- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 5, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312352271
- ISBN-13: 978-0312352271
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,974,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gonzo Judaism: A Bold Path for Renewing an Ancient Faith First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Though born out of the "world of gonzo," rife with indignation, agitation, cynicism and a "biting urge to revolt," this book delivers such a soulful commentary that it could just as easily be called "Judaism Unplugged." Like musicians who return to the roots of their profession and play without electronica, Rabbi Goldstein, founding rabbi of the New Shul in Manhattan, reminds readers—whether they are new seekers or lapsed practitioners of Judaism—to confirm their knowledge of the "nuts and bolts" of their tradition before wistfully seeking the mystical. "Judaism, when presented in its best and most authentic light, doesn't coddle—it confronts," he says. Similarly, the rabbi pulls no punches, but manages to do so with the easy style of a coffeehouse conversation. Using a combination of Jewish history and personal anecdotes, he offers a wide range of alternative ways to explore Judaism individually or in small groups, if large congregations are not appealing. The extensive resource list that includes congregations, organizations and recommended reading promises to serve readers of all ages. With this edgy, funny, wise book, Goldstein may just have found a way to ensure the survival of the religion for another 6,000 years. (Sept.)[See the July 12 issue of Religion BookLine for an interview with Rabbi Goldstein.]
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<div><div><div>"Rabbi Goldstein has written a Fear and Loathing on the Torah Trail that's kick-ass but also wise and full of good ideas for what ails American Judaism. He shows that the greatest reverence can come from irreverence." --Jonathan Alter, national columnist for Newsweek</div>
"Here, finally, is a kind of declaration of Judeo-anarchism. In the shadow of calcified institutions and uninspiring leaders, Goldstein reminds us that we are the masters of our own spiritual fates, to be pursued with originality and vigor. Amen."
--Jennifer Bleyer, founder of Heeb magazine
"In his compelling new book, Gonzo Judaism, Rabbi Niles Goldstein reminds us that we need not enter a synagogue to live Jewishly. We can do it on top of a mountain, at the theater, or in a drink-fueled discussion with friends. This book should be read by Jews of any age or affiliation who, in the words of Paddy Chayefsky, are 'mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.'"
--Amy Sohn, columnist for New York magazine and author of My Old Man
"For disenfranchised mystics like myself, Gonzo Judaism creates an accessible, entertaining, and inspiring connection between real life and Jewish spirituality."
--Danny Goldberg, CEO of Air America Radio
"Irreverent and hip, Goldstein provides his readers with a tour of pockets of creative Jewish energy around the United States. If you want evidence that being Jewish can be 'cool,' look no further."
--Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, author of Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue</div></div>
Top customer reviews
Much of what Goldstein has to say about renewing Judaism is true. Today, its rituals are mind-numbingly boring and lacking in passion, while most (usually self-proclaimed) spokespeople for the Jewish community (e.g. Abe Foxman) are whiny disciplinarians. Judaism (and Jewish culture) could use the energy infused from retreats and extreme sports, a reexamination of lost rituals and the tribal notion of community.
Unfortunately, that's all Goldstein has to offer. Although he rightly calls for a middle ground between passionate commitment and intellectual openness, this offering, is, in practice, decidedly anti-intellectual. One searches the book in vain for any sort of argument about why "ethical monotheism" is worth preserving. Goldstein simply assumes that the product sells itself, if sold properly. He does not comment on the broad, secularizing trend of the last several centuries (a trend that transcends Judaism), nor on the fact that Jews are among the most secular groups in the world today. He merely asserts that a recommitment of Jews to Judaism and the Jewish tradition is a worthy goal in its own right. Perhaps Goldstein has a more profound answer, but he does not see fit to share it with his readers here. Furthermore, Goldstein has nothing to say about the role of Jews and Judaism in the contemporary era. In this world, "the West", of which Judaism has been interpreted as a foundational movement over the last fifty years, is increasingly on the defensive. The state of Israel, which Goldstein says is of existential value to Judaism no matter how much one might disagree with its policies, has become a Crusader state, and an American tool for sowing chaos and dissension in the Middle East. Is the discussion of the political role of Judaism simply too "un-gonzo" for Goldstein? How is Judaism, which has chosen to make its spiritual center in the Middle East, to interface with Islam? Should it (and if so, how) become re-Orientalized? Should it, following the decline of a heavily Jewish Marxism, continue to identify itself with the struggle for global equality? And is God (or monotheism) still important for such a struggle? In wondering whether to recommit to the Jewish tradition, one thirsts to have these questions answered; instead, what one gets is simply a recycled corporate teamwork ideology. For those wishing to tackle the big questions, keep searching.
Whether you are Jewish or not, Gonzo Judaism presents an emphatic perspective on solitary and group worship.