Sectors of American Judaism: Reform, Orthodoxy, Conservatism, and Reconstructionism

By Jacob Neusner | Go to book overview

Part VIII
TOWARD THE FUTURE

FOREWORD

We cannot close other than at the point at which we began. At the outset we asked about the relationship between the masses of American Jews and the religious institutions, leaders, and movements of American Judaism. But, turning toward the detail of these institutions and the traits of those leaders and movements, we have obscured the fact that organized religion, however fundamental, does not tell the whole story of religion, all the more so of religiosity. Indeed, while we have carefully distinguished, time and again, between the masses and the elite, we have to consider the possibility that the entire phenomenon of organized Judaism in America, synagogues, schools, and movements, is the work and the concern primarily of the elite. Even those "masses" who do join synagogues scarcely outnumber the people who do not join synagogues, and certainly the minority of synagogue members who participate in a substantial way in synagogue programs do form part of the religious elite, along with the rabbis, Seminarians, and lay leaders of the synagogue-movements. Clearly, we cannot now take up the question of the religiosity of the masses of American Jews. That requires a separate set of questions and quite different sorts of evidence from those amassed here.

-303-

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