Assimilation, Adaptation, and Adjustment of Immigrants as They Enter American Culture


Must pray on Saturday and can not keep the store open, anticipate loss of business; you are Jewish. Pray in school, anticipate objections; you are Muslim. Pray to 330 million gods, anticipate fear and injustice; you are Hindu. The United States of America is a country that welcomes immigrants with open arms to live in and bring their own religions, cultures, and traditions. Over time, as different religions come to America they do the best they can to stay distinct and resist conforming their beliefs and customs to the pressures of American culture.


Sociologist Will Herberg suggested that America was not only a melting pot, but a “triple melting pot” that represented the faiths of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.1 The core values shared by these three denominations represent the “American ideals”. That is one of the only advantages that Judaism has over the other immigrant religions. Otherwise, Jews across America have felt the hardship of not being a part of the Christian nation. It is common to see the Irish out parading on St. Patrick’s Day, Christians bearing palm branches on Palm Sunday; however a Jew will never be seen parading with a Torah on Simchat Torah or parading on Purim.2 There is a level of equality that unfortunately has not yet been reached. There are three different categories within Judaism; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Orthodox is the most observant and also has not changed its doctrines since they were instilled. Reform is the least observant and has adapted to the modern world and current way of life.


One of the most noticeable differences is in the Sabbath, which is heavily observed by Orthodox and moderately observed by Conservative and Reform Jews. The Sabbath is celebrated starting at sundown Friday evening continuing until sundown on Saturday evening, while Christians celebrate only on Sunday. This causes problems when Jewish people live in communities where the majority is Christian and they do not understand the need to observe on a Saturday. If Jews own businesses, this may hurt their profits, as sales are normally heavy on Saturdays. A fear of many Jewish immigrants is that when they move to America they will lose complete faith and their Judaic roots.3 However, not all change constitutes a loss of faith and some change promotes the greater good of all mankind. One thing that some orthodox Jews are learning is the equality of women. In orthodox synagogues, women sit separately from men and are not considered equal in many aspects of daily life.4 American life allows women to hold positions of power and changed the way they are perceived.


One great distinction between Jewish and American lifestyles is the dietary restrictions that Jews live by. Kashrut is the term for the body of dietary law. The numerous rules outline exactly how a Jew should prepare their food, what food they can and cannot eat, and what to eat on certain occasions. It is difficult for Jews to keep kosher in America because they have to go out of their way and shop only in kosher marts and shops. Also, dining out or eating in someone else’s home is almost impossible. Mainly just the orthodox Jews are strict to most of the laws, conservative and reform Jews just try to keep the basic laws.5 In Israel, most of the food that is available is kosher and it is much easier to follow the kashrut. There are few hardships that one has to accept knowing that they are leaving their homeland to move to a foreign nation where there rituals and traditions are not commonly carried out.


Every minority community faces a variety of challenges living in America. The American way of life is secular, and religious belief or disbelief is held to be a private matter versus a public one. Muslims face challenges that are associated with the character of Islam. “The Islamic faith and its practices involve special obligations and responsibilities that shape the way Muslims as individuals and groups respond to the conditions of American society.”6 Since Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life, it is difficult to live in a society where the main religion is not Islam. In an Islamic