- Series: Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life
- Paperback: 287 pages
- Publisher: Brandeis (September 15, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0874518482
- ISBN-13: 978-0874518481
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,748,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life)
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From Publishers Weekly
American Jewry has become increasingly polarized, asserts Wertheimer. In his estimation, current dynamic programs for religious revival are the creations of a vocal, passionately involved minority, while for the vast majority of American Jews, religion plays a minimal role. In this searching inquiry, the author, a history professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, looks at various innovations, from the Havurah movement, which has stressed gender equality, prayer services and intimate communal experiences, to Jewish feminism and reconstructivist congregations. Nor are the more established sectors exempt from change. At the same time that Wertheimer ( Unwelcome Strangers ) finds an eclectic openness to traditional teachings in Reform Judaism, he also notes a shift to the right among the Orthodox and deep splits in a Conservative community. This is a tough-minded corrective to more optimistic recent surveys.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
A thoughtful but short-sighted study of a precariously splintered American Jewry. Wertheimer (Unwelcome Strangers, 1987) uses his background history professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) to offer more than sociological insights in reading several generations' worth of statistics on American Jewish patterns of religious practice and identification. Nonetheless, with his study anchored in the 40's and 50's--boom years for the Conservative movement--there's a strong tilt toward his own denomination. Wertheimer too often positions the Conservative movement as true ``American Judaism,'' and, by not drawing the longer shadows of Reform and Orthodox Judaism, he fails to credit the Reform for initiating a Judaism for nonpracticing American Jews. Moreover, instead of wondering whether ``Orthodoxy can be viewed as a coherent and united movement,'' he should have made the point that traditional Judaism is unchanged since the days of the Pharisees. To survive suburbanization, the Conservatives in 1950 decided to allow driving to synagogue on the Sabbath--forfeiting any fealty to biblical law. Wertheimer doesn't mark this milestone as the philosophical demise of the movement, although, to his credit, he concedes that Conservative Judaism is ``caught in a cross fire...and hard pressed to justify its centrism.'' He shows the Conservative sun as setting and the inclusiveness of the Reform and Reconstructionists as instrumental in slowing rampant loss from intermarriage and assimilation. But for all of Wertheimer's statistics and trend-watching, the high birth and emigration rates of the Orthodox are ignored. The author is at his strongest when comparing the rises and falls of Jewish to Christian denominations, and when discussing how the various movements reacted to the sexual revolution, the women's movement, and the era of personal, nontraditional spiritual searching that began in the late 60's. Extensive notes and bibliography add to the value of this study for the student of religion, but it lacks the punchy thesis needed for more popular appeal. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
In any case reading this work will provide a true understanding of the basic sociological identity of the American Jewish community.
While JEW V. JEW imitates midrash in its telling of divisions among American Jews, A PEOPLE DIVIDED gives a more straightforward account and the historical perspective needed to make sense of the battles American Jews are now fighting among themselves. I read this over the summer of 2000, when I was relatively new to Judaism, and it proved an immeasurable help in understanding why the Jewish community is the way it is.
The only reason I don't give this book four stars is that Wertheimer occasionally lapses into his own (rather obvious) Conservative bias. Somehow, he seems to believe that the current wars have started because both Orthodoxy and Reform have branched off from the "true Judaism" represented by the Conservative Movement. Wertheimer also could have paid more attention to Reconstructionism, a branch of Judaism that, though it has some similarities to Reform, has its own internal philosophical battles.
All in all, though, A PEOPLE DIVIDED is an excellent introduction to its subject matter and a book I highly recommend.