Winner, 2013 Sami Rohr Choice Award for Jewish Literature
When non-Orthodox Jews become frum (religious), they encounter much more than dietary laws and Sabbath prohibitions. They find themselves in the midst of a whole new culture, involving matchmakers, homemade gefilte fish, and Yiddish-influenced grammar. Becoming Frum explains how these newcomers learn Orthodox language and culture through their interactions with community veterans and other newcomers. Some take on as much as they can as quickly as they can, going beyond the norms of those raised in the community. Others maintain aspects of their pre-Orthodox selves, yielding unique combinations, like Matisyahu’s reggae music or Hebrew words and sing-song intonation used with American slang, as in “mamish (really) keepin’ it real.”
Sarah Bunin Benor brings insight into the phenomenon of adopting a new identity based on ethnographic and sociolinguistic research among men and women in an American Orthodox community. Her analysis is applicable to other situations of adult language socialization, such as students learning medical jargon or Canadians moving to Australia. Becoming Frum offers a scholarly and accessible look at the linguistic and cultural process of “becoming.”
Those who exit a religion—particularly one they were born and raised in—often find themselves at sea in their efforts to transition to life beyond their community. In Degrees of Separation, Schneur Zalman Newfield, who went through this process himself, interviews seventy-four Lubavitch and Satmar ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews who left their communities.He presents their motivations for leaving as well as how they make sense of their experiences and their processes of exiting, detailing their attitudes and opinions regarding their religious upbringing. Newfield also examines how these exiters forge new ways of being that their upbringing had not prepared them for, while also considering what these particular individuals lose and retain in the exit process.
Degrees of Separation presents a comprehensive portrait of the prolonged state of being “in-between” that characterizes transition out of a totalizing worldview. What Newfield discovers is that exiters experience both a sense of independence and a persistent connection; they are not completely dislocated from their roots once they “arrive” at their new destination. Moreover, Degrees of Separation shows that this process of transitioning identity has implications beyond religion.
This is a new edition of a classic and highly controversial book that examines the history and consequences of Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. Fully updated, with new chapters and a new introduction by Norton Mezvinsky, it is essential reading for anyone who wants a full understanding of the way religious extremism has affected the political development of the modern Israeli state.
Acclaimed writer and human rights campaigner Israel Shahak was, up util his death in 2001, one of the most respected of Israel’s peace activists – he was, in the words of Gore Vidal, ‘the latest – if not the last – of the great prophets.’ Written by Shahak together with American scholar Norton Mezvinsky, this books shows how Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, as shown in the activities of religious settlers, is of great political importance.
The authors trace the history and development of Jewish fundamentalism. They place the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in the context of what they see as a tradition of punishments and killings of those Jews perceived to be heretics. They conclude that Jewish fundamentalism is essentially hostile to democracy.
Israel Shahak was a remarkable man. Born in the Warsaw ghetto and a survivor of Belsen, Shahak arrived in Israel in 1945. Brought up under Jewish Orthodoxy and Hebrew culture, he consistently opposed the expansion of the borders of Israel from 1967.
In this extraordinary and highly acclaimed book, Shahak embarks on a provocative study of the extent to which the secular state of Israel has been shaped by religious orthodoxies of an invidious and potentially lethal nature. Drawing on the Talmud and rabbinical laws, Shahak argues that the roots of Jewish chauvinism and religious fanaticism must be understood before it is too late.
Written from a humanitarian viewpoint by a Jewish scholar, this is a rare and highly controversial criticism of Israel that will both excite and disturb readers worldwide.
The story of modern Orthodox Judaism is usually told only from the perspective of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Ellenson’s work, a thorough examination of the life and work of one of Hirsch’s contemporaries, Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer, reveals another important contributor to the creation of a modern Jewish Orthodoxy during the late 1800s. like Hirsch, Hildesheirmer felt the need to continue certain traditions while at the same time introducing certain innovations to meet the demands of a modern society. This original study of an Orthodox rabbinic leader shows how Hildesheirmer’s flexible and pragmatic approach to these problems continues to be relevant to modern Judaism. The way in which this book draws upon response literature for its comprehension of Hildesheimer makes it a distinctive work in modern Jewish historiography and sociology.
Debra Kaufman writes about ba'alot teshuva women who have returned to Orthodox Judaism, a form of Judaism often assumed to be oppressive to women. She addresses many of the most challenging issues of family, feminism, and gender. Why, she asks, have these women chosen an Orthodox lifestyle? What attracts young, relatively affluent, well-educated, and highly assimilated women to the most traditional, right-wing, patriarchal, and fundamentalist branch of Judaism? The answers she discovers lead her beyond an analysis of religious renewal to those issues all women and men confront in public and private life.
Kaufman interviewed and observed 150 ba'alot teshuva. She uses their own stories, in their own words, to show us how they make sense of the choices they have made. Lamenting their past pursuit of individual freedom over social responsibility, they speak of searching for shared meaning and order, and finding it in orthodoxy.
The laws and customs of Orthodox Judaism have been formulated by men, and it is men who enforce those laws and control the Orthodox community. The leadership is dominated by men. But the women do not experience theologically-imposed subordination as we might expect. Although most ba'alot teshuva reject feminism or what they perceive as feminism, they maintain a gender consciousness that incorporates aspects of feminist ideology, and often use feminist rhetoric to explain their lives.
Kaufman does not idealize the ba'alot teshuva world. Their culture does not accommodate the non-Orthodox, the homosexual, the unmarried, the divorced. Nor do the women have the mechanisms or political power to reject what is still oppressive to them. They must live within the authority of a rabbinic tradition and social structure set by males. Like other religious right women, their choices reinforce authoritarian trends current in today's society. Rachel's Daughters provides a fascinating picture of how newly orthodox women perceive their role in society as more liberating than oppressive.
For millennia, two biblical verses have been understood to condemn sex between men as an act so abhorrent that it is punishable by death. Traditionally Orthodox Jews, believing the scripture to be the word of God, have rejected homosexuality in accordance with this interpretation. In 1999, Rabbi Steven Greenberg challenged this tradition when he became the first Orthodox rabbi ever to openly declare his homosexuality.
Wrestling with God and Men is the product of Rabbi Greenberg’s ten-year struggle to reconcile his two warring identities. In this compelling and groundbreaking work, Greenberg challenges long held assumptions of scriptural interpretation and religious identity as he marks a path that is both responsible to human realities and deeply committed to God and Torah. Employing traditional rabbinic resources, Greenberg presents readers with surprising biblical interpretations of the creation story, the love of David and Jonathan, the destruction of Sodom, and the condemning verses of Leviticus. But Greenberg goes beyond the question of whether homosexuality is biblically acceptable to ask how such relationships can be sacred. In so doing, he draws on a wide array of nonscriptural texts to introduce readers to occasions of same-sex love in Talmudic narratives, medieval Jewish poetry and prose, and traditional Jewish case law literature. Ultimately, Greenberg argues that Orthodox communities must open up debate, dialogue, and discussion—precisely the foundation upon which Jewish law rests—to truly deal with the issue of homosexual love.
This book will appeal not only to members of the Orthodox faith but to all religious people struggling to resolve their belief in the scriptures with a desire to make their communities more open and accepting to gay and lesbian members.
2005 Finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards, for Religion/Spirituality
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