Judaism

The only comprehensive and up-to-date look at Reform Judaism, this book analyzes the forces currently challenging the Reform movement, now the largest Jewish denomination in the United States.

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. 

 

In the late twentieth century, fundamentalism has emerged as one of the most powerful forces at work in the world, contesting the dominance of modern secular values and threatening peace and harmony around the globe. Yet it remains incomprehensible to a large number of people. In The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong brilliantly and sympathetically shows us how and why fundamentalist groups came into existence and what they yearn to accomplish.

We see the West in the sixteenth century beginning to create an entirely new kind of civilization, which brought in its wake change in every aspect of life -- often painful and violent, even if liberating. Armstrong argues that one of the things that changed most was religion. People could no longer think about or experience the divine in the same way; they had to develop new forms of faith to fit their new circumstances.

Armstrong characterizes fundamentalism as one of these new ways of being religious that have emerged in every major faith tradition. Focusing on Protestant fundamentalism in the United States, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, and Muslim fundamentalism in Egypt and Iran, she examines the ways in which these movements, while not monolithic, have each sprung from a dread of modernity -- often in response to assault (sometimes unwitting, sometimes intentional) by the mainstream society.

Armstrong sees fundamentalist groups as complex, innovative, and modern -- rather than as throwbacks to the past -- but contends that they have failed in religious terms. Maintaining that fundamentalism often exists in symbiotic relationship with an aggressive modernity, each impelling the other on to greater excess, she suggests compassion as a way to defuse what is now an intensifying conflict.


BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.
"Displays the full range of informed, thoughtful opinion on the place of Jews in the American politics of identity."
---David A. Hollinger, Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History, University of California, Berkeley

"A fascinating anthology whose essays crystallize the most salient features of American Jewish life in the second half of the twentieth century."
---Beth S. Wenger, Katz Family Associate Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Jewish Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania

"A wonderful collection of important essays, indispensable for understanding the searing conflicts over faith, familial, and political commitments marking American Jewry's journey through the paradoxes of the post-Holocaust era."
---Michael E. Staub, Professor of English, Baruch College, CUNY, and author of Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America

"This provocative anthology offers fascinating essays on Jewish culture, politics, religion, feminism, and much more. It is a must-read for all those interested in the intersection of Jewish life and identity politics in the modern period."
---Joyce Antler, Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture, Brandeis University

"This collection of essays invites the reader to engage with some of the best writing and thinking about American Jewish life by some of the finest scholars in the field. Deborah Moore's introduction offers an important framework to understand not only the essays, but the academic and political contexts in which they are rooted."
---Riv-Ellen Prell, Professor and Chair, American Studies, University of Minnesota, and editor of Women Remaking American Judaism

This collection of essays explores changes among American Jews in their self-understanding during the last half of the 20th century. Written by scholars who grew up after World War II and the Holocaust who participated in political struggles in the 1960s and 1970s and who articulated many of the formative concepts of modern Jewish studies, this anthology provides a window into an era of social change. These men and women are among the leading scholars of Jewish history, society and culture. The volume is organized around contested themes in American Jewish life: the Holocaust and World War II, religious pluralism and authenticity, intermarriage and Jewish continuity. Thus, it offers one of the few opportunities for students to learn about these debates from participant scholars. The book includes a dozen photographs of contemporary Jewish experience in the United States by acclaimed Jewish photographer Bill Aron. Like the scholars of the essays, Aron participated in struggles within the Jewish community and the Jewish counterculture in the 1970s and 1980s. His images reflect shifting perspectives toward spirituality, community, feminism, and memory culture. The essays reflect several layers of identity politics. On one level, they interrogate the recent past of American Jews, starting with their experiences of World War II. Without the flourishing of identity politics and the white ethnic revival, many questions about American Jewish history might never have been explored. Those who adopted identity politics often saw Jews as an ethnic group in the United States, one connected both to other Americans and to Jews throughout the world and in the past. On another level, these essays express ideas nourished in universities during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s. Those years marked the expansion of Jewish studies as a field in the United States and the establishment of American Jewish studies as an area of specialization. Taken together they reveal the varied sources of American Jewish studies. Finally, one must note that in many cases these essays anticipate major books on the subject. Reading them now reveals how ideas took shape within the political pressures of the moment. These articles teach us not only about their subject but also about how issues were framed and debated during what might be called our fin de siecle, the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first. The authors of these articles include several, most notably Arthur Green, Alvin Rosenfield, and the late Egon Mayer, who collectively could be thought of as the founding fathers of this new generation of Jewish scholars. Green in theology, Rosenfield in literature, and Mayer in sociology influenced younger academics such as Arnold Eisen. A slightly different relationship exists among the historians. Several come to their subject though the study of American history, including Hasia Diner, Stephen Whitfield, and Jonathan Sarna, while others approach through the portal of Jewish history, such as Paula Hyman and Jeffrey Gurock.
Judaism isn’t a race or even a particular culture or ethnic group. There are about 13 or 14 million Jews spread around the world, including about 6 million in the United States and about 5 million in Israel – so Judaism clearly isn’t “a nation.” So what does it mean to be Jewish? Here are the basics:
  • Being Jewish (being “a Jew”) means you’re a Member of the Tribe (an M-O-T). The tribe started with a couple named Abraham and Sarah about 4,000 years ago, it grew over time, and it’s still here today. You can become part of the Jewish tribe in two ways: By being born to a Jewish mother or joining through a series of rituals (called converting).
  • Judaism is a set of beliefs, practices, and ethics based on the Torah. You can practice Judaism and not be Jewish, and you can be a Jew and not practice Judaism.

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 of

  • Orthodox 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.

The translator writes:
"The Jews' State" is over one hundred years old. The work is both catalyst and prophecy. Catalyst: Speaking both to Jews and to the international community, it virtually launched the modern debate about a modern state for Jews. Prophecy: it foretold the entire scope of this debate, its timing, its spread, its nature, its parameters. It is all there in embryo for us to read and ponder. This little book continues to inform conceptions and arguments about the position on Jews in their state and in the world, and about the relationship between Jews and their fellow human beings. In a very real sense, it still deeply guides how we view the contemporary Middle East.
Translated and retranslated countless times and into many languages since it was published, this present translation is one of only three English versions that have been attempted in the century since its first publication, the first in English in twenty-five years. Its concerns are both text and context. Though the text has been with us ever since is publication, it is the context that needs recreating. Among the factors that have created distance between us and the world in which The Jews' State was created include: The experience of the world and the Jewish community during the last century, the salience of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, the formations and development of the state of Israel, the troubled existence of the Jewish state ever since its inception, the continuing Jewish diaspora and its relationship with the state and world. The common understandings which Theodore Herzl assumed in his readers have dissipated and vanished, and with them a sense of his book's import and impact. These understandings need to be retrieved and recreated.
The present edition is therefore an attempt both at presentation and retrieval: Presentation of the text in the language of today: retrieval of the context which gave rise to it. This dual function informs the three main parts of this edition. Its first part is an account of the ideological and social worlds in which Herzl worked and wrote, the Jewish world and the mainstream world, and it argues that Herzl's interaction with both these worlds rests on some complex attitudes on his part in which approval, compliance, critique, and rejection all played a role. There follows a section on The Jews' State itself, which picks up on the main themes that occupied Herzl, and discusses their scope and treatment. This first part finishes with a description of the initial impact of The Jews' State on Herzl's world.
The second part of this edition offers a presentation of the text itself, in the form of a translation, which attempts to recreate in a modern idiom the content of the work as well as some of the peculiarities of Herzl's style. The third part of this edition consists of a critical glossary, dealing with some salient issues in translation as well as the explanation of a number of terms and allusions in the text, whose meaning is not immediately obvious to modern readers. The edition closes with a bibliography."
  • When, if ever, should lying be permitted?
  • If you've damaged a person's reputation unfairly, can the damage be undone?
  • Is a person who sells weapons responsible for how those weapons are used?
  • if the fetus is not a life, what is it? How, as an adult, can one carry out the command to honor one's parents when they make unreasonable demands?
  • What are the nine biblical challenges a good person must meet?
  • What do the great Jewish writings of the last 3,500 years tell us about these and all other vital questions about our lives? Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has devoted his life to the search for answers within the teachings of Judaism. In Jewish Wisdom, Rabbi Telushkin, the author of the highly acclaimed Jewish Literacy, weaves together a tapestry of stories from the Bible and Talmud, and the insights of Jewish commentators and writers from Maimonides, Rashi, and Hillel to Einstein, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Elie Wiesel. A richer source of crucial life lessons would be hard to imagine.

    Accompanying this extraordinary compilation is Teluslikins compelling commentary, which reveals how these texts continue to instruct and challenge Jewsand all people concerned with leading ethical livestoday As he discusses these texts, Rabbi Telushkin addresses issues of fundamental interest to modern readers: how to live with honesty and integrity in an often dishonest world; how to care for the sick and dying; how to teach children to respect both themselves

    and others, how to understand and confront such great tragedies as antisemitism. and the Holocaust; what God wants from humankind. Within Jewish Wisdom's ninety chapters the reader will find extended sections illuminating Jewish perspectives on sex, romance, and marriage, what kind of belief in God a Jew can have after the Holocaust, how to use language ethically, the conflicting views of the Bible and Talmud on the death penalty, and much, much more.

    Jewish Wisdom adds a new dimension to the many widely read contemporary books that retell the stones and reveal the essence of classic religious and secular literature. Possibly the most far-ranging volume of stories and quotations from Jewish texts, Jewish Wisdom will itself become a classic, a book that not only has the capacity to transform how you view the world, but one that well might change how you choose to live your life.

    Why does God exist? How have the three dominant monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—shaped and altered the conception of God? How have these religions influenced each other? In this stunningly intelligent book, Karen Armstrong, one of Britain's foremost commentators on religious affairs, traces the history of how men and women have perceived and experienced God, from the time of Abraham to the present. 

    The epic story begins with the Jews' gradual transformation of pagan idol worship in Babylon into true monotheism—a concept previously unknown in the world. Christianity and Islam both rose on the foundation of this revolutionary idea, but these religions refashioned 'the One God' to suit the social and political needs of their followers. From classical philosophy and medieval mysticism to the Reformation, Karen Armstrong performs the near miracle of distilling the intellectual history of monotheism into one superbly readable volume, destined to take its place as a classic.

    Praise for History of God

    “An admirable and impressive work of synthesis that will give insight and satisfaction to thousands of lay readers.”—The Washington Post Book World

    “A brilliantly lucid, spendidly readable book. [Karen] Armstrong has a dazzling ability: she can take a long and complex subject and reduce it to the fundamentals, without oversimplifying.”The Sunday Times (London)

    “Absorbing . . . A lode of learning.”Time

    “The most fascinating and learned study of the biggest wild goose chase in history—the quest for God. Karen Armstrong is a genius.”—A.N. Wilson, author of Jesus: A Life
    What if our beliefs were not what divided us, but what pulled us together?

    In Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom offers a beautifully written story of a remarkable eight-year journey between two worlds -- two men, two faiths, two communities -- that will inspire readers everywhere. Albom's first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, Have a Little Faith begins with an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from Albom's old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.

    Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he'd left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor -- a reformed drug dealer and convict -- who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.

    Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Albom observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat.

    As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Albom and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times. Although the texts, prayers, and histories are different, Albom begins to recognize a striking unity between the two worlds -- and indeed, between beliefs everywhere. In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor's wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the rabbi's last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself.

    Have a Little Faith is a book about a life's purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man's journey, but it is everyone's story.

    Ten percent of the profits from this book will go to charity, including The Hole In The Roof Foundation, which helps refurbish places of worship that aid the homeless.
    From world-renowned public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy comes an incisive and provocative look at the heart of Judaism.

    “A smart, revealing, and essential book for our times.”—The Washington Post

    For more than four decades, Bernard-Henri Lévy has been a singular figure on the world stage—one of the great moral voices of our time. Now Europe's foremost philosopher and activist confronts his spiritual roots and the religion that has always inspired and shaped him—but that he has never fully reckoned with.

    The Genius of Judaism is a breathtaking new vision and understanding of what it means to be a Jew, a vision quite different from the one we’re used to. It is rooted in the Talmudic traditions of argument and conflict, rather than biblical commandments, borne out in struggle and study, not in blind observance. At the very heart of the matter is an obligation to the other, to the dispossessed, and to the forgotten, an obligation that, as Lévy vividly recounts, he has sought to embody over decades of championing “lost causes,” from Bosnia to Africa’s forgotten wars, from Libya to the Kurdish Peshmerga’s desperate fight against the Islamic State, a battle raging as we speak. Lévy offers a fresh, surprising critique of a new and stealthy form of anti-Semitism on the rise as well as a provocative defense of Israel from the left. He reveals the overlooked Jewish roots of Western democratic ideals and confronts the current Islamist threat while intellectually dismantling it. Jews are not a “chosen people,” Lévy explains, but a “treasure” whose spirit must continue to inform moral thinking and courage today.

    Lévy’s most passionate book, and in many ways his most personal, The Genius of Judaism is a great, profound, and hypnotic intellectual reckoning—indeed a call to arms—by one of the keenest and most insightful writers in the world.

    Praise for The Genius of Judaism

    “In The Genius of Judaism, Lévy elaborates on his credo by rebutting the pernicious and false logic behind current anti-Semitism and defends Israel as the world’s most successful multi-ethnic democracy created from scratch. Lévy also makes the case for France’s Jews being integral to the establishment of the French nation, the French language, and French literature. And last, but certainly not least, he presents a striking interpretation of the Book of Jonah. . . . A tour de force.”Forbes

    “Ardent . . . Lévy’s message is essentially uplifting: that the brilliant scholars of Judaism, the authors of the Talmud, provide elucidation into ‘the great questions that have stirred humanity since the dawn of time.’ . . . A philosophical celebration of Judaism.”Kirkus Reviews

    “Lévy (Left in Dark Times), a prominent French journalist and politically engaged philosopher, turns his observations inward here, pondering the teachings of Judaism and the role they have played in contemporary European history as well as in his own life and intellectual inquiry. . . . [Lévy’s] musings on the meaning of the story of Jonah and the relevance of symbolic Ninevahs in our time are both original and poetic. . . . A welcome addition to his oeuvre.”Publishers Weekly
    Rabbi Joseph Telushkin combed the Bible, the Talmud, and the whole spectrum of Judaism's sacred writings to give us a manual on how to lead a decent, kind, and honest life in a morally complicated world.

    "An absolutely superb book: the most practical, most comprehensive guide to Jewish values I know." —Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

    Telushkin speaks to the major ethical issues of our time, issues that have, of course, been around since the beginning. He offers one or two pages a day of pithy, wise, and easily accessible teachings designed to be put into immediate practice. The range of the book is as broad as life itself:

    • The first trait to seek in a spouse (Day 17)
    • When, if ever, lying is permitted (Days 71-73)
    • Why acting cheerfully is a requirement, not a choice (Day 39)
    • What children don't owe their parents (Day 128)
    • Whether Jews should donate their organs (Day 290)
    • An effective but expensive technique for curbing your anger (Day 156)
    • How to raise truthful children (Day 298)
    • What purchases are always forbidden (Day 3)

    In addition, Telushkin raises issues with ethical implications that may surprise you, such as the need to tip those whom you don't see (Day 109), the right thing to do when you hear an ambulance siren (Day 1), and why wasting time is a sin (Day 15). Whether he is telling us what Jewish tradition has to say about insider trading or about the relationship between employers and employees, he provides fresh inspiration and clear guidance for every day of our lives.
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