Jews, God, And Videotape

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Overview

Engaging media has been an ongoing issue for American Jews, as it has been for other religious communities in the United States, for several generations. Jews, God, and Videotape is a pioneering examination of the impact of new communications technologies and media practices on the religious life of American Jewry over the past century. Shandler's examples range from early recordings of cantorial music to Hasidic outreach on the Internet. In between he explores mid-twentieth-century ecumenical radio and television broadcasting, video documentation of life cycle rituals, museum displays and tourist practices as means for engaging the Holocaust as a moral touchstone, and the role of mass-produced material culture in Jews' responses to the American celebration of Christmas.

Shandler argues that the impact of these and other media on American Judaism is varied and extensive: they have challenged the role of clergy and transformed the nature of ritual; facilitated innovations in religious practice and scholarship, as well as efforts to maintain traditional observance and teachings; created venues for outreach, both to enhance relationships with non-Jewish neighbors and to promote greater religiosity among Jews; even redefined the notion of what might constitute a Jewish religious community or spiritual experience. As Jews, God, and Videotape demonstrates, American Jews' experiences are emblematic of how religious communities' engagements with new media have become central to defining religiosity in the modern age.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Overall, Jews, God, and Videotape is a well researched and insightful study. Shandler provides a series of convincing arguments. Rather than detracting from religious life, he argues, media can actually add complexity and texture to religious practices.”
-H-Net Reviews

,

“Shandler delivers a series of interesting essays on varied areas of American Jewish life sharing only some connection with modern media. . .His writing is clear, well-researched, and thoughtful.”
-Jewish Book World

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"All I know is that after making my way through this wide-ranging and incisive book, I will never listen to music, surf the net, send a greeting card, screen a film, watch TV, or take a photograph, let alone a trip, in quite the same way again."-American Jewish History,

“Serving as the definitive road map through the history of American Jews’ encounters with modern media. Jews, God and Videotape demonstrates that although we tend to think of media and religion as opposed to one another, media practices can enhance religious identities even as they also shape and ultimately change them.”
-Lynn Schofield Clark,author of From Angels to Aliens

“Insightful and engaging. . . . Jews, God, and Videotape details the remarkable success that Judaism has found beyond the pages of the book. There is a life for Torah and durability of its message, he shows us, outside the scroll.”
-Samuel Heilman,Harold M. Proshansky Chair of Jewish Studies, City University of New York

Publishers Weekly

The impact of the media on American Jews is the subject of this badly written work. Author Shandler, a professor of Jewish studies at Rutgers University, starts his presentation with cantors, discussing their recordings and their participation in movies and operas. He then proceeds to radio broadcasts, analyzing a program called "The Eternal Life," claiming that its rise and fall paved the way for linking broadcasting and Judaism. Other chapters are devoted to Holocaust remembrance, photographing and videotaping Jewish life-cycle events from circumcision to funerals, television programs related to the juxtaposition of Christmas and Hanukkah, and use of new media by ultra-Orthodox Jews to promote their agenda. From this potpourri of examples, Shandler concludes with the baffling assertion that the impact "of new media on a community's religious life [is] not at its extremes but somewhere in the middle." Apparently, he is asserting that the media affect Jewish religious practice, a self-evident proposition. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Shandler's insightful analysis of the impact of modern media on religious beliefs and practices primarily focuses on American Judaism since 1945. Although many American history textbooks give short shrift to religion in 20th-century America, Shandler (Jewish studies, Rutgers Univ.) demonstrates how religious institutions, such as the Jewish Theological Seminary, used radio after 1945 to broadcast religious messages, which were positively received by both Jews and gentiles. Shandler's analysis goes beyond the various Jewish denominations and provides important interfaith comparisons. Of particular interest is his explication of how film, radio, and television inform American Holocaust remembrance. Shandler is more sympathetic to TV and film coverage of the Holocaust than many other commentators who are often distraught at the redemptive message of many American productions (i.e., a happy ending to a Holocaust story). Shandler points out that redemptive messages are found in both the Exodus story and the Christian Passion narrative, while turning tragedy into triumph also reflects American optimism. That many American media outlets run Holocaust programs on the eve of Passover, therefore, is not too surprising. Recommended for all libraries.
—Frederic Krome

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814740675
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Shandler is Professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. His books include While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust, Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture, and (with J. Hoberman) Entertaining America: Jews, Movies and Broadcasting. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Author's Note ix

Introduction 1

1 Cantors on Trial 13

2 Turning on The Eternal Light 56

3 The Scar Without the Wound 95

4 Observant Jews 144

5 A Stranger among Friends 185

6 The Virtual Rebbe 230

New Media/New Jews? An Afterword 275

Notes 283

Index 323

About the Author 341

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