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American Jews have been associated with the Democrat Party since they first immigrated from Europe. The desire to be accepted in the larger society was prevalent, as Jews wanted to expand their opportunities for success and assimilation. For many, assimilation provided the road to being “like everyone else,” and their Judaism became less of a barrier. The German Jews in particular brought Reform Judaism to America, which abandoned many of the rites and traditions of Orthodox Judaism. In fact, they tried to make the Jewish liturgy resemble Protestant Christianity. European Jews were determined to fit into the larger society, so adapting their practices to the culture around them seemed to be a sensible step. As Progressivism made inroads in Europe in the 19th century and America in the 20th century, secularism and universalism became a dominant theme, and these belief systems gradually moved them away from key Jewish values, such as following the Torah and Orthodoxy. Most Jews practiced Judaism superficially, deciding which observances fit their lifestyle and maintained their acceptance in the larger community. Ruth Wisse, a Jewish scholar paraphrased Sholem Aleichem saying, “It is harder to be a Jew”: It was easier to call oneself a liberal, leading a Jew further away from the Jewish community to defend universalist values, such as social justice and equity.
Over time, many Jews gravitated to socialism and Communism, too. It fulfilled their dreams of social justice and equity, and demonstrated their desire to be accepted by the Progressive community.