Some cities in the United States have lost more than half of their Jewish population within recent decades in the mass movement to the suburbs, it was established here at the plenary session of the National Community Relations Advisory Council. A discussion of this subject at the session established the following facts.
1. In recent years the Jewish populations of metropolitan centers have been moving away from the central city neighborhoods in which they have lived into new and growing suburban communities. As a result of this exodus, which has been characteristic of middle class population groups generally, the percentage of Jews in many major cities has declined sharply.
2. This has markedly affected the extent of Jewish participation in community-wide enterprises, reducing it within the cities and greatly increasing it in the suburban communities.
3. Many of the suburban communities into which Jewish families have moved were formerly wholly or almost wholly non-Jewish in composition. Older residents thus find themselves with Jewish neighbors for the first time. Similarly, in many cases, the Jewish families for the first time find themselves in neighborhoods that are predominantly non-Jewish in character. This creates a new and fruitful basis for the bettering of relationships and the furtherance of mutual acceptance and appreciation. It also creates new sources of hostility where prejudices are at work.
4. Meanwhile, new groups have moved into the neighborhoods formerly occupied by the Jewish families that have moved to the outlying suburbs. These newcomers generally are of lower income levels and often comprise groups that have been the victims of discrimination in housing. Frequently they are Negroes, or Puerto Ricans, or other racial minority groups. The disparities in income level between them and the remaining Jewish families are sometimes quite striking and constitute a source of friction.
5. Jewish-supported welfare, health and recreational facilities and institutions such as community centers in these neighborhoods in many cases have for years offered their services to residents without regard to religion or race. They now find themselves serving a clientele which includes a constantly diminishing proportion of Jews. At the same time, the Jewish populations in the suburbs continue to demand the services they have been accustomed to receiving from the Jewish institutions and agencies that they support through their contributions. A multiplicity of problems flow from these trends.
Some of the speakers at the session deplored the growth in some places of predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in new suburban communities, expressing the fear that “middle class ghettoes” may be in the making. This was coupled with the recognition, however, that Jewish religious practices and observances made it necessary for Jewish families to live in reasonable proximity to temples and synagogues. Considerable stress was placed on the “plural culture” of the United States, which gives equal status and acceptance to all religious, ethnic and cultural groups, in the belief that from the friendly interaction among them the greatest good for the whole society is derived.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.