Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry / Edition 1

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In this first in-depth portrait of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel today, Samuel Heilman introduces a community that to many may seem to be the very embodiment of the Jewish past. To outsiders who stumble upon these neighborhoods and find bearded men in caftans, children with earlocks, and women in long dresses, black kerchiefs and stockings, it may appear that these people still hold fast to every tradition while turning their backs to the contemporary world. But rather than being a relic from the past, ultra-Orthodox Jews, or haredim, are very much part of the contemporary landscape and are playing an increasingly prominent role in the Jewish world and in Israeli politics. Defenders of the Faith takes us inside the world of this contemporary fundamentalist community, its lifestyle and mores, including education, religious practices and beliefs, sexual ethics, and marriage. Heilman explores the reasons why this group is more militant and extreme than its pre-Holocaust brethren, and provides insight into the worldview of this small but influential sector of modern Jewry.

The acclaimed author of The Gate Behind the Wall, ethnographer Samuel Heilman, takes readers on a journey into the black-and-white world of ultra-Orthodox Jewry. "Insightful, sensitive, illuminating, and full of surprises . . . Gripping reading for anyone interested in Jewish life or contemporary Israel."--Irving Greenberg.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For several months, the author, an American sociology professor and a modern Orthodox Jew, mingled with and studied the ``Haredim'' or Tremblers, the ultra-Orthodox fundamentalist Jews of the Mea Shearim Quarter in Jerusalem. This is his perceptive, penetrating account of these ultra-religious people, mainly of Eastern European provenance, who regard themselves as the only authentic practitioners of ``true'' Judaism. Haredi theology, religiosity and prayer, lifestyle, social and sexual mores, and their antipathies to anything that smacks of the ``outside'' secular world are fascinatingly explored through Heilman's intimate contacts with several groups and sects. Heilman, albeit an outsider, presents a moving, sympathetic account of this closed community which exerts considerable subtle and not-so-subtle influences on secular Israeli society. Free of sociological jargon and accessibly written, this book is highly recommended for all Judaica collections.-- Robert A. Silver, Shaker Heights P.L., Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520221123
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 1/11/2000
  • Edition description: First Edition, With a New Afterword
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 421
  • Sales rank: 522,248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Samuel Heilman holds the Harold M. Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies and Sociology at Queens College, City University of New York. He is the author of Synagogue Life (1976), The Gate Behind the Wall (1984), A Walker in Jerusalem (1986), Cosmopolitans and Parochials (1989), The People of the Book (1993), and Portrait of American Jews (1995).

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Table of Contents

1 Mikveh: Taking the Plunge 3
2 Who Are the Haredim? 11
3 Community 40
4 A Bar Mitzvah in Belz 47
5 Binding Ties 70
6 At the Rebbe's Table 83
7 This Is Who We Are 94
8 Purim: This Is Who We Are Not 108
9 Mass Pilgrimage 117
10 Third Meal 140
11 Education 168
12 A School for Little Haredim 178
13 Primary School 213
14 Where Are We? 226
15 The Yeshiva: Mussar Shmues 236
16 The Yeshiva: Shiur and Chavruse 255
17 Rosh Yeshiva 260
18 Passages: Matchmaking, Betrothal, and Wedding 277
19 Passages: Funeral 291
20 Passing Signs: The Writing on the Wall 300
21 The Triumph of Sex 313
22 Scribal Apotheosis 351
Epilogue: Ethnographic Afterwords 360
Notes 365
Index 385
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