Carmel Chiswick on the Economics of American Judaism
Date: May 16th, 2011

How has American Judaism changed over the course of the past two centuries?  Using an economic approach that focuses on the importance of wage rates and time costs, Prof. Carmel ChiswickUniversity of Illinois, Chicago and the George Washington University — examines how the socio-economic context of the 19th century had a major impact on how immigrant Jews practiced their religion in America.  Prof. Chiswick explains that higher wage rates and the subsequent higher opportunity cost of time led to a shortening of Jewish services, less emphasis on traditional religious education, a preference for secular higher education, and the need to import rabbis, cantors and other religious specialists from Europe.  We trace how this influenced the growth of Reform and Conservative Judaism.  The conversation then turns attention to the role of education in Jewish progress.  While there is some degree of trade-off between religious and secular education, we later examine how traditional religious education (especially study of the Talmud) can act as a complement to secular studies.  Other topics explored include the issue of inter-marriage, the relaxation of dietary restrictions, Chabad, and how the creation of modern Israel had a big impact on American Jews.  We finish by speculating about the future of American Jewry and its impact on Judaism worldwide.  Recorded: April 26, 2011.


Carmel Chiswick’s website at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Carmel Chiswisk’s website at the George Washington University.

The Economics of American Judaism by Carmel U. Chiswick.

The following links are not directly related to the content of the podcast, but were mentioned at the beginning of the episode.  They represent folks who have helped direct traffic to our podcast series in recent months.  A big thanks to them!

LDS Living.

The Western Tradition blog.

Michael McBride’s The Religious Marketplace.

Brad R.E. Wright’s blog.

Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

Internet Imagineering (Neil Luft and crew).

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