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Doubting the Devout: The Ultra-Orthodox in the Jewish American Imagination (Religion and American Culture)

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ISBN-13: 978-0231141871
ISBN-10: 0231141874
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Editorial Reviews


A lucid, well-written, and clearly argued book,

(Wendy Zierler H-Judaic)

Smart and perceptive book

(Jewish Book World 1900-01-00)

Even if you've read none of the books Rubel discusses, hers is a worthwhile reflection on a major cultural divide in contemporary American judaism.

(Rachel Gordan Lillith 1900-01-00)


Doubting the Devout analyzes the representation of the Ultra-Orthodox (haredim) in popular Jewish American literary narratives, arguing that these narratives provide insight into the deep anxiety many in the mainstream Jewish community experience in relationship to the haredim. The book's great strength lies in its close reading of texts and the originality and boldness of the argument. Nora L. Rubel makes a significant contribution to the study of contemporary American Judaism.

(Rebecca T. Alpert, Temple University)|

Provocative, disturbing, and deeply insightful, Doubting the Devout explores the anxiety over ultra-Orthodoxy in American Jewish life today. Penetrating into the writings that few before her have had the courage to scrutinize, Rubel exposes deep-seated fears that modern Jews—and those who read them—alternatively nourish, vanquish, or repress.

(Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History)|

Doubting the Devout reveals a fascinating—and persistent—phenomenon in American culture. Haredi Orthodox Jews, for decades relegated to obscurity by more liberal coreligionists who saw them as a reactionary link to European poverty, ignorance, and pariah status, have emerged as a delectable subject in American and Israeli novels, films, and popular culture. Rubel insightfully sketches several patterns in the artistic portrayal of ultra Orthodox Jews and links those portrayals to their social historical contexts. Haredim are sometimes portrayed as authentic in their countercultural rejection of Western materialistic success. More often, Rubel shows, Haredi men are depicted as hypocritical, manipulative chauvinists, exploiting the patriarchal power granted them by rabbinic law for their own purposes and kidnapping the system (and sometimes people). In contrast, Haredi women often play sympathetic roles, beginning as oppressed victims but frequently throwing off socioreligious shackles with heroic creativity. The pervasive fear of frumkeit (religiosity) may surprise some, as the emotionalism Rubel finds transcends mere arguments 'between liberalism and traditional societal formations,' articulated not only by 'secularists who are afraid that the ultra-Orthodox are stealing their kids,' but by traditionalists who worry, 'even if your kitchen is kosher, it might not be kosher enough for your own children.'

(Sylvia Barack Fishman, Brandeis University)

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Product Details

  • Series: Religion and American Culture
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (December 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231141874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231141871
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,766,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bosco on November 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is definitely a well written piece, but she leaves out key parts of Hasidic and Haredi life in her arguement. It is very one-sided in its condemnation of a people that it is quite obvious to me that she does not truly understand. It was quite useful for research purposes but it must be taken with a very serious grain of salt because of the areas left un-addressed. She clearly condemns the ultra-orthodox as a people without speaking to them herself or even to the director of the movie she so wantonly interprets.
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Doubting the Devout: The Ultra-Orthodox in the Jewish American Imagination (Religion and American Culture)
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