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The Vanishing American Jew: In Search of Jewish Identity for the Next Century

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  • Posted April 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Some Interesting New Ideas

    Although this book was written more than 20 years ago, it is still very relevant to the issues Jewish communities are facing today. In general, I think Dershowitz makes a compelling argument for the need for liberal Jews to begin educating themselves about their own heritage and for the investment of significantly greater resources into secular, thoughtful Jewish education. I think Dershowitz slightly missed the boat on two levels however. First, and this was clearly purposeful, the book is definitely off-putting to those with an Ultra-Orthodox bent. Dershowitz's opinion is that movements like Chabad are fundamentally different from other Jewish movements, and it would be difficult for liberal Jews to find common ground with the Ultra-Orthodox. At the very least, this is a difficult message to swallow, and, in my opinion, there are many Jews in both camps who would like to work together to preserve some form of Judaism in the twenty-first century. Second, Dershowitz's message is very cognitive and educational, which, while crucial, misses something of the emotional, community, connected element that is necessary for anyone to want to learn about Judaism in the first place. However, overall, this is a book worth reading for people interested in getting ideas for modern Jewish continuity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2000

    a wonderful book in every way

    As a Hispanic and a Protestant, this book was an eye opener not only in regard to the issue of Jewish assimilation, but also to the Jewish world itself and Judaism. At first the chapter on the Christian Right caught my attention. I began to read that fine chapter. Then I traveled to other parts and - before I knew it - I had read the entire book and enjoyed it a great deal. Perhaps the greatest and most moral theme of this fine work is that of cultural assimilation and the questions which it poses not only to the minority which seeks to assimilate, but also to the often imposing majority. If anything, as a Christian, Professor Dershowtitz's book has changed my view on my faith and how it relates to others. That is, I challenge the notion that it is 'Christian' to take away what is Jewish about Jews and - by whatever means - force them to assimilate. It is hardly Christian, nor is it civil or moral. Self destination is the key here. The Jewish people and their traditions are fine and should - nay must - be preserved. This only strenghthened my previous belief here. The point of reference to the Christian Right is also vital. I most readily agreed with Dershowitz's analysis of the problem. The Christian Right - while not outwardly racist or antisemetic (though it is blatantly anti-gay and prejudiced) - does pose a threat to diversity and Jewishness. This movement abhors religious liberty for minorities in regard to church/state separation, it directly contradicts the centrist view of politics by straying to the far-right and it challenges traditional notions of 'Americanism' by posing the view that there is an 'original American' (mostly protestant and right wing white Christian - yeah right). Once again, those views are not only not Christian, but immoral and lack civility. This traditional right wing resistence greatly explains Jewish regard for civil liberties. This is indeed a fine work. I challenge all persons to read

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