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ARE WE ONE?: A Jewish Identity in the United States and Israel

Jerold S. Auerbach, Author . Rutgers Univ. $26 (264p) ISBN 978-0-8135-2917-2

After spending a sabbatical year in Israel, Wellesley College historian Auerbach (Rabbis and Lawyers), once a "comfortably assimilated Diaspora Jew," became smitten by the country and newly engaged in classic questions of identity: was he an American Jew, or a Jewish American? What emerges here is not the intriguing memoir Auerbach surely has in him. Rather, he castigates mainstream Jewry in both Israel and the United States for being "adrift on a sea of relativism and revisionism," unmoored from history and belief. Writing to provoke, he accuses both communities of "a vapid Jewish variant of secular liberalism, rampant consumerism, and freedom of choice." He closes the book with a portentous portrait of Israel in 2023, in which Judaism is vestigial, Jerusalem's Old City is internationalized and neutered, and the former country of Israel has merged into "Palisdan" with Palestine and Jordan. In making his points, Auerbach engages texts rather than experiences; he draws on a wide range of thinkers, including Zionist theorist Theodor Herzl, Louis Brandeis, American liberals like author Thomas Friedman and secular Israeli author Amos Oz. Some of Auerbach's readings will be questioned; many will argue, for example, that the Israeli revisionist historians he criticizes for "sap[ping] Zionist legitimacy" have had a more salutary effect. Still, this angry book should spark debate. (June)

Forecast:Though this book is likely to be compared to Yoram Hazony's The Struggle for the Jewish Soul, Auerbach is not as prominent as Hazony, a think tank director and an aide to Israel's former Prime Minister, Netanyahu. Expect some coverage in the Jewish press and modest sales.

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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Hardcover - 260 pages - 978-0-8135-3253-0
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