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Religion

Religion

Sheik Reda Shata blesses a newborn as his mother looks on in 2005. Shata promotes marriage and blesses the newborn in his work as an imam at a mosque in the neighborhood of Bay Ridge

Churches, synagogues and mosques have provided assistance to immigrants and reinforced traditional values in a new land. These institutions – like the immigrants they served – have also been transformed in America.

While acting as a supportive institution, religion has also a source of conflict.  Catholics from different ethnic groups clashed over styles of worship and status within the church.  Irish domination of the 19th century Catholic Church put them at odds with Italian and Polish newcomers.  In cities such as New York, Newark, St. Paul and Boston, parishes split over these differences, while in others, ethnic groups fought for control over the parish or diocesan leadership. Feeling alienated from the American church, some German Catholics in the 1840’s and Latino Catholics in the 1990’s joined Pentecostal churches.  Eastern European Jews from the same village or region often settled in the same area and many Jews abandoned traditional Orthodox Jewish observance, turning to less traditional Judaism or in some cases abandoning religion entirely.

Religion

Sandy Estrella, the daughter of Dominican immigrants, receiving her first communion at St. Stanislaus Church wearing a dress made by her mother, 1981.

Since the Immigration Act of 1965, a new generation of immigrants has adapted their religions to American soil.  Immigrants from the Caribbean have brought Santeria, while Muslims have arrived from Africa, and Asia, creating multi-ethnic congregations in their communities.  Korean and Chinese Christians have both established separate churches based on language and ethnicity.

Immigrants also struggle to maintain traditions. Conflicts can develop within the home as children of immigrants adapt to life in the United States, such as the Chinese second generation, who often leave Chinese churches to attend multi-ethnic churches.

Religion

Jewish boy wearing talis (prayer shawl) on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) in New York City, 1911.