Jewish Polity and American Civil Society: Communal Agencies and Religious Movements in the American Public Sphere / Edition 1

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Jewish Polity and American Civil Society is a study of the civic and political engagements of American Jews as mediated by their communal and denominational institutions. The book explores how the various branches of the organized Jewish community seek to influence public affairs. Over the course of the last century, Jewish agencies and religious movements have tried to shape public debate and public policy on such issues as civil rights, church-state relations, and American foreign policy. The book sets the history of Jewish engagement in these areas into historical context; analyzes the motives, strategies, and tactics of various Jewish groups, and evaluates their successes and failures. The book also explores the underlying idea—the public philosophy—that informs American Jews' understanding of civic and political engagement.

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Editorial Reviews

Steven M. Cohen
This anthology is the most comprehensive treatment to date of the participation of the organized American Jewish community in the American public square. Covering both the major communal and religious groups, this collection of insightful articles by the leading experts in their fields is both well integrated and masterfully written. It is a must-read for anyone concerned with organized American Jewry today—indeed, for anyone interested in the interaction of American religious and ethnic groups with the larger society.
David Allen
There is no better description of the organization and behavior of the American Jewish community in the public square. This is must-reading for those interested in American Jews as well as those concerned with religion in public life. The book is outstanding.
John F. Wilson
Jewish Polity and American Civil Society is an extremely timely review of historic Jewish community agencies as well as of the social policies practiced by the major 'denominations' of Jewish observance. The essays make evident how fully the Jewish people have adopted American ways while still insisting on distinctive goals and particular objectives. This volume is a signal contribution to the growing literature on religion and civil society, and a valuable resource concerning the several strands of Jewish tradition in U.S. history.
The Weekly Standard
Both books [Jewish Polity and American Civil Society and Jews and the American Public Square both edited by Alan Mittelman, Jonathan D. Sarna, and Robert Licht] furnish the reader with a great deal of useful information about Jews in America, while the essays included in the books are characterized by competence and earnestness throughout.
First Things
Both books [Jewish Polity and American Civil Society and Jews and the American Public Square both edited by Alan Mittelman, Jonathan D. Sarna, and Robert Licht] will be of interest to students of American Judaism.
American Jewish History
This is an extraordinary anthology. This volume is a significant achievement. The editors and authors are owed a debt of gratitude by community leaders, scholars, and students.
Suggesting that religious groups are the "most vital voluntary associations in American civil society," Mittleman (religion, Muhlenberg College), Sarna (American Jewish history, Brandeis U.), and Licht (political thought, U. of Chicago) present ten essays examining the organizational histories of different Jewish religious and advocacy associations and discussing their engagement with civil politics. The activities and impacts of the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation League are explored, as are efforts by a number of groups to promote aid and sympathy for the state of Israel. Also discussed are the role of state and local Jewish agencies as providers of Welfare services and the institutional characteristics of the ultra-Orthodox and the Jewish Renewal movements. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742521223
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Mittleman is head and associate professor in the Department of Religion at Muhlenberg College and the author of The Scepter Shall Not Depart from Judah: Perspectives on the Persistence of the Political in Judaism. Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University. He is author, editor, or coeditor of many books, including Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience (with David Dalin) and Women and American Judaism: Historical Perspectives (with Pamela S. Nadell). Robert Licht is the editor of six books on the U.S. Constitution and is a lecturer in political thought at the University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: The Jewish Political Tradition and the English-Speaking World Part 2 Communal Agencies Chapter 3 "Defenders": National Jewish Community Relations Agencies Chapter 4 Local Community Relations Councils and Their National Body Chapter 5 History of Israel Advocacy Chapter 6 The Jewish Social Welfare Lobby in the United States Part 7 Religious Movements Chapter 8 The Conservative Movement and the Public Square Chapter 9 Reform Judaism, Minority Rights, and the Separation of Church and State Chapter 10 Mainstream Orthodoxy and the American Public Square Chapter 11 Haredim and the Public Square: The Nature of the Social Contract Chapter 12 Reconstructionism and the Public Square: A Multicultural Approach to Judaism in America Chapter 13 Jewish Renewal Chapter 14 Afterword

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