According to Wikipedia, the American Jewish population is between 5.1 and 6.4 million, or between 1.7% and 2.2% of the total US population.
Given how small a percentage of the US population they consist, it’s surprising to me how much information about them the average American knows, or at least is flooded with via the various movies, TV shows and the various mainstream media.
Concepts which I have heard countless times:
[li]Kosher[/li][li]Bar Mitzvah[/li][li]Sabbath/Shabbat[/li][li]Restrictions on what can and can’t be done on the Sabbath[/li][li]Yarmulke[/li][li]Hanukkah[/li][li]Rosh Hashanah[/li][li]Yom Kippur[/li][li]etc[/li][/ul]
Compare that to, say, Swedish Americans who, according to Wikipedia compromise a similar percent of the US population (1.6%)
I barely hear or know much about their culture. Off the top of my head, I know ABBA and Volvo are Swedish, but I hear nothing about their customs, their holidays, or local cuisine.
[li]Is this just my imagination?[/li]Do we know approximately the same amount (relative to their population) about each culture here in the US , and I’m just having a case of confirmation bias?
[li]Are there examples of some other cultures for which we know a disproportionate amount, compared to their population size?[/li][/ul]
[li]If we do know more about Jewish culture (relative to their population) than about any other culture present in the US, then what are the reasons behind it?[/li][ul]
[li]Is it because there are a lot of movie and TV producers & writers who are Jewish and they like to write about their culture?[/li][li]Other reasons?[/li][/ul]
I’m not sure I agree with your assessment. I know a lot of people who do not know any of the Jewish concepts on your list, and some who only know that “kosher” means “ok”.
Swedes? They have a king…and I think a crown princess who just got engaged. They have generic Christian holidays (with a bonus Saint Lucy day sometime around Christmas, I think, but I don’t know which Saint Lucy), and eat pancakes and pea soup on Tuesdays. Potatoes also figure largely in their diet. Sweden allows people to stay in college for a long time, on some program I don’t understand. I think they have compulsory military service, but maybe only for the men. Swedes travelling in France get pissy when the museums don’t have English translations. They don’t seem to expect Swedish translations. Nice people, but hard drinkers, even though alcohol is really expensive there. Most Swedes take drunk driving as a very, very bad thing. They like soccer, and hiking seems to be common sport.
Wait - are we talking about Swedes, or Swedish-Americans? Those are two very different cultures, just as Jewish-Americans are very different from Israelis (which is another culture Americans know little about).
The comparison with Swedes is a poor one. Judaism walks a strange line that straddles race, culture, nationality and religion. A small percentage of “Swedish Americans” or just about any other European-American embraces their former home in a manner that would be in any way similar to what Jews do with a religion.
I think the average American knows a lot more about Islam than they do about Swedes, Syrians or any other country that the US has a minor political and cultural connection with.
There is also the fact that Israel gets a lot of press.
As for TV, name the last time you saw people celebrating a Jewish holiday on TV? People just know the names of the holidays because they get those days off. No one actually knows what Jews do during those holidays.
I hear lots of mentions and references to Hanukkah on US TV shows.
My exposure to Jewish culture is almost nil beyond what I’ve seen on TV; I can count the number of Jewish people I’ve met on one hand and have fingers left over, and they were no different to any other person I’ve ever met.
Still, I find other cultures fascinating so TV is basically the only way I get to hear about what they (any other culture, not just Judaism) do in their daily lives. I suspect most other people are the same.
I’ll make the OP even more specific and say that Americans know more about Ashkenazi culture than would be expected given the number of Ashkenazi Jews in the US. They know very little about the other Jewish ethnic groups. (This, of course, is because the large majority of Jews in the US are Askhenazi.)
I think a lot has to do with where you live.
When I lived in NYC and LA, due to the huge Jewish population, you quickly learned about Jewish holidays and traditions simply because many of your coworkers and neighbors were Jewish.
My guess is that someone living in a rural community would most likely not know as much about Jewish culture. I recall someone from my small hometown in Illinois who thought “kosher” was a name brand.
Most likely people living in Minnesota would know quite a bit more about Sweden, people in Milwaukee would know about Germans, etc.
Jews are about on par with gays in terms of pop culture. Both are small minorities of the population at large but both groups have also produced a very disproportionate number of artists and entertainment figures and thus they’re overrepresented in terms of audience:product in popular culture.
Other over-represented pop culture demographics:
New Yorkers & Los Angelinos (combined they’re less than 10% of the population)
In shape people
Rich/upper middle class people
People under 30
The most underrepresented groups in pop-culture are probably blacks (hard to believe how few TV shows and movies there are- it’s why Tyler Perry’s so rich), Latinos, people who live in cities of under 1 million people (which is most of the population), senior citizens (surprising since most seniors today have had TVs all their adult lives), and fat people.
Also, and I say this as an atheist with little love for religion, conservative Christians are underrepresented. There’s hardly anything on TV with a positive character who’s a member of a conservative Christian religion. You’re more likely to see a scene set in a gay bar, a synagogue, or a jail than you are in a Baptist Church.
It seems like whenever people get married in movies, they’re always Catholic by default. They might never mention religion at all in the whole rest of the movie, but if there’s a wedding, you see a Catholic priest officiating.