Book Notes


American Jewish Life

Imagining the American Jewish Community, edited by Jack Wertheimer. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England/Brandeis University Press, 2007. 346 pp. $29.95. ISBN 1-58465-670-0.

This volume explores the multiple conceptions of community in the American Jewish imagination. Essays by leading scholars working in the fields of history, ethnography, material culture, literary criticism and Jewish thought uncover the underlying assumptions of those who continually redefined the Jewish community from colonial times to the present day. Topics include the notion of "synagogue-community" in prerevolutionary America, the role of commerce and business in nineteenth-century communal life, transnationalism and Jewish immigration, suburbanization, Jewish patriotism in wartime, sports and board games, Jewish literary classics, Jewish mothers, feminism,Yiddish schools, Jewish museums, and the communal possibilities of the internet.

Jewish "Junior League": The Rise and Demise of the Fort Worth Council of Jewish Women, by Hollace Ava Weiner. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. 188 pp. $29.95. ISBN 978-1-60344-012-7.

From its founding in 1901 through the second half of the twentieth century, the Fort Worth section of the National Council of Jewish Women fostered the integration of its members into the social and cultural fabric of the greater community. But by 1999, facing declining membership and - according to some - decreased relevance to the lives of Jewish women, the Council's national and local leaders found themselves confronting the end of the groups existence. Hollace Ava Weiner 's study reveals that the Fort Worth Council of Jewish Women was so successful that it prepared the way for its own obsolescence.

New Mexico's Crypto-Jews: Image and Memory. Cary Herz, photographs; Ori Z. Sokes and Mona Hernandez, essays. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008. 154 pp. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-8263-4289-8.

Herz's photographs and the accompanying essays honor descendants of crypto-Jews, the Sephardic Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions centuries ago. There has recently been a renewed interest in crypto-Jews, as DNA tests have revealed the Jewish heritage of a number of Hispanic New Mexicans.

What the Rabbis Said: The Public Discourse of Nineteenth-Century American Rabbis, by Naomi W Cohen. New York: New York University Press, 2008. 261pp. $45.00. ISBN 978-0-8147-1688-5.

Rabbis in nineteenth-century America spoke out, individually or in debates with other rabbis, on the primary concerns of the day - full acculturation to American society, modernization of the Jewish religious tradition, insistence on the recognized equality of a non-Christian minority, the evolution of denominationalism with the split between Traditionalism and Reform, the threat of antisemitism, the origins of American Zionism, and interreligious dialogue. The book discusses these issues and concludes with a chapter on the professionalization of the rabbinate and the legacy bequeathed to the next century.

Ancient World and Archaeology

Ancient Jewish Noveh: An Anthology from the Greco-Roman Period, edited, translated, and with an introduction by Lawrence M. Wills. New Milford, CT: Toby Press, 2007. 298 pp. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-59264-195-6.

In the Greco-Roman period there arose among the Jews a new form for retelling Bible stories and for composing new religious stories - the novel. Written around the rime of the Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament, these worldly texts reveal the ambiguities and conflicts encountered by Jews of that period. Some of the texts here are developed novels, while others are rudimentary fragments. Taken together, they contribute to our understanding of Jewish culture and classical civilization. Included are texts from the Jewish apocrypha such as Judith and Tobit, several historical novels, and selections from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. …

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