As the process of migration continued to rise in America, it led to increased consumption of goods in the market. Ethnic groups expressed unique norms and values on the consumption behavior. Among the ethnic groups were the Jewish communities, which immersed themselves into cultural groups and portrayed great deal in their purchasing power, which put them in the upper socioeconomic class. The important thing about American Jewish is their connection between consumer decision making and ethnicity. It is believed that Jewish ethnicity exerted more effect on behavior of individuals as compared to other ethnic groups in America. Jewish consumers usually expressed a comparatively high degree of information about merchandize before they made a purchase decision, also, Compared to other America population, Jewish kept more information on product consumption. However, there was acculturation when different immigrants come to America.
Consumer behavior was determined by an ethic influence, even though the influence was moderated by acculturation and Jewish experience in America. Egalitarian was generally the traditional American Jewish family. Women were in charge of household tasks, which included making decision on household purchases. Jewish mother responsibility was to choose the best when selecting what items to purchase for the home and anything related with the welfare of the family members. The Jews mother concern was also on the family social life; they were supposed to act as role models for their sons and represent the family on matters of religion in the community. Having been barred from participating in competing in the social activities, Jews youths put their concentration on schoolwork and other personal related interests. Hostility of gentiles to allow Jews youths to participate in mixed social activities led to the emergence of “ clannishness” which led to sharing of ideas and experiences. According to Heinze, “ In the work place, the difference between newcomers and citizens were often accentuated, the immigrants were pushed into, and congregated the least tolerable kinds of labor” (190).
Jewish women were given the responsibility of monitoring consumption behavior in households since the main migration of Jewish to America started in1880. This made Jewish women more involved in business activities; it made them familiar with the quality of merchandise and improved bargaining power. Many Jews lived in big sophisticated cities, which, exposing them to familiarize with different qualities of goods, in fact, Jewish women were experts in understanding the differences in consumer goods than their fellow gentiles, they were rarely deceived by trading vendors. Their shopping Prowers revolved around Jewish social class, but all Jewish –wealthy or not wealthy- were believed to be superior shoppers (Joselit 40). Shopping became a group activity to the Jews; rituals were formed where groups will do the shopping together and then share a meal to discuss their purchases and non-purchases. The rituals are still practiced even now among Jewish families in America; it was an interesting experience for them. The practice of sharing positive consumption information among Jewish ethnicity social class is still done by the social rituals. Additionally, Jewish consumers are still positive information seekers by exposing themselves to quality information sources (Joselit 54).
Amongst Jewish community, the term “ maven” is still popular, this term refers to the one who is extremely informed in a particular area of interest, and is willing to share this information with other comfortably (Joselit 78). Maven in Jewish community does not advertise his/her recommendation to those who want to listen, but rather, the discussion of this recommendation is done in the social environment. American Jewish consumer relied heavily on word-of-mouth-information to gather as much information on their purchases than non-Jewish consumers However; Jewish consumers could not rely heavily on the-word-of-mouth to make purchase decision when the degree of acculturation is high. In the Jewish culture, the role of maven is still significant.
American Jews who succeeded are those who adopted –acculturation- American consumption habits, this made them blended as cosmopolitan Jews who attained the highest degree of cultural assimilation. Cultural flexibility for newcomers Jews made it easy for them to quickly adopt consumption habits of Americans. Unlike the rest immigrants who confined themselves in village life, Jews had versatile history of migration within and beyond border (Joselit 96). According to Heinze, “ the city residents were so conditioned by the fact of material scarcity that calculated joint ownership of a room” (193). The newcomer’s social situation warranted exchange of words between American venders and the Jews; there was complains to the wholesalers about defective merchandise or late payment of rent apologies. These were among the significant changes of consumerism in America that was introduced by the Jewish community.
Consumption environment in urban America changed when Jewish newcomers shared their experiences with other immigrants. The response was full of sense of enthusiasm, and there was a change in the lifestyle such as the introduction of high-proteins meals, increasing meal size. “ They recognized that, as consumers, they begin as a move towards the goal of fitting to American society” (Heinze 190)They adopted the lifestyle by wearing American clothes, ventured to mass-market which products are like furniture and clothes, though the first impression remained universal. This introduction made rapid and sharp change to the Jewish daily life; this led to the introduction of old world dishes and that indicated that these foods could be afforded in America
American Jewish pursued consumerism to very high levels, Yiddish festival, arts, literature and range of material things like Yiddish refrigerator magnets, were used by the Jews to portray their identities to gentiles. Jeffry Shandler is concerned Jewish consumerism in performing their identities. He writes; “ Jewish is not only tempting possibility of gentiles, it is the opinion of Americans as well –they do not have to be Jewish either. Here the making of the Jews identity is at play, as is the notion of jadishness as something both indelible and consumable”. In fact, In the fact, “ the Jewish perception of luxurious life become important part of regular celebrations made for a trying tension between expectation and reality” (Heinze 192). The Jews’ consumption realm presented new ways of displaying and nurturing the sense of belonging. Up to now, the present-day American kids are still envying the lavish lifestyle and the parties thrown by their Jewish classmates.
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Jewish were high information seekers when making decisions related to consumption. The Jews would gather as much information relative to upcoming purchases. Jews were more likely to make an assessment on the cost of product in relation with the benefits it came with without considering the brand. Product attributes were of more concern than brand name when making evaluative decisions. In addition, American Jewish liked to associate themselves with norms that pursue innovativeness in making their consumption decision, buying the same brand of product repeatedly was not considered as an innovative activity. There is no likelihood that American Jews will make snap decisions when it comes to purchases. This is because of their frequent discussions about the cost of products and their benefits or attributes. Word of mouth information cannot not influence purchase decision when the effect of acculturation is high.
Joselit, J. The Wonders of America. Hill and Wang: New York, 1994.
Heinze, A. Adapting to Abundance: Jewish Immigrants, Mass Consumption and the Search for American Identity: Columbia University Press, New York, 1990.
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Hooper-Holmes bureau, inc. A Survey of the Buying Power and Buying Habits of the Readers of the Jewish Daily Forward. New York: Jewish Daily Forward, 1942.
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