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Approximately thirteen million people around the world define themselves as Jews, with the majority residing in the United States and Israel. This collection portrays the diversity of Jewish experience as it is practiced and lived in contemporary societies. The book's attention to material culture offers a much-needed addition to more traditional views advanced in the study of Judaism.
Through ethnographic and autobiographical perspectives, the essays provide an appreciation of Judaism in daily activities, from domestic food preparation to worshipping; Jewish attachment to the cultures of specific communities, be they in Russia or Morocco; the impact of the Holocaust; the place of the State of Israel in Jewish life; and the role of women. Harvey E. Goldberg, a leading scholar in the anthropology of Judaism, provides an introduction to each chapter that demonstrates the links among the various themes.
Ease of communication and travel has resulted in frequent contact--and at times, conflict--between Jews of similar and diverging backgrounds around the world. Visiting distinctive Jewish spaces has become a way of cultivating specific identities and senses of a Jewish past. As ritual, prayers, and attitudes toward authority undergo new constructions and interpretation, Judaism of "the book" also takes on new forms. These essays go a long way in helping us understand a contemporary and multifaceted Judaism, along with its history and texts.
Chapter 1 The Ethos of an Eastern European Community
Chapter 2 Preparing for Passover in North Africa
Chapter 3 Religious Roles of Elderly Women
Susan Starr Sered
Chapter 4 Synagogue Life among American Reform Jews
Frida Kerner Furman
Chapter 5 Orthodoxy in an American Synagogue
Samuel C. Heilman
Chapter 6 Worship in the Havura Movement
Chapter 7 Turning to Orthodox Judaism
Chapter 8 Tradition and Innovation in the Marriage Ceremony
Chapter 9 A Bat Mitzvah among Russian Jews in America
Chapter 10 Books as a Path to Jewish Identity
Chapter 11 Memory and the Holocaust: Two Perspectives
Ismar Schorsch and Jackie Feldman
Chapter 12 Meanings of the Western Wall
Danielle Storper Perez and Harvey E. Goldberg
Chapter 13 A Moroccan Jewish Shrine in Israel
Chapter 14 Religion, Study, and Contemporary Politics
Chapter 15 Ethiopian Jewry and New Self-Concepts
Sources of the Selections
b>Harvey E. Goldberg is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Jewish Life in Muslim Libya (1990) and editor of Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries (1996).
"An outstanding, and much-needed authoritative interpretation of the many threads of Judaism. Goldberg interweaves its many workings in a way that makes us rethink the meanings of the diversity and interconnectedness of a living religion."—Richard Hecht, author of To Rule Jerusalem
"A potent and authoritative anthology which unravels the many threads of a living Judaism. Here we have a work that tells us how Jews really live. Goldberg has done a splendid job with this text, and he continues to lead the way towards an invigorated anthropology of Judaism."—Jack Kugelmass, author of The Miracle of Intervale Avenue
"The life of Judaism, we learn in this fine collection, is even more diverse than we might have expected, its varieties shaping one another in surprising ways at multiple points of intersection. Goldberg has focused attention on what Jews do rather than on what they believe, and the kaleidoscope of Jewish doings makes for fascinating reading."—Arnold Eisen, author of Rethinking Modern Judaism: Ritual, Commandment, Community