeeper, planters, cotton factors, their religious appurtenance or the definition of their relationship with other people whether they be Jews, -Western or Eastern Jews-, from the African- American minority or from the mainstream society. For more than one hundred and fifty years, practices and images and even the terminology have undergone vast changes. When faced with the situation of transplantation, the migrant must cope with the tension between the temptation to bury himself in traditional values coming from the old country and the necessity to adapt to the values of his new world.

We have given definitions of acculturation, Americanisation adapted to the milieu. So it is here in the environment of modernity and liberty, new ways of religious and social expression are being put into place. It is in this context that the French and the Germans joined together, forgetting their old hostilities.

New patterns of Judaism are invented with the birth of the American Israelite where Reform Judaism is less visible than Orthodox Judaism. The categories of the religious, the Israelite and the assimilated Jew can be seen again from the American perspective where these new communities are acknowledged by the cities where they resided. At the same time, these categories are nomadic and gave birth to the age of post-modern Judaism, chosen freely, “mixed Judaism, “Judaism by genealogy.” A new model appears which goes beyond the previous categories, “the carrier of memory” and of re-establishes ties between the two continents and transmits his heritage to the future generations.

You can read a report from Helen Y. Herman, Brookline, MA