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Jews Without Judaism: Conversations With an Unconventional Rabbi Paperback – April 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 108 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573929247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573929240
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,839,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of this primer on Jewish humanism is a founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism and has served since 1965 as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Or, a humanistic temple in Deerfield, Ill. Espousing beliefs that are formally held by only a tiny segment of the Jewish community, Friedman has had many discussions about the unique views of Jewish humanism. In this book, he presents the essence of those deliberations in eight easy-to-read fictional "conversations," which express his understanding of an authentic Jewish stance on many issues that confront American Jews: intermarriage, observance, creation, spirituality, anti-Semitism, Jews and Christians, God, and differences among the Jewish denominations. Friedman consistently advocates a secular approach, denying the existence of an omnipotent God. The autonomous individual, rather than God, is foremost in his view. He insists that "religion plays virtually no part in the lives of most American Jews," even claiming that "Judaism, the religion, came to an end some two hundred years ago." Friedman notes that Jewish culture, history, traditions and holidays should be studied and appreciated from a naturalistic perspective. Although few Jews will agree with Friedman's opinions, he succeeds in clearly and persuasively presenting the attitudes of Jewish humanism.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

"...a step in the right direction..." -- Humanist in Canada #145, Summer 2003

"excellent introduction to the ways in which being a Jew is readily compatible with being secular and even an atheist." -- About.com

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HGPublications.com on April 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Concise and simple, yet penetrating enough to explain Humanistic Judaism. Provides a helpful discussion of the historical roots of the change in Judaism and the roles of Napoleon and of the establishment of the USA in changing the historical status of Jewish people as a minority. Most interesting is the impact of of anti-Semitism on the religion. The last 3 pages are very useful regarding the understanding of the change in the Jewish identity. The book stands against the common wisdom of most of the Jewish writers who stresse demise of the Jewish identity to assert that the current situation and events will only carry a better future for the Jews. Jews today are freer than any other time in their history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Daniel Friedman is, along with Sherwin T. Wine (see his Judaism Beyond God: A Radical New Way to Be Jewish) one of the founders of "Humanistic Judaism. He served for 35 years as rabbi of the Congregation Beth Or in Illinois, and is currently (as of when this book was published) Rabbinic Adviser to Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in north suburban Chicago.

He writes in the Introduction to this 2002 book, "Many Jews wonder whether they are really Jewish after all. Having been taught that being Jewish means being part of a religious community, they ask themselves if they truly qualify. Can one be Jewish without God? Without religion? Without Judaism? Such are the questions to be considered in the following pages."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"It is my contention that Judaism, the religion, came to an end two hundred years ago; that subsequent 'Judaisms' (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanistic, and to some extent, even Orthodox) are, in fact, not religious but secularized modifications of Judaism; and that, aside from a relatively small number of sincerely committed believers and practitioners of Halachic Judaism, Jews have, in effect, said farewell to Judaism." (Pg. 13)
"My brand, as you put it, is natural spirituality, which acknowledges that we are more than our material selves. We are more than highly developed computers. We cannot be reduced to bundles of synapses and electrical charges... we may rationally believe that there is something called 'the human spirit' that is quite real, yet beyond scientific analyses." (Pg. 62)
"I am unaware of distinctive 'Jewish values.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HGPublications.com on August 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
Concise and simple, yet penetrating enough to explain Humanistic Judaism. Provides a helpful discussion of the historical roots of the change in Judaism and the roles of Napoleon and of the establishment of the USA in changing the historical status of Jewish people as a minority. Most interesting is the role of anti-Semitism on the religion. The last 3 pages are very useful about the understanding of the change in Jewish identity. The book stands against the common wisdom of most of the Jewish writers of the demise of the Jewish identity to assert that the current situation and the future will only become better for the future of the Jews. Jews today are freer than any other time in their history.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mierek on November 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am neither a Jew nor a Judaist, and so my interest in the topics discussed in this slender (yet surprisingly pricey) volume is primarily intellectual.

The basic premise of this book is that Jews are a cultural, ethnic, and/or national group, that Judaism is the religion that this group has historically practiced, and that the two have been distinct and not necessarily overlapping categories since the time of Napoleon. In fact, Rabbi Friedman repeatedly asserts, most contemporary American Jews (the "culturally Jewish") are "Jews without Judaism," those who value certain aspects of their Jewish heritage without feeling compelled to believe in the G-d of Abraham or follow the guidelines outlined in the Torah. Instead of condemning these folks for abandoning their religion, this unconventional rabbi applauds them for their courage to admit to their irreligion as he introduces them to what he calls "Humanistic Judaism."

I've often heard contemporary liberal Judaism described as "ethical monotheism," but in this collection of fictional dialogues Rabbi Friedman openly derides monotheism (and theism in general) as untenable and without empirically verifiable foundation. (It is definitely odd to read a rabbi openly admit to being an atheist, and in the dialogues he explains how he feels his role as rabbi is not compromised by this lack of faith.) As well, he repeatedly critiques the idea of "Jewish ethics" or "Jewish values" (such as justice, compassion, and education), seeing them instead as the same liberal, secular values shared by other beneficiaries of the Enlightenment:

"There is nothing distinctly Jewish about values. This was the contradiction inherent within Reform Judaism.
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