cover image Re-forming Judaism: Moments of Disruption in Jewish Thought

Re-forming Judaism: Moments of Disruption in Jewish Thought

Edited by Stanley M. Davids and Leah Hochman. CCAR, $23.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-0-881236-09-5

Rabbi Davids (coeditor of The Fragile Dialogue) teams up with Hochman (The Ugliness of Moses Mendelssohn), an associate professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew Union College, to present a series of illuminating essays on the “disruptions” that have shaped Jewish history from biblical times to the present. Along with better-known disruptors and disruptions (Maimonides, Christianity), contributors tackle Shabbetai Zvi’s 17th-century messianism, a kabbalah-inflected movement that “managed to loosen the bonds of Jewish law and... set the stage for Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Judaism,” and 19th-century rabbi Samuel Holdheim’s vision of a non-halachic Judaism that would allow women equal religious roles and treat intermarriage respectfully. Other topics include rabbinic views of nonbinary gender, the 13th-century creation of the Zohar, and changes to liturgical music in Reform synagogues. Contributors avoid framing theological innovation as unequivocally positive or destructive, presenting it instead as a “new lens [that] can provide us with new and useful ways of acting and believing.” Hochman’s closing entry notes that the project “was born out of curiosity... about how liberal Judaism developed the way it has” and catalogues some disruptions not covered in the text, most notably the establishment of the modern state of Israel—a deficiency she hopes to remedy in future volumes. Readers interested in Jewish religious, intellectual, and social history will look forward to the follow-up. (Aug.)