Jews in the Center: Conservative Synagogues and Their Members

Overview

Why do well-educated, highly Americanized, and financially secure Jews join a synagogue and participate in its religious life? This study of Conservative Jews examines the largest movement of synagogue-affiliated Jews in the United States, a group that outnumbers the combined membership of Reform and Orthodox congregations and a population that adheres to a centrist version of Judaism. The scholars who contribute to this study ask a series of provocative questions: How do these Jews negotiate the tensions between...

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Overview

Why do well-educated, highly Americanized, and financially secure Jews join a synagogue and participate in its religious life? This study of Conservative Jews examines the largest movement of synagogue-affiliated Jews in the United States, a group that outnumbers the combined membership of Reform and Orthodox congregations and a population that adheres to a centrist version of Judaism. The scholars who contribute to this study ask a series of provocative questions: How do these Jews negotiate the tensions between the traditional values of their religion and modern sensibilities? What meaning do they find in synagogue participation? How crucial are rabbis in the "success" of congregations?

Written by a team of scholars employing the tools of demography, ethnography, sociology, history, and comparative religious studies, Jews in the Center offers the most comprehensive view of any religious movement within American Judaism----and indeed, one of the most detailed studies of any denomination in American religious life.

Jews in the Center seeks to understand how synagogues function as congregations and to what extent they allow for individual self-expression. By focusing on a mainstream population, this book sheds light on religious people who generally receive the least attention----the broad center who neither retreat from society nor blur all boundaries between their religion and modern American culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Why do some solidly second- and third-generation American Jews join Conservative Jewish congregations, even as others assimilate and intermarry? Wertheimer (American Jewish history, Jewish Theological Seminary of America; A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America) has brought together a distinguished team of scholars to examine this question from the various perspectives provided by demography, ethnography, sociology, history, and comparative religious studies. This study provides insight into the mainstream of contemporary American Jewish religious life, showing why people choose to be Conservative Jews, how they become involved in congregational life, and how this involvement helps them maintain a balance between the uniqueness of Jewish religious life and the demands of contemporary American culture. Essential for all sociology and religion collections.--Olga B. Wise, Compaq Computer Corp., Austin Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Addressing provocative questions on synagogue participation and modern values, eight contributors discuss the findings of the North American Study of Conservative Synagogues and Their Members, 1995-96, within the landscape of American religion. The study is based on new research and a reanalysis of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey. Wertheimer teaches American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813532066
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The American Jewish community is preoccupied with its own 'continuity,' its ability to imbue the coming generation with a strong commitment to Jewishness, as well as transmit the skills and knowledge necessary to live as Jews. There is a growing recognition that synagogues are critical in this process of religious formation and indeed the construction of a Jewish identity. Synagogues provide a Jewish education for the majority of young people and they are the setting for the rites of passage, especially of the bar and bat mitzvah, for the preponderant majority of young Jews. If we wish to gauge the future direction of American Jewish life, we would do well to take the measure of congregations.
— from the Introduction to Jews in the Center.
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