Contemporary Jewry

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 11–30 | Cite as

American jewry in the light of middleman minority theories

  • Walter P. Zenner


The value of middleman minority theories, albeit imperfect, lies in their general comparative framework for the study of Jewish communities, as well as in their delineation of clear hypotheses relating occupational structure and Jewish economic roles to general social system characteristics. Jews are not confmed solely to middleman roles, though many of the roles Jews occupy can be seen as such in a metaphorical sense. Nevertheless, even when some segment of these theories is rejected as inapplicable, e.g., the sojourning hypotheses, questions about the nature of Jewish-held occupations are raised that might otherwise be ignored.

Implicit in any set of theories is a program of research and a set of queries for researchers. Middleman minority studies focus attention on the community’s socioeconomic structure and its association with both minority and external relations. Intemal cohesion-disintegration and culture content are related to ties with outsiders. Occupational roles filled by Jews in one society can be compared with similar or dissimilar roles played by Jews, Armenians, Huguenots and Overseas Chinese in other settings.

The sociological study of American Jewry is neither an ethnic group survey valuable only for its own purposes, nor a minute segment of the study of American society, but is part of general comparative sociology.


Family Firm Jewish Community American Sociological Review Contemporary JEWRY Occupational Structure 
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Copyright information

© Springer 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter P. Zenner
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New YorkAlbany

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