Fragile Branches: Travels Through the Jewish Diaspora

Overview

A Ugandan village. An island in the Amazon. A Peruvian mountain town. Throughout the world, in the unlikeliest places, isolated communities are embracing Judaism despite enormous obstacles. In this fascinating tour of six far-flung Jewish communities, James Ross creates a portrait of people who are currently risking their lives and livelihoods to exist as Jews, though in some cases they have no historical links to Judaism.
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2000 Paperback New jacket ***An EXCELLENT Brand new book at a sensible price."fascinating tour of 16 far-flung communities" New, unread, unused, & in perfect condition. Value ... for the price. We ship within 24 hours. We sell books from New to Acceptable. We take care to be accurate in our description. Most of our books were gently read and in fine condition. BNCTucsonbooks ships daily. Proceeds from the sales of books support an endowed scholarship to Brandeis University, Waltham Mass. Read more Show Less

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Overview

A Ugandan village. An island in the Amazon. A Peruvian mountain town. Throughout the world, in the unlikeliest places, isolated communities are embracing Judaism despite enormous obstacles. In this fascinating tour of six far-flung Jewish communities, James Ross creates a portrait of people who are currently risking their lives and livelihoods to exist as Jews, though in some cases they have no historical links to Judaism.
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Editorial Reviews

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Our Review
In Fragile Branches, James Ross takes us on voyages that some of us never knew were possible, to far-flung arms of the Jewish diaspora in the Amazon River basin, in Brazil, in Uganda, in northeast India, in Chile, and, most mysteriously, even in the heart of Israel itself. If the book were a mere travelogue it would be fascinating enough, but political and religious elements enliven each chapter and bring important questions to bear on the very nature of Judaism.

Each diaspora community practices rites common to all Jews, in addition to rites recorded in the Bible but unobserved by modern Jews in most places. The origins of these communities and their very claims to being part of worldwide Judaism are often hotly disputed. These are not solely religious questions. Many members of the diaspora groups use their jewish identity to claim the right to emigrate to Israel in order to escape religious and political repression in their own countries. As Ross describes most piercingly in his chapter about the Children of Manasseh, the Jews of the Indian provinces of Mizoram and Manipur, the Israeli government has a vested interest in evaluating the accuracy of these claims.

Ross cites the example of the autonomous Indian group called Mizos, who claim to be descended from one of the ten lost tribes of Israel and whose forefathers ended up as slaves in China under the harsh rule of the first Qin emperor, Qin Shihuang, in 330 B.C.E. After Emperor Qin's death, so go the ancient Mizos legends, the group dispersed all over Asia, some of them eventually coming to rest in Burma, Thailand, and India. However, as Israeli authorities sent to investigate quickly pointed out, these origins have been permanently veiled by history, and all that remains is essentially folklore. Although members of the Mizos uphold kosher laws, practice circumcision, perform a version of the Passover seder, and bury their dead in what appear to be prayer shawls, they have also, in their long history, adopted many Christian rituals -- including belief in Christ -- that missionaries pressed upon them, thereby complicating their claim to be Jewish.

The travails of the Jews of Peru, Uganda, and Brazil who claim to be the descendants of the Marranos (Spanish Jews forced to convert during the Inquisition who bravely continued to practice Judaism in secret) are no less absorbing and provocative for what they say about the plight of worldwide Jewry, about religious control in the State of Israel, and, fundamentally, about what it means to be Jewish. Especially since so many Jews are ignorant of the existence of their brothers and sisters in these far-off and often quite troubled countries, Mr. Ross's excellent book allows us to see and to ponder their fates and understand how they reflect our own.

--Edward Sien

Library Journal
Ross (Escape to Shanghai) wants people to consider who is, and what makes someone, Jewish. He raises these issues by describing several far-flung communities--located in Uganda, Peru, the Brazilian Amazon, India, and Israel--that claim to have familial or historical connections to Judaism and wish to live within the faith. Ross tells the stories of each community's central figures and writes about their desire to study Judaism to further their limited knowledge. He describes the rituals they perform, how they are treated in their country of origin, and how Israel's religious establishment does not consider them fully Jewish. This summary of people who claim a particular religious attachment and identity and put that claim to work in their lives, will work best as an introduction and is most suitable for library collections where there is interest in Jewish identity. For larger public libraries.--Naomi E. Hafter, Broward Cty. P.L., Ft. Lauderdale, FL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573221658
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

James R. Ross is the chair of the Jewish Studies program and an associate professor and acting director at the School of Journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, where he organizes an annual conference celebrating the arts of diaspora Jewish communities.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Chapter 1 The Abayudaya 15
Chapter 2 Children of Moses and Abraham 55
Chapter 3 Children of Manasseh 89
Chapter 4 Amazon Flowers 125
Chapter 5 Secret Jews 149
Chapter 6 People of the Book 181
Epilogue 213
Afterword 221
Acknowledgments 227
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