Author

Hannah Kliger

Date of Award

1985

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Wright

Abstract

This study explores aspects of the role of communication in the socialization experiences of immigrant minorities by examining the mass communication, organizational, and interpersonal activities of contemporary American landsmanshaftn. These Jewish voluntary associations, formed by immigrants who typically share common origins in an East European hometown, exhibit changing organizational priorities and evolving expressions of ethnic community affiliation from their founding to today. In looking for and examining the relationships between ethnicity and communication, this study focuses on the changing orientation of a variety of landsmanshaftn to their city or town of origin, to the United States, and to the State of Israel. Interviews were conducted with leaders of sixty-eight American and Israeli organizations from six European locations: Antopol, Bialystok, Czestochowa, Lodz, Minsk (White Russia), Warsaw. These data are supplemented by an examination of reports about landsmanshaftn activities in the Yiddish press, and information from the organizations' own documents and publications. An analysis of the mass media behavior and interpersonal communication networks of the landsmanshaft leadership is also offered. Adaptations in the meaning of landsmanshaft membership evolve from the original hometown-based motive for affiliation. Even during the period of World War II, the landsmanshaftn seem more linked to American rather than European concerns. Organizational agendas are presently delimited by mass communicated messages about appropriate landsmanshaft work, messages which today mainly emphasize fundraising for Israel and the memorializing of the destroyed European hometowns. While the mass media may set the perimeters of associational agendas, landsmanshaft leaders also influence the nature of organizational activity. Leaders' views of their group's purpose reflect, in part, their personal involvement with other types of organizations and causes. In general, the value which members place on the opportunities for interpersonal discussion and fellowship afforded by their organization must be underscored. However, little communication is exhibited between American and Israeli landsmanshaftn deriving from the same hometown. This study of the continuity of landsmanshaftn demonstrates the role that communication plays in sustaining these organizations as adaptive vehicles for the maintenance and modification of ethnic community affiliation.

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