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Jews, God, and Videotape: Religion and Media in America
     

Jews, God, and Videotape: Religion and Media in America

by Jeffrey Shandler
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

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.)

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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

From the Publisher
“In Jews, God, and Videotape, Shandler provides a fresh and fascinating account of the impact of technology on the religious life of American Jews during the last one hundred years.”

-Philadelphia Inquirer

“In this richly detailed study, Shandler examines the complex and multivalent relations between Judaism and media in the US . . . Highly recommended.”

-Choice

“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

“[An] insightful analysis of the impact of modern media on religious beliefs and practices.”
-Library Journal

"The message that this richly theorized, well-researched, and crisply written book delivers to historians is that communication, no less than politics and economy, society and culture, can and should become a major venue of historical research."-Menahem Blondheim,The Journal of American History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814740873
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
04/01/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
File size:
3 MB

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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