History of the Jews in the United States

There have been Jewish communities in the United States since colonial times. Early Jewish communities were primarily Sephardi (Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent), composed of immigrants from Brazil and merchants who settled in cities. Until the 1830s, the Jewish community of Charleston, South Carolina, was the largest in North America. In the late 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, many Jewish immigrants arrived from Europe. For example, many German Jews arrived in the middle of the 19th century, established clothing stores in towns across the country, formed Reform synagogues, and were active in banking in New York. Immigration of Eastern Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, in 1880–1914, brought a new wave of Jewish immigration to New York City, including many who became active in socialism and labor movements, as well as Orthodox and Conservative Jews.

Location of the United States (dark green) in North America.

Refugees arrived from diaspora communities in Europe after the Holocaust and, after 1970, from the Soviet Union. Politically, American Jews have been especially active as part of the liberal New Deal coalition of the Democratic Party since the 1930s, although recently there is a conservative Republican element among the Orthodox. They have displayed high education levels, and high rates of upward social mobility. The Jewish communities in small towns have declined, with the population becoming increasingly concentrated in large metropolitan areas.

In the 1940s, Jews comprised 3.7% of the national population. As of 2019, at about 7.1 million,[1] the population is 2% of the national total—and shrinking as a result of low birth rates and Jewish assimilation.[2] The largest Jewish population centers are the metropolitan areas of New York (2.1 million), Los Angeles (617,000), Miami (527,750), Washington, D.C. (297,290), Chicago (294,280) and Philadelphia (292,450).[3]


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