The Way into the Varieties of Jewishness

Sylvia Barack Fishman, Author . Jewish Lights $24.99 (262p) ISBN 978-1-58023-030-8

Anyone who's befuddled by the differences among Jewish communities will appreciate this marvelous primer by Brandeis University professor Fishman. Before turning to the many expressions of Judaism found in America, she devotes the first two chapters to a useful summary of the history of Judaism in the ancient world and in Europe. Then she examines contemporary Judaism's three main branches—Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. Here she explores many fascinating trends, ranging from the rise of feminism in Modern Orthodox Judaism to the tensions between more and less observant Conservative Jews. Fishman also discusses Reconstructionist, Renewal and secular Judaism, and she spends an entire chapter on converts to Judaism ("Jews by choice"). Today's Jewish communities face challenges. Reform Judaism, for example, must balance some members' growing interest in traditional practices with the resistance of other congregants. Conservative Judaism struggles with self-definition and loses some members to Reform and Orthodox communities. But all in all, Fishman finds contemporary American Judaism having a renaissance, with more Jews of all stripes availing themselves of top-notch adult education and taking advantage of the constant publication of Jewish literature and scholarship. This is an excellent introduction to the diversity of Jewish life. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 262 pages - 978-1-58023-367-5
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