The Jewish Cultural Tapestry: International Jewish Folk Traditions

The Jewish Cultural Tapestry: International Jewish Folk Traditions

The Jewish Cultural Tapestry: International Jewish Folk Traditions

The Jewish Cultural Tapestry: International Jewish Folk Traditions

Synopsis

Here, in one compact volume, is an illuminating survey of Jewish folkways on five continents. Filled with fascinating facts and keen insights, The Jewish Cultural Tapestry is a richly woven fabric that vividly captures the diversity of Jewish life. All Jews are bound together by the common thread of the Torah and the Talmud, notes author Steven Lowenstein, but this thread takes on a different coloration in different parts of the world, as Jewish tradition and local non-Jewish customs intertwine. Lowenstein describes these widely varying regional Jewish cultures with needlepoint accuracy, highlighting the often surprising similarities between Jewish and non-Jewish local traditions, and revealing why Jewish customs vary as much as they do from region to region. We visit the great Ashkenazic and Sephardic cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean; the unique Jewish cultures of Iraq, Persia, Ethiopia and Yemen; the little-known cultures of the Bukharian Jews of Central Asia, the Cochin Jews of India, and the Kaifeng Jews of China. We read about regional religious practices, wedding ceremonies and marriage customs; different traditions of Jewish music and Jewish dress; and the origins of Jewish names. Lowenstein also surveys Jewish cuisine around the world, offering easy-to-prepare traditional recipes, ranging from kugel and blintzes to Malawach from Yemen, T'beet from Iraq, Mina de Cordero from Turkey, and Passover Soup from Uzbekistan. From Europe to India, Israel to America, The Jewish Cultural Tapestry offers an engaging overview of the customs and folkways of a people united by tradition, yet scattered to the far corners of the earth. Packaged in an attractive large format, this beautifully illustrated volume would be a meaningful gift for the holidays.

Excerpt

Working on this book has been a departure both from my own usual scholarly pursuits and from previous approaches to this subject. My own writing up to now has been focused on the close analysis of the process of modernization of German Jewry. It has dealt with carefully delimited topics and been addressed mainly to an audience of scholars and specialists. This volume, on the other hand, is a study of a very wide field—Jewish folk tradition—covering the entire world settled by Jews before the nineteenth century and all of Jewish history; it is addressed to the educated lay reader. There was no way for anyone to know all the subjects I cover in the detail that a scholarly specialist would know. Yet I felt that a general overview of the entire subject was the only way to achieve my goals. I wanted to present the overall structure of Jewish culture, to compare and contrast Jewish folk traditions in various parts of the world, seeking similarities and differences among them. I was looking for patterns that applied widely rather than details of a single narrow aspect. Only a comparative study of a large number of regions and a large number of aspects of folk life would enable me to discover the overall patterns I sought to describe.

This book makes no claims to represent the latest in scholarship on the Jews of Yemen or India or China. It is written for the general reader who, I hope, shares my interest in a broad, general overview. in most cases I have not undertaken original research in the many fields covered by this book (the exceptions are in . . .

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