Judaism in Americaby Marc Lee Raphael
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Jews have been a religious and cultural presence in America since the colonial era, and the community of Jews in the United States todaysome six million peoplecontinues to make a significant contribution to the American religious landscape. Emphasizing developments in American Judaism in the last quarter century among active participants in Jewish worship, this book provides both a look back into the 350-year history of Judaic life and a well-crafted portrait of a multifaceted tradition today. Combining extensive research into synagogue archival records and secondary sources as well as interviews and observations of worship services at more than a hundred Jewish congregations across the country, Raphael’s study distinguishes itself as both a history of the Judaic tradition and a witness to the vitality and variety of contemporary American Judaic life. Beginning with a chapter on beliefs, festivals, and life-cycle events, both traditional and non-traditional, and an explanation of the enormous variation in practice, Raphael then explores Jewish history in America, from the arrival of the first Jews to the present, highlighting the emergence and development of the four branches: Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform. After documenting the considerable variety among the branches, the book addresses issues of some controversy, notably spirituality, conversion, homosexuality, Jewish education, synagogue architecture, and the relationship to Israel. Raphael turns next to a discussion of eight American Jews whose thoughts and/or activities made a huge impact on American Judaism. The final chapter focuses on the return to tradition in every branch of Judaism and examines prospects for the future.
Raphael makes an enlightening contribution to the history, development, and future of Judaism... A most pleasurable read. Recommended.
George R. Wilkes
Shira Kohn Levy
This is an excellent addition to all collections because it provides a focused overview of American Jewish life today.
What People are Saying About This
Crossing the country, the eminent historian Marc Lee Raphael visited synagogues, large and small, to map American Judaism on the cusp of the twenty-first century. Raphael cites official stances but, far more importantly, he has uncovered those at the grassroots--rabbis and the women and men he met in their synagogues reflecting upon their worship and its place in their lives. Raphael has written the guide to contemporary American Judaism, indispensable reading for all interested in American religion.
Pamela Nadell, professor of History and Director of Jewish Studies, American University
This is a clearly written and imaginatively conceived study that ranges over rabbinic thought, theology, sociology, history and religion, to present an insightful and informative portrait of Judaism in the United States. The book is a must read for anyone interested in the belief and practices of American Jews.
Robert Rockaway, Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Raphael has created the freshest and most readable portrait that we have of the contemporary American-Jewish religious scene. With a masterful comand of the most diverse historical sources he has crafted a lens for examining the variegated responses of the four major branches of American Judaism to the challenges of post-modernity.
Moses Rischin, Department of History, San Francisco State University
Raphael is an historian who can evoke the vibrancy of the current religious moment, [and] who appreciates both the residual power and the adaptive resources of American Judaism, and a writer who wonderfully conveys the variousness and the surprises of his subject. Judaism in America merits the attention not only of his co-religionists but of anyone intrigued by the heterogeneity and the resilience of faith in the United States.
Stephen J. Whitfield, Max Richter Chair in American Civilization, Brandeis University
Meet the Author
Marc Lee Raphael is the Nathan and Sophia Professor of Judaic Studies, professor of religious studies, and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of several books on Jews and Judaism in America, including Abba Hillel Silver: A Profile in American Judaism.
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