To distinguish itself from Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, the Reform movement tries to be an egalitarian, open, and innovative version of the faith true to the spirit of the tradition but nonetheless fully compatible with modern secular life. Promoting itself in this way, Reform Judaism has been tremendously successful in recruiting a variety of people—intermarried families, feminists, gays and lesbians, and interracial families among others—who resist more traditional forms of worship.
As an unintended result of this success, the movement now struggles with an identity crisis brought on by its liberal theology, which teaches that each Jew is free to practice Judaism more or less as he or she pleases. In the absence of the authority that comes from a theology based on a commanding, all-powerful God, can Reform Judaism continue to thrive? Can it be broadly inclusive and still be uniquely and authentically Jewish?
Taking this question as his point of departure, Dana Evan Kaplan provides a broad overview of the American Reform movement and its history, theology, and politics. He then takes a hard look at the challenges the movement faces as it attempts to reinvent itself in the new millennium. In so doing, Kaplan gives the reader a sense of where Reform Judaism has come from, where it stands on the major issues, and where it may be going.
Addressing the issues that have confronted the movement—including the ordination of women, acceptance of homosexuality, the problem of assimilation, the question of rabbinic officiation at intermarriages, the struggle for acceptance in Israel, and Jewish education and others—Kaplan sheds light on the connection between Reform ideology and cultural realities. He unflinchingly, yet optimistically, assesses the movement’s future and cautions that stormy weather may be ahead.
From Hebrew tattooing to Jewish Buddhist meditation, Kaplan describes the remaking of historical tradition in ways that channel multiple ethnic and national identities. While pessimists worry about the vanishing American Jew, Kaplan focuses on the creative responses to contemporary spiritual trends that have made a Jewish religious renaissance possible. He believes that the reorientation of American Judaism has been a "bottom up" process, resisted by elites who have only reluctantly responded to the demands of the "spiritual marketplace." The American Jewish denominational structure is therefore weakening at the same time that religious experimentation is rising, leading to innovative approaches that are supplanting existing institutions. The result, as Kaplan makes clear, is an exciting transformation of what it means to be a religious Jew in twenty-first century America.
In light of profound demographic, social, and technological developments, it has become increasingly clear that the Reform movement will need to make major changes to meet the needs of a quickly evolving American Jewish population. Younger Americans in particular differ from previous generations in how they relate to organized religion, often preferring to network through virtual groups or gather in informal settings of their own choosing.
Dana Evan Kaplan, an American Reform Jew and pulpit rabbi, argues that rather than focusing on the importance of loyalty to community, Reform Judaism must determine how to engage the individual in a search for existential meaning. It should move us toward a critical, scholarly understanding of the Hebrew Bible, that we may emerge with the perspectives required by a postmodern world. Such a Reform Judaism can at once help us understand how the ancient world molded our most cherished religious traditions and guide us in addressing the increasingly complex social problems of our day.
This translation is based on Gra version of the Sefer Yetzirah and includes the author's extraordinary commentary on all its mystical aspects including kabbalistic astrology, Ezekiel's vision and the 231 gates. Also included are three alternative versions to make this volume the most complete work on the Sefer Yetzirah available in English.
He began writing about all three faiths in the 1970s, long before it was fashionable to treat Islam in the context of Judaism and Christianity, or to align all three for a family portrait. In this updated edition, he lays out the similarities and differences of the three religious siblings with great clarity and succinctness and with that same remarkable objectivity that is the hallmark of all the author's work.
Peters traces the three faiths from the sixth century B.C., when the Jews returned to Palestine from exile in Babylonia, to the time in the Middle Ages when they approached their present form. He points out that all three faith groups, whom the Muslims themselves refer to as "People of the Book," share much common ground. Most notably, each embraces the practice of worshipping a God who intervenes in history on behalf of His people.
The book's text is direct and accessible with thorough and nuanced discussions of each of the three religions. Updated footnotes provide the reader with expert guidance into the highly complex issues that lie between every line of this stunning and timely new edition of The Children of Abraham. ?
This amazing journey through Tibetan Buddhism and Judaism leads Kamenetz to a renewed appreciation of his living Jewish roots.
The beloved author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner here turns to the experience of Moses to find the requisite lessons of strength and faith—the lessons that teach us how to overcome the disappointments that life inherently brings. We can learn how to meet all disappointments with faith in ourselves and the future, and how to respond to heartbreak—how to weather the disillusionment of dreams unfulfilled, the pain of a lost job, divorce or abandonment, illness, and more—with understanding rather than bitterness and despair. With Kushner’s signature warmth, Overcoming Life’s Disappointments is a book of spiritual wisdom—as practical as it is inspiring.
Jews-to-be often find the steps to Judaism foreign, complex, and mysterious. From learning an ancient language, to entering the mikvah (ritual bath), to choosing a Hebrew name, to circumcision, to appearing before a bet din (Jewish court), becoming a Jew is anything but quick and easy. In this engaging and accessible guide, Reuben and Hanin offer practical wisdom for every step of conversion, including:
telling family and friends selecting a denominationchoosing a rabbiunderstanding Jewish ritualscelebrating Jewish holidaysputting aside childhood holidayskeeping ties to the pastadvice on weddings, raising kids, and more
Throughout, the authors focus on developing a healthy spiritual life, while helping readers understand what it means to be Jewish, absorb Jewish teachings, and live a Jewish life.
Now, The Book of Job has been rendered into English by the eminent translator and scholar Stephen Mitchell, whose versions of Rilke, Israeli poetry, and the Tao Te Ching have been widely praised. This is the first time ever that the Hebrew verse of Job has been translated into verse in any language, ancient or modern, and the result is a triumph.
In alternating first-person narratives, Faiga (Fay) and Luzer (Leo) take readers into their very different but inextricably linked experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland. Faiga, the once-dignified young lady from a good home with servants and a seat by the eastern wall of the synagogue, spends two years wandering the perilous countryside, hoping to be taken for a peasant. Mere miles away, knowing nothing of his sister’s fate, Luzer, the leather wholesaler’s only son, lies silent all day in the stifling dark corner of a barn, where the smell of the cows’ warm hides are a piquant reminder of his lost world. Hidden deftly summons that world, as the familiar comforts and squabbles of life in a well-to-do, religious Jewish family are slowly overwhelmed by the grim news coming out of Germany. We follow Faiga and Luzer through the early forebodings and deprivations of the war, into hiding among righteous Poles and erstwhile neighbors-turned-betrayers, and finally, at war’s end, back once more into the world—but not necessarily into safety. Told in a confident, clear, and unsentimental prose, this is a story of heroism and tragedy writ large and small, of two young people coming of age in a world in chaos and then trying to return to "normal" after experiences as unimaginable as they are unforgettable.
The foundation of Hebrew and Jewish religion, thought, law, and society is the Torah-the parchment scroll containing the text of the Five Books of Moses that is located in every synagogue. This accessible guide explains the Torah in clear language, even to those who were not raised in the Jewish religious tradition. Christians who want to know more about the Jewish roots of Christianity need to understand the Torah, as do followers of Islamic tradition and those interested in the roots of Abrahamic faiths. The Torah For Dummies explains the history of the Torah, its structure and major principles, and how the Torah affects the daily lives of people who follow the Jewish way of life.
Given their staggering importance, you would think that all societies, and certainly our educational and religious institutions, would be intent on studying them closely. Sadly, this is not the case. Our schools ignore them and our churches and synagogues take them for granted. But here's a simple test: Who among us can even name all of the Ten Commandments? And even among those who can name them, how many can explain them in a way that makes sense to the modern eye and ear?
If you are a person of faith, this book will strengthen it; if you are agnostic it will force you to rethink your doubts; if you're atheist, it will test your convictions. For people who have thought little about the Ten Commandments, as well as for those who have a sophisticated understanding of them, it will be a revelation.
That's a lot to ask of a little book, but the only thing that's little here is the length. The ideas are very big.
In Journey from the Land of No Roya Hakakian recalls her childhood and adolescence in prerevolutionary Iran with candor and verve. The result is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about one deeply intelligent and perceptive girl’s attempt to ﬁnd an authentic voice of her own at a time of cultural closing and repression. Remarkably, she manages to re-create
a time and place dominated by religious fanaticism, violence, and fear with an open heart and often with great humor.
Hakakian was twelve years old in 1979 when the revolution swept through Tehran. The daughter of an esteemed poet, she grew up in a household that hummed with intellectual life. Family gatherings were punctuated by witty, satirical exchanges and spontaneous recitations of poetry. But the Hakakians were also part of the very small Jewish population in Iran who witnessed the iron fist of the Islamic fundamentalists increasingly tightening its grip. It is with the innocent confusion of youth that Roya describes her discovery of a swastika—“a plus sign gone awry, a dark reptile with four hungry claws”—painted on the wall near her home. As a schoolgirl she watched as friends accused of reading blasphemous books were escorted from class by Islamic Society guards, never to return. Only much later did Roya learn that she was spared a similar fate because her teacher admired her writing.
Hakakian relates in the most poignant, and at times painful, ways what life was like for women after the country fell into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who had declared an insidious war against them, but we see it all through the eyes of a strong, youthful optimist who somehow came up in the world believing that she was different, knowing she was special. At her loneliest, Roya discovers the consolations of writing while sitting on the rooftop of her house late at night. There, “pen in hand, I led my own chorus of words, with a melody of my own making.” And she discovers the craft that would ultimately enable her to find her own voice and become her own person.
A wonderfully evocative story, Journey from the Land of No reveals an Iran most readers have not encountered and marks the debut of a stunning new talent.
From the Hardcover edition.
When Joshua Safran was four years old, his mother--determined to protect him from the threats of nuclear war and Ronald Reagan--took to the open road with her young son, leaving the San Francisco countercultural scene behind. Together they embarked on a journey to find a utopia they could call home. InFree Spirit, Safran tells the harrowing, yet wryly funny story of his childhood chasing this perfect life off the grid--and how they survived the imperfect one they found instead.
Encountering a cast of strange and humorous characters along the way, Joshua spends his early years living in a series of makeshift homes, including shacks, teepees, buses, and a lean-to on a stump. His colorful youth darkens, however, when his mother marries an alcoholic and abusive guerrilla/poet.
Throughout it all, Joshua yearns for a "normal" life, but when he finally reenters society through school, he finds "America" a difficult and confusing place. Years spent living in the wilderness and discussing Marxism have not prepared him for the Darwinian world of teenagers, and he finds himself bullied and beaten by classmates who don't share his mother's belief about reveling in one's differences.
Eventually, Joshua finds the strength to fight back against his tormentors, both in school and at home, and helps his mother find peace. But Free Spirit is more than just a coming-of-age story. It is also a journey of the spirit, as he reconnects with his Jewish roots; a tale of overcoming adversity; and a captivating read about a childhood unlike any other.
After he spent five years attending Chever Torah, Athol Dickson found his faith radically changed-the result being a deeper relationship with God. In beautiful and simple language, The Gospel according to Moses illustrates Dickson's journey of faith exploring some of the primary theological differences and similarities between Christianity and Judaism. He draws generously on both Old and New Testament scriptures, looking at Christian and Jewish perspectives on topics such as suffering, grace vs. works, and the place of Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures.
This guide contains a complete, authoritative account of the Jewish people - including profiles of Biblical and political leaders - and focuses on understanding the Jewish influence on American and world culture, offering insights into the Yiddish and Hebrew languages, theater, art, literature, comedy, film, television, and more.
The failure among Ashkenazic Jews to recognize Sephardim and Mizrahim as fellow Jews continues today. More often than not, these Jewish communities are simply absent from portrayals of American Jewry. Drawing on primary sources such as the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) press, archival documents, and oral histories, Sephardic Jews in America offers the first book-length academic treatment of their history in the United States, from 1654 to the present, focusing on the age of mass immigration.
“Wiesel has never allowed himself to be diverted from the role of witness for the martyred Jews and survivors of the Holocaust, and by extension for all those who through the centuries have asked Job's question: ‘What is God doing and where is His justice?’ Here in a masterful series of mythic portraits, drawing upon Bible tales and the Midrashim (a body of commentary), Wiesel explores ‘the distant and haunting figures that molded him’: Adam, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Job. With the dramatic invention of a Father Mapple and the exquisite care of a Talmudic scholar, Wiesel interprets the wellsprings of Jewish religious tradition as the many faces of man’s greatness facing the inexplicable. In an intimate relationship with God it is possible to complain, to demand. Adam and Eve in sinning “cried out” against the injustice of their entrapment; Cain assaulted God rather than his brother; and Abraham's agreement to sacrifice his son placed the burden of guilt on Him who demanded it. As for Job, Wiesel concludes that he abdicated his defiance as did the confessing Communists of Stalin’s time to ‘underline the implausibility’ of his trial, and thus become the accuser. Wiesel’s concern with the imponderables of fate seems to move from strength to strength” (Kirkus Reviews).
Whether you're interested in the religion or the spirituality, the culture or the ethnic traditions, Judaism For Dummies explores the full spectrum of Judaism, dipping into the mystical, meditative, and spiritual depth of the faith and the practice. In this warm and welcoming book, you'll find coverage ofOrthodox Jews and breakaway denominations Judaism as a daily practice The food and fabric of Judaism Jewish wedding ceremonies Celebrations and holy days 4,000 years of pain, sadness, triumph, and joy Great Jewish thinkers and historical celebrities
Jews have long spread out to the corners of the world, so there are significant Jewish communities on many continents. Judaism For Dummies offers a glimpse into the rituals, ideas, and terms that are woven into the history and everyday lives of Jewish people as near as our own neighborhoods and as far-reaching as across the world.
“Leavy has hit it out of the park…A lot more than a biography. It’s a consideration of how we create our heroes, and how this hero’s self perception distinguishes him from nearly every other great athlete in living memory… a remarkably rich portrait.” — Time
The instant New York Times bestseller about the baseball legend and famously reclusive Dodgers’ pitcher Sandy Koufax, from award-winning former Washington Post sportswriter Jane Leavy. Sandy Koufax reveals, for the first time, what drove the three-time Cy Young award winner to the pinnacle of baseball and then—just as quickly—into self-imposed exile.
Kahane and Wainer explain that the calendar is the master key to unlock the hidden rationale behind the formal structure of ancient sacred texts, as well as to understand basic mystical concepts. When comprehended within the context of the Jewish calendar, these works reveal the spiritual energy of each week, serving as a practical guide for self-analysis and development.
During this annual journey, we will learn to live with greater harmony, happiness and gratitude by learning from the Kabbalah, from age-old Jewish ethical teachings, and even from animals. The objective is to make the reader be in touch with the spiritual powers of each week, thereby improving ones daily conduct and rediscovering the universal song within each one of us: the song of the soul.
The author begins with an over-view of basic themes about the afterlife, such as the judgement of souls before the Heavenly Court, the mystical significance of the Covenant at Sinai, the process of tikkun olam (repairing the universe), and some reasons why human beings return to earth in new bodies. He then takes you on an exciting journey through many centuries of Jewish tales, where you will meet dozens of saints and sinners, animals and humans, angels and mortals–all attempting to work out their past-life karma through applying the teachings of the Torah in earthly life.
In order to make the classical stories understandable to the modern reader, each tale has been ex-panded to include clear explanations of cultural and religious details. So skillfully does Gershom weave this material into the narrative itself, that the reader scarcely notices how a gentle form of education is taking place. By the time you have finished the book, you will not only have been entertained, but will have completed an excellent introduction to Jewish spirituality as well.
Both classical and contemporary tales are included here, from sources as widely varied as kabbalistic texts, folklore anthologies, and discussions on the Internet. Of special interest are several new tales collected by the author himself, which have never before appeared in print.
In The Talmud – A Biography, Jewish scholar Harry Freedman tells the engrossing story of an ancient classic, the legal and mystical pillar of Judaism and recounts the story of a book which, in many ways, parallels the history of the Jewish people. From its origins as a record of discussions amongst scholars in towns and villages close to modern-day Baghdad, Freedman traces the spiraling paths of the Jewish diaspora and explores the story of the Talmud's early origins in Babylon, its role during the Enlightenment and its influence over traditional Judaism. A compelling fusion of law, storytelling and spirituality, the Talmud's story is a fascinating insight into the history of Judaism and Harry Freedman's The Talmud – A Biography is a remarkable account of one of the most important cultural, historical and religious works of our time.
The New Rabbi
The center of this compelling chronicle is Har Zion Temple on Philadelphia’s Main Line, which for the last seventy-five years has been one of the largest and most influential congregations in America. For thirty years Rabbi Gerald Wolpe has been its spiritual leader, a brilliant sermonizer of wide renown--but now he has announced his retirement. It is the start of a remarkable nationwide search process largely unknown to the lay world--and of much more. For at this dramatic moment Wolpe agrees to give extraordinary access to Fried, inviting him--and the reader--into the intense personal and professional life of the clergy and the complex behind-the-scenes life of a major Conservative congregation.
These riveting pages bring us a unique view of Judaism in practice: from Har Zion’s strong-willed leaders and influential families to the young bar and bat mitzvahs just beginning their Jewish lives; from the three-days-a-year synagogue goers to the hard core of devout attendees. We are touched by their times of joy and times of grief, intrigued by congregational politics, moved by the search for faith. We witness the conflicts between generations about issues of belief, observance, and the pressures of secular life. We meet Wolpe’s vigorous-minded ailing wife and his sons, one of whom has become a celebrity rabbi in Los Angeles. And we follow the author’s own moving search for meaning as he reconnects with the religion of his youth.
We also have a front-row seat at the usually clandestine process of choosing a new rabbi, as what was expected to be a simple one-year search for Rabbi Wolpe’s successor extends to two years and then three. Dozens of résumés are rejected, a parade of prospects come to interview, the chosen successor changes his mind at the last minute, and a confrontation erupts between the synagogue and the New York–based Conservative rabbis’ “union” that governs the process. As the time comes for Wolpe to depart, a venerated house of worship is being torn apart. And thrust onto the pulpit is Wolpe’s young assistant, Rabbi Jacob Herber, in his first job out of rabbinical school, facing the nearly impossible situation of taking over despite being technically ineligible for the position--and finding himself on trial with the congregation and at odds with his mentor.
Rich in anecdote and scenes of wonderful immediacy, this is a riveting book about the search for personal faith, about the tension between secular concerns and ancient tradition in affluent America, and about what Wolpe himself has called “the retail business of religion.” Stephen Fried brings all these elements to vivid life with the passion and energy of a superbly gifted storyteller.