Academic journal article Shofar

Book Notes

Academic journal article Shofar

Book Notes

Article excerpt

Book Notes

American Jewish Life The Cambridge Companion to American Judaism, edited by Dana Evan Kaplan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 462 pp. $70.00 (c); $27.99 (p). ISBN 0-521-82204-1 (c); 0-521-52951-4.

This Companion provides readers with an introduction to historical and contemporary facets of Judaism in America. Written by twenty-four scholars from the fields of religious studies, history, literature, philosophy, art history, sociology, and musicology, the survey adopts an inclusive perspective on Jewish religious experience. Three initial chapters cover the development of Judaism in America from 1654, when Sephardic Jews first landed in New Amsterdam, until today.

A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York, by Tony Michels. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. 335 pp. $27.95. ISBN 0-674-01913-X.

Arguing against the view that socialism and Yiddish culture arrived as Old World holdovers, Michels demonstrates that they arose in New York in response to local conditions and thrived not despite Americanization, but because of it. New York Jews, in the beginning, exported Yiddish socialism to Russia, not the other way around. The Yiddish socialist movement shaped Jewish communities across the United States well into the twentieth century and left a political legacy that extends to the rise of neoconservatism.

The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate, edited by Ruth Cernea. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. 216 pp. $18.00. ISBN 0-226-10023-5.

Every November at the University of Chicago, the best minds in the world consider the question that ranks as one of the most enduring of human history: latke or hamantash? This great latke-hamantash debate, occurring every year for the past six decades, brings Nobel laureates, university presidents, and notable scholars together to debate whether the potato pancake or the triangular Purim pastry is in fact the worthier food. What began as an informal gathering is now an institution that has been replicated on campuses nationwide. Highly absurd yet deeply serious, the annual debate is an opportunity for both ethnic celebration and academic farce. The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate is the first collection of the best of these performances.

Haunted in the New World: Jewish American Culture from Cahan to The Goldbergs, by Donald Weber. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005. 250 pp. $29.95. ISBN 0-253-34579-0.

Drawing on scholarship in a range of disciplines, including the sociology of manners, the study of the role of foodways in the formation of ethnic identity, the psychoanalysis of shame and self-hatred, and the role of memory for those unsettled by the experience of migration, Donald Weber traces the impact of the tension between nostalgia for the world left behind and the desire to blend into American culture, as evidenced in a number of key texts in the canon of Jewish American expression.

The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photography, by Susan Chevlowe. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. 232 pp. $40.00. ISBN 0-300-10916-4.

While American Jews are commonly considered a homogenous ethnic group, the reality today is that conversion, adoption, intermarriage, and immigration have transformed the fabric of Jewish communities. This book explores questions of American Jewish identity and how Jews fit today into larger discourses of race, ethnicity, and religion. Featuring ten photographic and video projects by emerging and mid-career artists, all commissioned by the Jewish Museum, the book presents a range of provocative discussions of the nature of Jewish identity in 21st-century America.

Jews and Gentiles in Early America 1654-1800, by William Pencak. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. 321 pp. $29.95. ISBN 0-472-11454-9.

Though the first national census in 1790 counted barely 3,000 Jews, the Jewish community was nevertheless more important in the history of early America than their numbers suggest, author William Pencak argues. …

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