The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today

Jack Wertheimer. Princeton Univ., $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-691-18129-5
Wertheimer (A People Divided), a history professor at Jewish Theological Seminary, offers a comprehensive, balanced survey of the state of American Judaisms. His analysis puts trends in the broader context of early-21st-century skepticism about the value of religious participation. As with other religions in the U.S., Judaism has “suffered declining numbers of adherents and flagging observance,” but Wertheimer uses his years of study of the issue—which include interviews with about 200 rabbis and scholars—to probe whether it’s more significant that fewer Jews attend services, or that those who do are more engaged. His emphasis on “the lives on ordinary Jews in their local communities rather than the preoccupations of the elites at a far geographic remove” enables him to illuminate the gap between what is preached and what is practiced, as with Orthodox congregations whose members’ adherence to dietary restrictions is less stringent than their rabbis believe. Wertheimer reviews the pros and cons of the current approaches of the major Jewish denominations, as well as the innovative services and means of observance that have sprung up outside those formal organizations. This is an essential volume for anyone interested in modern religion in general, and the future of the Jewish people in particular. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2018
Release date: 08/01/2018
Ebook - 978-0-691-18414-2
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