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Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C) Hardcover – January 18, 2012

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Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C) + To Be A Jew: A Guide To Jewish Observance In Contemporary Life
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"It's impossible to do justice to the scholarship offered in Pledges of Jewish Allegiance. The thought-provoking ideas offered challenge readers to review not only their ideas about the way history affects our religion, but to question how the boundaries of Judaism should be defined. The writing is clear enough for those unfamiliar with the topic to enjoy the work, but offers even greater depth to those who have studied the rabbinic debates."—Rachel Esserman, The Reporter Group


"The subject matter of this book has great relevance today. . . [Ellenson and Gordis] draw the conclusion from their analysis that Jewish law is not dispassionate and impervious to change, but instead is quite flexible and open to considerations of larger public policy and attuned to the very personal concerns of the respondent."—David Tesler, Association of Jewish Libraries


"This is a concise, timely, and well-researched survey of modern Jewish conversion law, and the politics that underlie it. By tracing a wide range of Jewish legal decisions in different countries over two centuries, Ellenson and Gordis underscore the importance of context and biography in the shaping of Jewish law. They explain the diversity of Orthodox opinion concerning the acceptance of converts, and clarify how the whole process of rabbinic decision-making works. A miracle of compression and clarity, this book provides the background for policies affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews and would-be Jews throughout the world."—Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University

About the Author

David Ellenson, President and I. H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at Hebrew Union College–Jewish institute of Religion, is a distinguished rabbi, scholar, and leader of the Reform Movement. Daniel Gordis is President of the Shalem Foundation and Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and a frequent contributor to the New York Times and was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.
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Product Details

  • Series: Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C
  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (January 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804778051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804778053
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #871,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence J. Epstein VINE VOICE on March 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of those rare books that delivers much more than it promises. It offers a detailed, subtle, and, most astonishingly, objective account of Orthodox opinions on one of the most important issues of contemporary Jewish life--conversion to Judaism. But as a preface to this, the authors trace how converts have been treated in sacred Jewish literature.

The book is very useful as background for anyone who wishes to understand and debate contemporary Jewish life and to follow the intense debate, especially in Israel, over this issue. It's a serious book, scholarly rather than popular. It's hard, though, to imagine a more interesting or valuable book on the subject.
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This book is generally very good.

1. There is a good, strong index and bibliography.
2. The research appears to be very thorough and exhaustive.

There are some things that could have made this book a lot better:

1. The sourcing of the references is such that it is very difficult to know where to go to find them;
2. There are many Hebrew words written in transliteration. It might have been nice to have the word written in Hebrew in parenthesis.

Who is this book for?

1. Obviously, it is for Rabbis that want a broad discussion of conversion law over the past couple of hundred years.
2. It can be useful for a potential convert who wants to have an idea of where a Beit Din is coming from in accepting him or rejecting him. (I am trying to get an Orthodox conversion and am having a lot of problems with the Beit Din. This gives me a decent number of sources with which I can press my petition.)

Even if the Jews who wrote it are Reform/ Secular, that does not seem to diminish from the scholarship in any way.

Verdict: Recommended at the new price.
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By Zachary L. Grayson on February 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was drawn in by the author's skillful examination and elucidation of how the struggle to address and respond to assimilation played out in the context of conversion responsa. Time and time again our earlier sages were called upon to address the same problems facing us today - which is more effective, the carrot or the stick? If we are accepting of exogamy by making conversion easier, are we encouraging it? This is a must read for anyone struggling with strategies for Jewish continuity or simply interested in the interplay between Jewish law and societal forces.
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Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa (Stanford Studies in Jewish History and C)
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