Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal

Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal

by Dana Evan Kaplan
     
 

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No longer controlled by a handful of institutional leaders based in remote headquarters and rabbinical seminaries, American Judaism is being transformed by the spiritual decisions of tens of thousands of Jews living in all corners of the United States. A pulpit rabbi and himself an American Jew, Dana Evan Kaplan follows this religious individualism from its postwar

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Overview

No longer controlled by a handful of institutional leaders based in remote headquarters and rabbinical seminaries, American Judaism is being transformed by the spiritual decisions of tens of thousands of Jews living in all corners of the United States. A pulpit rabbi and himself an American Jew, Dana Evan Kaplan follows this religious individualism from its postwar suburban roots to the hippie revolution of the 1960s and the multiple postmodern identities of today.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A Reform rabbi in Albany, Ga., Kaplan has edited a collection of essays on American Judaism and written three books on Reform Judaism. His newest contribution focuses on American Judaism since the end of WWII, emphasizing recent innovations in the religion of the Jewish people. The first chapter provides a broad overview of both religious and historical developments, including the impact of the Holocaust and Israel. Changes in religious identity are sketched. The next seven chapters flesh out the fundamentals identified in the introductory chapter. Kaplan discusses spirituality, Jewish denominationalism, intermarriage, feminism, Jewish Renewal, mysticism and synagogue revitalization. He concludes by emphasizing the need to transform Judaism, implying that a more orderly structure is needed but not necessarily achievable. He fails to mention the value of ferment and debate as guarantors of survival, an odd omission given his insightful description of radical changes in American Judaism. (July)

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Forward

[Kaplan] skillfully portrays the wide variety of untraditional, often idiosyncratic ways of 'doing Jewish.

Jerusalem Post Magazine
A keen observer of the faith of his people in the U.S., Kaplan does not hesitate to underline the fact that 'the American environment has impacted Judaism.'

— David Geffen

Jewish Review of Books

Kaplan is clearly breaking new ground and writing a new narrative for twenty-first-century American Judaism.

Wilson Quarterly

Kaplan's gallery of American-inflected Jewish innovators is entertaining and... illuminating.

Zeek

Kaplan's book is exhaustive in detail and broad in scope, touching on the fundamental challenges to contemporary Judaism in America from intermarriage, conversion, and the end of religious denominations to questions of ethnicity, spirituality, Israel, and the Holocaust.

Nathan Glazer

There is no better guide to the remarkable changes in American Jewish religion.

Chaim I. Waxman

A tour de force that covers every important development in each of the branches of American Judaism, and Kaplan does it with a deep sensitivity to the issues involved.

Yaakov Ariel

Contemporary American Judaism is a pioneering and exciting study. Dana Evan Kaplan should be highly commended for facing boldly and honestly the new realities of American Jewish life.

Harvey Cox

Spread around the world, interacting with diverse centers of communications, politics, and culture, the Jewish community is changing quickly and often in bewildering ways. But Judaism also remains a bellwether for what may be expected in other faiths as well. Dana Evan Kaplan has his finger on these changes and writes about them fairly and eloquently. You don't have to be Jewish to savor this book and learn from it.

Jerusalem Post Magazine - David Geffen

A keen observer of the faith of his people in the U.S., Kaplan does not hesitate to underline the fact that 'the American environment has impacted Judaism.'

Choice

Kaplan's book is an excellent starting point for anyone seeking to understand the current state of American Judaism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231510417
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
446
File size:
11 MB
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