- Paperback: 185 pages
- Publisher: The Reconstructionist Press; 2nd updated edition (July 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 093545750X
- ISBN-13: 978-0935457506
- Package Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach 2nd updated Edition
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My teacher Mordecai Kaplan was the single most influential thinker in the history of American Judaism. -- Rabbi Harold Kushner,
This inspiring book includes the recent spiritual developments in the Reconstructionist movement...which deepen one's awareness of God's presence. -- Sylvia Boorstein, author of Funny, You Don't Look
About the Author
Rebecca T Alpert is the Co-Director of the Women's Studies Program and Assistant Professor of Religion and Women's Studies at Temple University. She is a rabbi and former dean of students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She is the author of Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition published by Columbia University Press (1997) and editor of Voices of the Religious Left: A Contemporary Sourcebook for Temple University Press (2000).
Jacob J Staub is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Medieval Jewish Civilization at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He is a rabbi and former editior of the Reconstructionist. He is the author of The Creation of the World According to Gersonides (Scholars Press, 1982) and co-editor with Jeffrey Schein of Creative Jewish Education: A Reconstructionist Approach (RRC Press / Rossel Books, 1985).
Top customer reviews
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It's too bad that RJ havurot/synagogues are not as ubiquitous as Reform Temples. I would love to participate in a Reconstructionist community.
*Unlike Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, Reconstructionism does not accept halakhah (traditional Jewish law) as binding. But unlike Classical Reform, it accepts halakhah as relevant. The ideal Reconstructionist Jew or congregation researches halakhah and then decides how and whether to apply it. The authors write: "If God is not the commander of these [ritual] acts, God nonetheless is reflected through them." What I didn't understand, however, is how Reconstructionism differs from modern, more traditional versions of Reform Judaism.
*The authors struggle to describe the Reconstructionist concept of God- not as a intervening, punishing entity, but as a force or power working through us to create goodness.
*The authors tend to emphasize liberal (in the late 20th-century sense, rather than in the "19th-century liberal" sense) values. For example, they write "Most Reconstructionists take their stand ... with the signers of the Oslo accords and proponents of peace." I think it would be harder to be a Republican in most Reconstructionist congregations than in most Reform congregations.
This book gave me a pretty good sense of how Reconstructionism differs from Orthodox and Conservative Judaism- but less of a sense on how it differs from Reform. It seems like Reconstructionism suffers from the same problems as centrist third parties in the political arena; just as the 1990s Reform Party failed in part because the major parties adopted some of its ideas, Reconstructionism seems squeezed between a Reform movement that is becoming more traditional and a leftward-moving Conservative movement.
In "Exploring Judaism," Rabbis Alpert and Staub provide a brief introduction to Reconstructionist belief and practice. The emphasis in the first six chapters is on the fundamental beliefs that define the movement -- the conception of Judaism as an evolving religious civilization, the nature of God, the role of traditional practice and halakha, the interaction of practicing Jews with an open society, and the place of Zionism. The ideas in these chapters are set out clearly and concisely and give the reader a good idea of what Reconstructionism is about. These chapters are not meant to be theology or a rigorous exposition of Reconstructionist ideas; still, a little more detail on some of the more obvious difficulties (an asserted "solution" to the problem of theogony, which is not a solution at all) and tensions within the movement (did Kaplan go too far or not far enough in changing the liturgy, the language of prayer, the conception of "chosenness") would have been helpful. As it stands, this part of the book seems to be pitched toward bright high school students or adults who have never thought about theological issues except in the most basic, "self help" terms.
The second half of "Exploring Judaism" is devoted to Reconstructionist practice -- study, prayer, ritual, social action, the development of inclusive communities, and the "structure" of the movement itself. These chapters do an excellent job of demonstrating how Judaism can be reconstructed into a vital center of one's life and community. Here the authors succeed in being inspirational without being preachy.
"Exploring Judaism" seems to have been written for people who were raised in another Jewish movement and who have either dropped out or become disenchanted. A reasonable degree of familiarity with traditional Jewish practice and belief is assumed throughout. If you are lacking that familiarity, you may be somewhat lost, particularly in the later chapters. Recommended to anyone seeking to learn more about this path to reconnecting with Judaism.