cover image To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People

To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People

Noah Feldman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $32 (416p) ISBN 978-0-374-29834-0

Harvard law professor Feldman (The Broken Constitution) delivers a sweeping overview of Jewish ideas “as they exist today, and as they are being transformed for the future.” Eschewing the traditional classifications of Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc.) in favor of categories that better reflect “how God and spiritual morality are conceived internally,” Feldman breaks down what he defines as Traditionalists, Progressives, Evolutionists, and Godless Jews. He examines the benefits and drawbacks of each group (Traditionalists, for example, live in highly supportive communities that are rife with sexism and gender hierarchies), and their views on issues related to God, Jewish life, and Israel. Rather than anointing one group as the future of Judaism, he advances an inclusive notion of all Jews as members of a family that finds in God and one another “love and embrace along with contention.” The same holds true even for “godless Jews and cultural Jews,” who in their nonbelief are “struggling with God too, whether they like it or not.” Feldman’s methodical analysis takes little for granted—not even the value of Jewish survival in and of itself (“We should hope to preserve Jewishness only if doing so reflects our deepest values,” he writes). This will be a welcome resource for readers curious about Judaism’s past, future, and purpose. (Mar.)