Jews Around the World, 1980 to 2000

Moving toward a new millenium.

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After decades of struggle under British Mandate, the fate of Palestine was placed in the hands of the United Nations. The United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two sovereign states, Arab and Jewish. The Arabs rejected this proposal and pledged to prevent its implementation by whatever means necessary. The Jews accepted the plan and founded the Jewish state, Israel, in May 1948. The day after Israel became a state, a War of Independence with her neighbors (Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq) began. The war ended in 1949, but the existential and physical questions about borders and populations that existed then continued.

The demands of serving as a haven for Jews occupied Israel's internal resources during her early years. Refugees flooded into the country: first displaced persons from Europe, followed by Jews from Arab lands, then Jews from Ethiopia, and the Soviet Union. Israel's Law of Return, which grants citizenship to any Jew, resulted in growing pains for the new state. Israel supported a population wherein a majority of the citizens were Jews who looked different from one another, spoke different languages, had varied histories, practiced different customs, and held a variety of opinions about religion and its role in their lives. The challenge was to make these people into one nation.

The United States had practice and a decent success rate at integrating different people and cultures into a single nation. The American Jewish community had, in fact, coalesced during the period between the two World Wars from an immigrant community divided by language, politics, and culture into an English-speaking, upwardly mobile American citizenry.

Mobility was a key feature of the post-war experience for American Jews. The American Jewish community moved up the economic ladder and out of cities toward the suburbs and the sunbelt in the postwar period. Movements, both political and cultural, were also attractive to postwar American Jews. The counterculture, feminism, and civil rights benefited from significant Jewish participation.

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