A thoughtful but short-sighted study of a precariously splintered
American Jewry. Wertheimer (Unwelcome Strangers, 1987) uses his
background history professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary
(Conservative) to offer more than sociological insights in reading
several generations' worth of statistics on American Jewish
patterns of religious practice and identification. Nonetheless,
with his study anchored in the 40's and 50's - boom years for the
Conservative movement - there's a strong tilt toward his own
denomination. Wertheimer too often positions the Conservative
movement as true "American Judaism," and, by not drawing the longer
shadows of Reform and Orthodox Judaism, he fails to credit the
Reform for initiating a Judaism for nonpracticing American Jews.
Moreover, instead of wondering whether "Orthodoxy can be viewed as
a coherent and united movement," he should have made the point that
traditional Judaism is unchanged since the days of the Pharisees.
To survive suburbanization, the Conservatives in 1950 decided to
allow driving to synagogue on the Sabbath - forfeiting any fealty
to biblical law. Wertheimer doesn't mark this milestone as the
philosophical demise of the movement, although, to his credit, he
concedes that Conservative Judaism is "caught in a cross fire...and
hard pressed to justify its centrism." He shows the Conservative
sun as setting and the inclusiveness of the Reform and
Reconstructionists as instrumental in slowing rampant loss from
intermarriage and assimilation. But for all of Wertheimer's
statistics and trend-watching, the high birth and emigration rates
of the Orthodox are ignored. The author is at his strongest when
comparing the rises and falls of Jewish to Christian denominations,
and when discussing how the various movements reacted to the sexual
revolution, the women's movement, and the era of personal,
nontraditional spiritual searching that began in the late 60's.
Extensive notes and bibliography add to the value of this study for
the student of religion, but it lacks the punchy thesis needed for
more popular appeal. (Kirkus Reviews)
This brilliant analysis of American Judaism in the last half of the
20th century won the 1993-94 National Jewish Book Award for the
best book on contemporary Jewry and also was named an Outstanding
Book of 1993 by Choice. Jack Wertheimer examines how fundamental
changes in American society have affected Jewish religious and
communal life, paying special attention to contradictions and
schisms that threaten the integrity of American Jewish practices
and beliefs. A People Divided remains an essential primer for
anyone interested in the ongoing debate about what constitutes
Jewishness and who is a Jew.
Is the information for this product incomplete, wrong or inappropriate?
Let us know about it.
Does this product have an incorrect or missing image?
Send us a new image.
Is this product missing categories?
Add more categories.
Review This Product
No reviews yet - be the first to create one!