Consumer Purchase Decision Psychology Writing Sample

Executive Summary

Consumer purchase decision is influenced by external factors used as stimulus in store design. These factors enhance the consumer capacity to assess the stimulus meaning and initiate a response in them to involve in more purchases. Customer behaviour modification during shopping is based on the perception of customers. Store designing and layout concentrate on consumer psychology that directs their behaviour to do more purchases. Retail marketing strategies identify these factors and each business can customize these factors to influence purchase decision depending on the type of business and its objectives.

Brand equity is built over a period of time depending on the quality of goods and services being offered by the producers. Consumer’s perception about the brand and product offering defines value chain of purchases that will occur in series. All organizations dealing in retail products aimed at increased sales revenue through driving consumers towards the retail outlet. Among the major concerns for organization are the selection of location and the designing of retail outlets that initiate product attraction in consumers and motivates them to involve in its purchase. These factors derive the consumer demand and result in impulse purchase. Store designing and shelf arrangement; involvement of colour and texture pattern facilitate random impulse purchases by consumers and hence they spend more money for immediate need satisfaction.

Psychology of Consumer Purchase Decision

Initially the main motive that derives consumer to make purchases is the satisfaction of their need and their desires. Desires are the main factor that facilitate the motivation level of consumer; eventually makes him capable to search for effective ways for need fulfilment. Consumers are the prime target of any organization as they generate sales by purchasing products produced specifically by the organization; however, organizations segment the consumers on the basis of their characteristics into different segments to design its marketing strategy explicit to each segment. These market segments illustrate diverse distinctiveness but are homogenous internally. Hence, it is easy for marketers to assess the attractiveness of each segment for any particular product or brand and determine the aspects of indulging in buying behaviour.

Analyzing the need fulfilment behaviour and assessment of buying behaviour outlines the main features of each market segment; since each market segment is internally homogenous therefore it is preferable to assume that combination of marketing mix for particular segment will instigate same consumer response about a product purchase (Cox & Brittain, 2000; Evans & Berman, 2007). Consumers consider many factors internal to their state of thinking that acquire perception pattern and semantic formation. This linkage formation about the product and related organization is dependent on various factors, external to the person and hence gives an opportunity to the organization to create a unique position of their product or brand. Consumer may go through a series of product evaluation for his need or want fulfilment or may involve in impulse buying result through an interest formation that require immediate need satisfaction. Such reactive needs arise as a result of stimulus interaction with the consumer that inspire his behaviour formulation and motivates him to involve in product purchase.

Stimulus Impact on Customers Interest

Organizations need to carefully design its brand image in accordance with the product and its offering values. Each brand image conveys an implicit message to the consumer about the product, classifying the brand features and its associated benefits. Consumers interpret messages in accordance to their level of understanding and perception; although new stimulus appear to form a unique perception image but in certain contexts preset behaviour is closely related to the depiction of response based on the correlated stimulus impact such as red colour heart as brand logo will convey an implicit message of product related to internal emotional state of a person. Marketing strategies indeed focus on building an interest for the product followed by purchases by the customers of that particular product (Gilbert, 2006; McGoldrick, 2002). Marketing thus classify the role of its distinct activities undertaken to achieve specific objectives.

Retail Marketing Strategy and In-Store Purchases

Retail marketing concept revolves around consumer and the point of purchase; consider the point of purchase as hybrid stimulus that creates need arousal state and offer solutions to people for the immediate satisfaction of it (Roberts & Berger, 1999). Retail outlets are therefore made in conjunction with the retail marketing objectives; either to build interest in consumer to make perception about the products, and ultimately in other context offer an opportunity to the marketers for devising a plan having partial impact on consumer needs and customers desires directing his behaviour to make random unintentional purchases. Factors hereby affect consumer state of mind are rational to the situation and external in environment, designed specifically to involve customers in making purchases and realize its importance for their need deficiency state. People’s likeness and evaluation affects the stimulus that would be effective to have maximum impact on consumer interest building behaviour (Perner, 2008). Retailers offering a range of products in multiple categories recognize the market consideration for objects used to demonstrate the store offerings; subsequently uses a set of stimulus to derive customers for random purchases in store.

Store Design and Consumer Perception Formation

Customer behaviour pattern analyzers and psychologists place greatest emphasis on perception formation in the mind of consumer reflecting his way of thinking and affecting attribution characteristics that customer associate with the store features and set expectations. Consumer value propositions are therefore require to be formed in accordance with the upbeat and off-putting concern from customer standpoint. Customers purchase behaviour may follow a sequential path of decision making or it may be impulse based on attractive featuring and store environment stimulus impact on customer behaviour (Perner, 2009). Consumer purchase decision is influenced based on the product attributes, location (sales outlet), store design, product benefits and means of communication adopted to convey the attributes. However, retail marketing strategies signifies the extreme importance of store design in order to influence consumer purchase behaviour. Retail marketing mainly characterizes the customer purchase level on strategies used to amuse the behaviour of passers-by that result in impulse purchase; focus on creating an additional want in the customer during purchase state which influence him to make more purchases to achieve the level of needs satisfaction.

In Store Factors to Influence Customers Purchases Level

Retail marketing management main purpose is to provide a unique and attractive purchase environment to the customers which have a significant impact on the sales revenue of a particular sales store. Concentrating on the essential factors involve in deriving customer’s behaviour reveals distinction in its importance and appropriateness to business demand. Store design actually comprises of physical attributes conveying an implied message to the customers affecting his purchase level (Pappas, 1999). These influential stimulus include the spatial differentiation of the store, lightning, atmospherics, colours used, store layout, types of products offering and signage; all combine to have a moderating effect on purchase behaviour of the customer (Levy & Weitz, 2007; Evans & Berman, 2007). Their arrangement may depend on the products being shelved inside the store, purpose of the store to attract a specific market segment of consumer having almost similar needs and wants. Store design is considered to have positive or negative impacts on consumer perception and actual state of action (purchase action).

Brand Logo and Image
Brand Logo

Brand logo and image in actual conveys an interpretive message to the general public. The message strength and intensity will be solely based on the appropriated target market attraction and interpretation by the potential customers. This shows that brand logo is devise for the effective positive perception formation by affecting cognitive latitude of acceptance of consumers that may act as customer or build customers for the company. Colours used in the brand logo are associated with the characteristics of the product and hence consumers set an expectation about the brand and product before indulging in actual purchase. Carrefour logo showing direction arrows at end having red colour on one end and blue on other conveys a message of offering all daily use products for customers in one place. Customers can start their shopping from one site inside store represented as red and they will discover many products as they move.

Spatial differentiation

Spatial differentiation of the store concise on the flexibility and smoothness of the store arrangement that refers to the concern focused on customer visibility to all products being placed in the shelves (Bourlakis et al., 2009). Let’s consider an example of Carrefour, retail operator across the globe in many countries placing its arrangement system in the form of hypermarkets, supermarkets, discount and convenience store. It has segmented the goods according to its categories and has divided the spatial capacity of its respective retail outlet in order to arrange as many products relating to specific category together (Carrefour, 2009).

Customers feel comfortable when searching for a specific brand and get access to other brand to compare it with chosen brand before purchase on the spot; possible only if spatial differentiation and product arrangement are in coordination with the objective of effective space utilization (Zentes et al., 2007). This focuses on more goods placement inside the store so that customers can have one stop solution for their needs. Similarly in relation to its impact on buying behaviour is the understanding of spatial arrangement by the store designer for the effective placement of goods in vision length of customer that gives him access to many products related to his need and personality (other than need but represent social status of customer). Spatial differentiation result in creating space for the customers and placement of the goods in essence of the market need for the respective customers. Proper arrangement of product and allocation of specific limited space for each assigned purpose that creates openness in the environment structure; consumer also feels relaxed inside the environment as more products with proper orientation are in the eye contact of the customer. Product orientation over here refers to the customer’s ability to actively see the brand of the product placed altogether. Such as in Carrefour, a person standing in groceries area can view the other products available in specified location based on the product visibility that include garments or other such as electric appliances, beauty and personal care etc. (Carrefour, 2009). This visibility due to spatial differentiation builds an interest in customer to do more purchases in supermarket or store based on his interest level and financial capability.



Another factor that most importantly valuable in store design arrangement is the lightning affect produced to create luminosity. Lightning increases the visible power of customer to see goods properly and attractive lightning effect also encourages customer to take a closer look at all sections of the store (Zentes et al., 2007). Such as in disco and night clubs, light is kept dark whereas lighting effect of multiple colours such as red, blue, green and pink is produced to add on magnitude in the environment. This lightning arrangement is totally based on the requirement and is effective to the extent of deriving customer through subliminal responses generation. Customer ultimately attract towards the bright lights as in case of Carrefour where bright yellow and white luminous light affect creates an attractive environment inside the Carrefour market stores and outlets (supermarkets & hypermarkets) as shown in figure. This focus on attraction and interest part of retail marketing AIDA plan; draw customer’s attention towards itself and unintentionally customers like to spend more time inside the store due to energetic atmosphere. This signifies the role of lightning as driver towards the store which ultimately in relation to other factors motivates consumer to make more purchases.


Atmospherics and colours use inside the store convey a subliminal message to the consumers affecting the customer intention level; schematic network linkages hence add a specific response to the stimulus specified above and customer response becomes more generic apart from external stimulus impact. Vivid and strong colours are more appropriate to use in stores dealing in fashion products, whereas metal colours suits the need of automobile parts store. Departmental stores also play theme music either to increase the customer time spent inside store or to decrease time in case of queue management (Bruce, Moore & Birtwistle, 2004). Such atmospherics are actually driven forces that affect customer cognitive pattern or schematic networks; subliminally influencing customer to involve with the purchase. People’s likeness about a product increases when it is visually congruent with subliminal responses, and thus customer make impulse purchases just to satisfy his initiated need of excitement conveying an emotion or feeling. Colours used inside the store affects the customer likeness and hence increase his visual capacity to direct buying behaviour due to attention directed towards product as reason for response towards colour stimulus as in case of Carrefour which has place emphasis on white and off-white interior store outlook.

Store Exterior Design

Store exterior designing and layout gains considerable importance in attracting customers’ market share in competitive environment. Organizations focus on suitable retail outlet to the market need driven factors. Classifying the designing and layout of store distinct in many parts that include entrance setting, floor ceiling, type and quantity of glass used at the front, and wall-paint textures. These things combine to form an impression about the standard of the store/retail outlet; consumer interpretation about the evaluation of the product is also dependant on above specified features to influence buying behaviour. For example Carrefour has used tiled floors at many retail outlets locations; presenting it as a hygienic and clean environment store, and therefore customers also interpret the things present inside the stores as valuable and hygienic for them. Big entrance gate to manage customer flow from psychological perspective widens the perception of customer about the store and hence overall expectation is also set positively.

Wall paint colour and texture formation delights the consumer attitude involved in shopping inside the store; subsequently this attraction and delightedness propels customer to spend more time inside the store and make more purchases. Many stores have full glass ceiling at the entrance that shows the opaque nature of store presenting the view of store to people who feel complex to visit new store by considering cost alternative. Such presentation clears the perception of customers about the retail outlet as they may feel it to be more oriented towards product offering and defining the appropriated target market.

Shelves Arrangement

In many stores, shelves arrangement also influences the consumer buying behaviour (if no other price constraint factor is involved) to the extent they feel it more enriched with providing access to goods (Matthew et al., 2009). Consumers like to purchase valuable goods when arranged in ‘free form’ store layout; such as in Carrefour separate shelves for office products, baby care products, fresh food and electronic gadgets and equipments. This form of arrangement builds-in customer propensity to explore the store along with making more purchases. Products visibility increase in free form store layout as shelving arrangement with proper lightning gives better access to view things and hence consumer can get attracted towards it.

Picture one

Picture two

Some retail outlets follow the grid layout structure in order to effectively manage the limited space. Product placing is related to category in each gondola and shelf in order to make it easy for customer to find goods. Such arrangement gives customer ready to buy approach when customer passes by aisles; used extensively by stores focus on providing relatively cheaper and valuable goods at low price where arrangement in shelves is to offer selection benefit to customers in less time (Bruce, Moore & Birtwistle, 2004). The given figure shows the store layout with having different arrangement of shelves and gondolas. Arrangement of shelves is in free form at the upper right corner whereas grid layout structure has been given more importance. In Carrefour food and groceries section shows the grid layout structure and other sections such as healthcare and bio, beauty and personal care shows free form arrangement. Customers main emphasis is to involve in purchase to the extent things are required. Therefore other features involve in store design originate customer responses for more purchases made in the store.

Promotion Activities Impact on Purchase

The major factors in influencing customer to make purchases from a particular store is based on the promotion offers and marketing activities of the organization for any particular product placed in store (Hoekstra et al., 1999). However, retailing mix marketing approach comprises of discount available for specific quantity purchase, location of the outlet, relation with the retailers, profit margin given to retailer to decide products place in shelves, and specific services provided by manufacturer to the retailers in order to influence their behaviour for brand recommendation to customers (Bruce, Moore & Birtwistle, 2004; Varley, 2006). Such as Carrefour UAE has been offering customer Eco Shopping Bags which they can replace free of charger for life (Carrefour UAE, 2009). These retailing mix models also have an effect on the customer purchase in store (more than needed). Subsequently, concerning retailing marketing strategies impact on the customer spending pattern in the store and perception formation in association with psychological influence on customer need makes them to indulge in impulse buying.

Consumer Purchases

Store Design Relation With Purchases Level

In considering the cumulative effect of above specified factors on the customers for increased purchase level signifies that store design convince and derive consumer demand for more purchase for the satisfaction of basic needs or wants such as fun, excitement, social status representation; depending on the type of product and its value perception according to the perspective of customers. The things that have been identified from the above context revolve around the store image and strategies undertaken to influence consumer perception with respect to proposition offering in competitive environment. Consumers make first purchase only on the basis of customer setting about the store (Perner, 2008). This perception formation is concrete to the retail marketing management strategies to influence the consumer decision making process about to make purchase from a particular store or not relating to building brand equity. In contrast to it, store design conveys a very particular subliminal message to the customer that influence their random or impulse buying behaviour through directing behaviour on product likeness and interest followed to an action of making purchases. Hence, store designing focus on psychological process to persuade more spending by people.

The stimuli specified in above context designed for in-store customer impact rationalize consumer behaviour to make purchases on the basis of their evaluation and interpretation of such factors. As each customer has a relative different personality trait that shapes his behaviour, therefore each stimulus presented in store design will influence customers differently. Although the main objective of retail marketing is to derive need of all customers in same manner whereas store designing and arrangement increases the cost of store operations and therefore force retailer to increase price to some extent or else in other case has to adjust from his profit margin; this condition according to economic perspective may affect the product demand in severe cases.


Store design focus on psychological processes of customer to influence their behaviour pattern about purchasing and deriving their demand to spend more money while shopping due to impulse buying behaviour. Factors such as store layout, spatial arrangement, lightning, colours used, and paint texture encourages customer to spend more time in store while shopping and therefore they spend more money while exploring the place and products. However, in considering the retail marketing strategies, influential consensus is to be shown by the manufacturer of goods to support retail operations of marketing which derives customer to the store by promotional campaigns directed towards building interest in customer to be involved in purchase.


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Boston Children’s Hospital’s Communication Case


Communication is the vital need of every human being. In other words, people would not differ from other species of animals if they had no ability to formulate their thoughts and communicate them. This ability allows people build certain relationships with each other within their local communities and in the international arena (Lawson, 2008). With the course of history, communication started acquiring greater and greater role as soon as the unions and communities of people felt the need for peaceful and safe cooperation and joint living (Business Wire, 2007).

Work, another phenomenon responsible for turning simians to human beings, also demanded communication as one of the fundamental things for the work’s success and usefulness. Needless to say, communication failure leads to serious consequences, especially when lots of people are involved in an organization where such failures take place (Graber, 2002). The case of the Children’s Hospital Boston proves this fact and demonstrates the importance of communication between the management and employees in every single organization.

Context Description

To begin with, the case mentioned happened in the Children’s Hospital Boston in 2004 (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). The context to the case lied in the fact that the interaction between the hospital residents, attending physicians, and physician-interns was rather poor (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). The reasons to this were numerous but the special commission created in the Children’s Hospital Boston to investigate several health issues and complaints from the side of patients found out that the main reason was the fact that the basic organizational culture principles and the fundamental of the doctor’s ethics and moral were ignored, or sometimes consciously violated, by the employees of the Children’s Hospital Boston (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

Interesting is the fact that no official resources of the hospital ever reported the considered case, and on the whole the reputation of the medical establishment is rather positive and favorable (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). Children’s Hospital Boston is one of the oldest healthcare facilities in the United States with over than a hundred-year history that takes its roots deep into the middle of the 19th century when in 1869 the hospital was founded (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

The scope of services offered by the hospital is also impressive: there are centers for Child Trauma Care, Neurology and Neonatal Intensive Care Departments, etc., which is evidence that the hospital in Boston is one of the most developed healthcare facilities in the country (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). Such a national scope of the hospital makes the case under consideration even more important and dangerous as because of the ignorant attitudes of certain medical workers and lack of the communication between them and the hospital patients numerous children’s lives were endangered.

Issue Presentation


The essence of the very case under consideration lies in the ignorant attitude of certain medical workers of Children’s Hospital Boston towards their direct duties in the hospital. The news agencies in 2004 reported numerous complaints from the patients and their parents about the facts of ignoring their requests and needs by the workers of the hospital and by the directly responsible attending physicians (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

What all the concerned parties observed in the situation was that lack of communication between the doctors and the patients was the major reason to the issue (Business Wire, 2007). The cases were rather often in the Children’s Hospital Boston at that period of time when an experienced attending physician appointed directly to take care and monitor the state of a patient was absent from his or her working place, while his/her duties were put on the intern practicing in the hospital or on a young and inexperienced physician (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). Lack of communication between the hospital workers, i. e. between the experienced attending physicians and the inexperienced resulted in the latter’s being unable to take any useful action in case when the patients demanded urgent treatment or help.

Main Challenges

As a result, the major challenges in the situation were also connected with the lack of communication and the actual failure of the higher ranking managers and hospital officials to communicate their ideas to the lower layers of the hospital’s organizational structure (Lawson, 2008). At the same time, the newcomers to the staff of the Children’s Hospital Boston failed to communicate their issues and misunderstandings to their managers and department heads (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

In the outcome, the complete lack of both unilateral and bilateral communication between the staff of the hospital and its executive management led to the failure of the management to control the performance of the hospital staff (Lawson, 2008). Moreover, this communication failure directly affected the other side of the situation, i. e. the clients and the patients of the hospital. The latter became unable to communicate their complaints to the medical workers and as a result unable to get the timely medical advice or practical help (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

Emergency Cases Caused by Lack of Communication

Needless to sat, such ignorant attitudes of certain workers of the Children’s Hospital Boston towards their duties at the working place could pass without emergency cases and manifestations of the importance of communication in any kind of a working team or an organization of people united by a joint aim (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). For example, during the considered events in the Children’s Hospital Boston there were several cases of children blood loss caused by the absence of the medical worker at his or her workplace place and by the inability of those present at the emergency situation to actually help from the professional point of view (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

Thus, lack of communication manifested once again its dangerous consequences if found in the organizations responsible for people’s lives (Business Wire, 2007). Fortunately, no child life was taken during that period of time; mainly, this happened due to the timely complaints of the parents of the Children’s Hospital Boston to the local municipal and federal authorities responsible for health care system in Boston.

Analysis of the Approach Taken

However, taking into consideration the seriousness of the issue and the overall public attention to the events that might negatively influence the image of the Children’s Hospital Boston for many years on, the officials of this medical establishment made the decision to approach the problem of the lack of communication between the layers of the hospital’s organizational structure in a comprehensive and focused manner (Business Wire, 2007). According to Michelle Davis, the spokesperson of the Children’s Hospital Boston, the hospital executive management had been shocked by the considered events and was about to develop a comprehensive program for improving the communicational skills and principles within the hospital (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

The mentioned plan included the implementation of the strict control over the location of the attending physicians during their working hours. The procedures of the obligatory registration of all the staff members while entering the hospital building and leaving it were also planned for implementation (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). As for the most important issue, i. e. lack of communication within the staff, it was decided to carry out special preparatory courses for the staff members of the Children’s Hospital Boston during which they were taught again the basics of human communication and the fundamental principles of working as a team (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

Understanding of the simple fact that the problem was easier and faster to solve when it was communicated and discussed was made the focus of the courses. Its main aim was to show the hospital workers how important it was to listen to each other and to the patients (International Comms Hub, 2006). As well, the staff was demonstrated how vital it was to establish the partnership relations between all the levels of the hospital organizational structure, including patients, their parents, ordinary workers, attending physicians, and the executive management (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004).

Moreover, the federal investigation was carried out on the issue to conclude that the hospital workers were guilty of careless attitudes towards their duties which caused numerous health issues and complications to the patients of the Children’s Hospital Boston (Thompson Healthcare Company, 2004). Nevertheless, the results of these activities manifested themselves to be rather effective as far as no other mentions of any issues in the Children’s Hospital Boston were found in any media ever since.

Recommendations for Intervention

However, certain recommendations for the improving communication in the Children’s Hospital Boston can still be made. The obvious reason of the very issue discussed lied in the lack of communication between the staff members of the hospital and the patients and their parents (International Comms Hub, 2006a). Accordingly, the fist recommendation to make in such a situation is that the executive management of the hospital should take their time and teach their workers how to communicate fruitfully with each other and with their clients.

In case if no information is shared between the physicians for example, it is hardly possible that the doctor left in charge of the patient after another one would correctly define the measures to take if some emergency happens. Accordingly, it is also recommended for the hospital staff and management to establish the practice of the partnership relations in the team and make the procedure of the friendly exchange of experience their routine. In this case, the situation like the one that happened in 2004 will not be observed in this and many other hospitals anymore.


To conclude, communication is the vital need of every human being, and the communication failure leads to serious consequences, especially when lots of people are involved in an organization where such failures take place (Graber, 2002). The case of the Children’s Hospital Boston proves this fact and demonstrates the importance of communication between the management and employees in every single organization.

The issues occurred in the hospital because of the lack of communication between the staff and the clients and led to several emergency cases which attracted even the attention of the federal authorities that carried out the investigation of the case. The Children’s Hospital Boston officials took measures to avoid similar issues in future, but the inability of some people to communicate still makes such cases possible of happening.

Works Cited

Business Wire. “Employees Most Frustrated by Lack of Communication in the Workplace, Opinion Research…” 2007. Allbusiness. Web.

Graber, Doris. The power of communications: managing information in public organizations. CQ Press; 2 edition, 2002.

Thompson Healthcare Company. “Communication failure blamed for sentinel events.” 2004. Access my Library. Web.

International Comms Hub. “Bad management and lack of communication skills are endemic in the UK workplace.” 2006. International Comms Hub. Web.

International Comms Hub. “Lack of communication sends employees out the door.” 2006a. International Comms Hub. Web.

Lawson, Loraine. “Communication Failure Indicates Need for MDM.” 2008. IT Business Egde. Web.

Facts Of The Holocaust

Holocaust was one of the most terrible events in the history of the world marked by extreme violence and hostility. The ideology provided by the Nazis underlined the descent of the German people from the Aryan race and rejected all other nations. Jews were seen as enemies of Nazi Germany and a threat to its existence. Historians underline that the Holocaust can be approached only through what it destroyed, and what the Holocaust did destroy goes beyond the lives and collective ways of life erased forever. Thesis America could not have prevented the Holocaust from being initiated, thus it should have entered the war much earlier than it did and could have prevented much of the horror from taking place.

In retrospect, Jewish embarrassments of this kind seem to have been especially prevalent at times when anti-Semitism was moderately strong but not so virulent as to make the attempt at gaining acceptance futile. In present-day America, both the lower level of social anti-Semitism and, from the Jewish side, the decreased sensitivity to the opinions of the gentiles following the Holocaust and in the period of the state of Israel have reduced the anxiety For many contemporary Jews hiding Jewishness has given way to flaunt it. In the psyche of creative individuals, the ineradicable awareness of one’s somehow filthy Jewishness can result in a structure of ideas so far removed from reality as to allow of no other explanation than pathology. Two prominent examples will illustrate the point. Jews are despicable because the bourgeois society that they epitomize is despicable. The emancipation from capitalism (for Marx the bane of modern society) is also the emancipation from Judaism. Marx has projected his own non-acceptance of his Jewish origins upon society as a whole. He need not feel guilty about rejecting the Jewish traditions of his family, for Jewishness is but egoism and avarice. Still, being Jewish is not his problem alone. All who participate in capitalist society are more or fewer Jews. Thus all must trade a wretched Jewish identity for the worldwide fellowship of the proletariat (Arendt, 1994).

Nazi anti-Semitism before the Holocaust had the general effect of restoring Jewish consciousness where it had eroded severely. The most assimilated of German Jews, often for the first time in their lives, now felt the need to confront and reaffirm their Jewishness. At the age of twenty-four, the Nobel Prize-winning Jewish chemist Fritz Haber had converted to Protestantism for the sake of his career. As the head of an important scientific institute, he became an influential figure, especially after he succeeded in developing poison gas for the German army in World War I. But as a racial Jew, Haber was forced into resigning his position in 1933 (Smith, 2002).

Just as ironically as Nazism had initially given the impulse to a deepened Jewishness so did the Holocaust eventually become a major factor in sustaining Jewish identity after World War II. Jewish leaders in the USA early called for a revitalized American Jewish community that would be capable of compensating in some measure for the loss of east European Jewry. Later, and in particular, following the Eichmann trial of 1961, Holocaust awareness increasingly became a major portion of what it meant to be Jewish, especially in the Diaspora. Few American Jews were survivors in the literal sense, but the notion that every Jew living in the post-Holocaust age was a kind of survivor gained increasing acceptance. They were bent on preventing the identity Hitler sought to expunge through physical destruction from succumbing to the subtler pressures of assimilation. In western Europe, greater geographical proximity to the events resulted in a closer focus on the Holocaust and a sense of building upon the ruins of the Jewries that were destroyed (Niewyk, 2002).

In the USA a large share (some have argued too large a share) of Jewish activity has been devoted to keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and fighting contemporary forms of anti-Semitism. Most young Jews know more about the Shoah than they do about any other period of Jewish history. Courses on the Holocaust in colleges and universities are far more popular than other offerings in Jewish studies. Scores of Holocaust institutions keep alive the memory through exhibits, conferences, and educational literature. While American Jews continue to think of themselves, at least nominally, as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, this religious identity does not, for most of them, possess the same salience as does the possibility of new danger to their existence. It is in large measure the memory and message of the Holocaust that create a basis for Jewish unity in spite of religious diversity (Gilbert, 2007).

Anti-Semitism in the contemporary Jewish Diaspora, and especially in the USA, has thus ceased to be ambiguous in its effect. Neither the memory of the Holocaust nor the relatively low levels of current discrimination is driving Jews to hide their Jewishness, let alone to apostatize. On the contrary, antisemitism, especially as collective memory, serves as a basic motive for Jewish identification. The erosive force today comes almost exclusively from the enlightenment side, from the absence of barriers inhibiting the contact between Jews and non-Jews. Jews do not, as before the Holocaust, marry gentiles to escape the odium of discrimination. If they intermarry–as they continue to do in ever-increasing numbers–it is rather because universal values have displaced particularism in both communities. Thus in their effect on Jewish identity enlightenment and anti-Semitism have come into direct opposition. Today, anti-Semitism serves almost exclusively to shore up and intensify Jewish identity (Friedlander, 2008).

In the USA, the need ever and again to prove adherence to the political structures and national values of the states in which they lived had forced Westernized Jews to squeeze Jewish identity into the narrow confines of religious affiliation. To become a Zionist, therefore, was to transcend the pernicious effects of enlightenment and anti-Semitism even while utilizing their benefits. Henceforth reason would serve national purposes; anti-Semitism would not only act as a brake on assimilation, but its unhappy consequences would also point to Zionism as the only adequate solution to the ubiquitous “Jewish Question.” Zionism, then, set out to redirect old and new forces operating upon Jewish identity from within and from without, using their energy to forge a new movement (Dwork and Pelt, 2003).

Religious adherents allied themselves most closely with the political Zionists, whose most prominent spokesman was Theodor Herzl, the founder of the international Zionist movement. There was a lack of intimacy in Herzl’s vision that made it easier for those traditional Jews drawn to Zionism to cooperate with him. Political Zionists were generally willing to hold questions of Jewish content in abeyance. Their principal concern was to rescue Jews from the physical and spiritual effects of anti-Semitism (Davidson et al 2008). The Jewish society in the land of Israel that Herzl envisaged would approximate the more enlightened societies of Europe. Within that society, the Jewish religion would have a role not greatly different from what it was in the Diaspora. Herzl attempted neither to secularize Judaism nor to absorb religion within the national culture. Although political Zionism, with its insistence that anti-Semitism was a permanent feature of Jewish life in the Diaspora, challenged Western Jews’ sense of security, it was not directed against any particular forms of Jewish expression. It did not berate the religious positions of either modern Orthodoxy or Reform Judaism in the West; it did not criticize traditional values still cherished in the East. Minimally, one could become a political Zionist simply out of the conviction that Jews in distress required a safe refuge–somewhere in the world. As the Zionism of Louis Brandeis in the USA attests, such philanthropic sentiments and the activities flowing from them did not necessarily require a reorientation of personal loyalties or values (Cesarani, 2007).

For existing forms of Jewish identity, it was cultural Zionism that offered the most serious challenge. Ahad Ha-Am, its progenitor and chief spokesman, was an agnostic in belief. For him, unlike for Herzl, Zionism was not principally a matter of externals. It was less a question of altering the conditions under which Jews lived than of transforming the Jews themselves. Herzl’s goal was to give Jews like himself-Europeans of the Jewish religious denomination–their own state, where they could live at peace, freed from the scourge of anti-Semitism. Ahad Ha-Am wanted to transform the Jews’ inner Jewish self. Religion would cease to be its indispensable essence. Yet from the very beginning of Jewish history, belief in the God of Israel had been a sine qua non of what it meant to be a Jew. Until modern times there was no intermediate position between faith in the God who revealed His will to the Jews and conversion to some other religion. Still in the nineteenth century Jews in western and central Europe-no matter how much they assimilated culturally, no matter how little time they spent in the synagogue–as long as they remained Jews, they did not openly assault the religious foundations of Jewish identity. Even when Jews in the West possessed little personal faith, they defined their Jewishness in religious terms, for that was the mode of differentiation allowed them in societies that possessed little tolerance for pluralism of cultures. Enlightened Jews in eastern Europe possessed somewhat more understanding of a Jewish identity divested of religious belief and practice. As the more radical became secularists, they moved rapidly beyond Jewish identity elements of any kind. They severed their ties with Judaism, considering themselves only of Jewish origin while identifying positively as members of a universal proletariat or enlightened humanity (Cesarani, 2007).

For many Americans, the determination of what Jewishness means for the Israeli requires distinguishing sharply between religious and secular Jews. As repeated studies have shown, it is the religious Israelis who feel the most Jewish, since Jewishness to them represents more than just an ethnic identity (Bauer and Keren, 2002). Their fundamental worldview is determined by the Jewish religion. Not surprisingly, they feel close to Jews in the Diaspora, since they share the same religious commitment. Jewishness for secular Israelis, by contrast, evokes ambivalence. Zionism, after all, was a revolt against the Jewishness that the early Zionists criticized so severely both in eastern and western Europe. It was supposed to transcend Jewish passivity on the one hand and the truncated modern religious identity produced by enlightenment on the other. For some secular Israelis, Zionist and then Israeli identity is still seen as post-Jewish. One survey, taken in the mid-1960s, found that the majority of Israeli students in secular schools felt that being Jewish was of little or no importance in their lives (Davidson et al 2008).

These facts suggest that it is wrong to encounter the Jewish ghetto leaders as the darkest page in the history of the Holocaust because there is little evidence in their direct actions and involvement in mass killing. Arendt depicts Eichmann as

Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man was not a “monster,” but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown. And since this suspicion would have been fatal to the entire enterprise [his trial], and was also rather hard to sustain in view of the sufferings he and his like had caused to millions of people, his worst clowneries were hardly noticed and almost never reported (Arendt 1994, p. 54).

Although anti-Semitism has declined since World War II, it continues to play a major role in determining Jewish identity. Even in countries where anti-Semitism is least severe, like the USA, Jews nonetheless believe they are potentially endangered. Jewish defense organizations flourish and expand their activities. Supporting them serves as a means of Jewish identification in the present as it has in the past. Since Jews in Israel see their protection of Diaspora Jews as a basic component of the relations between them, the presence of discrimination or persecution has also served to energize the Israeli sense of ethnic responsibility (Benz, 1999). Fortunately, the extreme manifestations of reaction to anti-Semitism are apparently declining, at least in the West. Opportunistic apostasy has diminished greatly as has Jewish self-hate. For many Americans, Anti-Semitism has become most important for Jewish identity not as a force operative in contemporary society but as the memory of the Holocaust. The intense consciousness of that event is felt as a particular imperative to preserve Jewishness and as a universal task–based on the Jews’ having been singled out–to prevent anything resembling a Holocaust in the future. The sense of Jewishness represents the strongest component of Jewish identity in America today. Although, as noted earlier, Jews tend to understand Jewishness principally as denominational, most religious Jews link Judaism closely to Jewishness. Their synagogue activities are ways of expressing ethnicity. Attending religious services is something Jews do as members of the Jewish people. Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews will not quickly dissolve their shared sense of solidarity.


Arendt, H. (1994). Eichmann in Jerusalem, Penguin Classics; New Ed edition.

Bauer, Y., Keren, N. (2002). A History of the Holocaust. Franklin Watts; Revised edition.

Benz, W. (1999). The Holocaust. A German Historian Examines the Genocide. New York: Columbia University Press.

Cesarani, D. (2007). Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes and Trial of a “Desk Murderer”. Da Capo Press; New Ed edition

Davidson, J. et al. (2008). Nation Of Nations: A Narrative History Of The American Republic Volume II Since 1865. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Dwork, D., Pelt, van R. (2003). Holocaust: A History. W. W. Norton & Company.

Friedlander, S. (2008). The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945. Harper Perennial; Reprint edition.

Gilbert, M. (2007). Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Making History). Harper Perennial; Reprint edition.

Niewyk, D. (2002). The Holocaust: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation. Houghton Mifflin Company.

Smith, L. (2002). Voices of the Holocaust. Penguin (Non-Classics).

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