A People Divided / Edition 1

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This brilliant analysis of American Judaism in the last half of the 20th century won the 1993-94 National Jewish Book Award for the best book on contemporary Jewry and also was named an Outstanding Book of 1993 by Choice. Jack Wertheimer examines how fundamental changes in American society have affected Jewish religious and communal life, paying special attention to contradictions and schisms that threaten the integrity of American Jewish practices and beliefs. A People Divided remains an essential primer for anyone interested in the ongoing debate about what constitutes Jewishness and who is a Jew.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An easy-to-read yet comprehensive guide showing how profound changes in American society have gradually polarized Jewish religious and communal life during the second half of the 20th century." —Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
American Jewry has become increasingly polarized, asserts Wertheimer. In his estimation, current dynamic programs for religious revival are the creations of a vocal, passionately involved minority, while for the vast majority of American Jews, religion plays a minimal role. In this searching inquiry, the author, a history professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, looks at various innovations, from the Havurah movement, which has stressed gender equality, prayer services and intimate communal experiences, to Jewish feminism and reconstructivist congregations. Nor are the more established sectors exempt from change. At the same time that Wertheimer ( Unwelcome Strangers ) finds an eclectic openness to traditional teachings in Reform Judaism, he also notes a shift to the right among the Orthodox and deep splits in a Conservative community. This is a tough-minded corrective to more optimistic recent surveys. (Aug.)
Studies American Jews as a religious group, rather than an ethnic group, discussing the history, philosophy, and vital statistics of each of the major branches--Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist; the conflicts among rival groups; patterns of religious behavior and how they correlate with broader trends in American life; and such issues as rampant intermarriage and declining rates of affiliation among younger Jews. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

JACK WERTHEIMER is Professor of History at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, author of Unwelcome Strangers: East European Jews in Imperial Germany (1987), and editor of The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed (UPNE/Brandeis, 1995).

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Postwar Judaism: An Era of Stability, a Decade of Conflict
1 Expansion and Respectability at Midcentury 3
2 The Turbulent Sixties 18
Pt. II Popular Religion: Apathy and Renewal
3 The Drift toward Religious Minimalism 43
4 Expressions of Popular Religious Revival 66
Pt. III The Fragmenting World of Organized Judaism
5 Reform: Change in Both Directions 95
6 Orthodoxy: Triumphalism on the Right 114
7 Conservative Judaism and the Challenge of Centrism 137
8 The Reconstruction of Kaplanian Reconstructionism 160
9 Religious Movements in Collision: A Jewish Culture War? 170
Conclusion: Judaism within the Landscape of American Religion 185
Notes 197
Bibliography of Selected Secondary Works 247
Glossary 255
Index 259
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