Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society
Publication Year: 2013
How do American Jews identify as both Jewish and American? American Post-Judaism argues that Zionism and the Holocaust, two anchors of contempoary American Jewish identity, will no longer be centers of identity formation for future generations of American Jews. Shaul Magid articulates a new, post-ethnic American Jewishness. He discusses pragmatism and spirituality, monotheism and post-monotheism, Jesus, Jewish law, sainthood and self-realization, and the meaning of the Holocaust for those who have never known survivors. Magid presents Jewish Renewal as a movement that takes this radical cultural transition seriously in its strivings for a new era in Jewish thought and practice.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Religion in North America
Shaul Magid’s new book is groundbreaking. Building on David Hollinger’s concept of a “postethnic” America, Magid turns the postethnic lens on American Judaism to reveal an emergent form of the received tradition that represents a new interpretive turn. In Magid’s reading, Judaism is becoming postethnic, and that is a very good...
This book was written over a period of about six years. There were many people along the way who helped, some of whom I will regrettably forget to mention. To begin, I want to thank Jo Ellen Kaiser, who first asked me to write an essay on Jewish Renewal for Tikkun magazine in 2006. After she received my overly long submission...
American Jews or Jewish Americans? American Judaism or Judaism in America? What is at stake in the placement of the adjective, or in the hyphenated or non-hyphenated appellation? Is it simply a hierarchical question of identity: American or Jewish? Both, of course, but they are not identical nor are they prima facie equal. One...
1. Be the Jew you Make: Jews, Jewishness, and Judaism in Postethnic America
The trajectory of the twentieth century has taken America from a theory of the melting pot focused on the erasure of distinct immigrant identities to a resurgence of cultural specificity in Horace Kallen’s cultural pluralism, multiculturalism, and identity politics. Jews have been active participants in all of these cultural shifts, both...
2. Ethnicity, America, and the Future of the Jews: Felix Adler, Mordecai Kaplan, and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
In the previous chapter I examined what I take to be the emerging postethnic nature of contemporary American society and explored how this development has posed distinct challenges to American Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness in this century. Of course, the question of Jewishness and ethnicity is not a contemporary issue but has been part...
3. Pragmatism and Piety: The American Spiritual and Philosophical Roots of Jewish Renewal
Arguably the only indigenous American Jewish metaphysics of the early twentieth century belongs to Mordecai Kaplan and the Reconstructionist Judaism he founded based largely on the philosophy of John Dewey and Emile Durkheim. Most other forms of American Judaism were transplanted from Europe and constitute...
4. Postmonotheism, Renewal, and a New American Judaism
In the previous chapter I began to discuss what I consider to be a major metaphysical and theological innovation in contemporary America Jewish spirituality I called “post-monotheism.” Here I offer a more in-depth analysis of that innovation that I claim is the metaphysical basis of post-Judaism. The influence of the Jewish mystical tradition...
5. Hasidism, Mithnagdism, and Contemporary American Judaism: Talmudism, (Neo) Kabbala, and (Post) Halakha
As important as theology is to any theistic or post-theistic religion, Judaism included, the Judaism that was constructed by the rabbis after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE was a religion founded primarily on law, also known as halakha. The commandments (mitzvot) of the Hebrew Bible took on a legal framework in the Mishna...
6. From the Historical Jesus to a New Jewish Christology: Rethinking Jesus in Contemporary American Judaism
Contemporary Jews in America do not seem very interested in Jesus. Few rabbis today sermonize about Jesus from the pulpit and there are few courses about Jesus (or Christianity) in formal or informal Jewish education. Contemporary scholar of the New Testament Amy-Jill Levine correctly notes in passing, “If on the popular level we Jews...
7. Sainthood, Selfhood, and the Ba’al Teshuva: ArtScroll’s American Hero and Jewish Renewal’s Functional Saint
This chapter explores a social dimension of Jewish Renewal in the form of spiritual leadership. Thus far I have not directly engaged American Orthodoxy, an important branch of American Judaism that has experienced a revival in the postwar years continuing into the period under discussion.1 I have also not explored the sharp differences between Israeli...
8. Rethinking the Holocaust after Post-Holocaust Theology: Uniqueness, Exceptionalism, and the Renewal of American Judaism
There are few things in contemporary American Judaism that are as significant, and as confusing, as the Holocaust. By the “Holocaust” I do not only mean the historical event that took place in Europe from 1939–1945 that resulted in the genocide of six million Jews and untold millions of others.1 Rather, I mean the cataclysmic phenomenon...
Epilogue. Shlomo Carlebach: An Itinerant Preacher for a Post-Judaism Age
It seems odd to write a book about contemporary American Judaism focusing on Jewish Renewal without having discussed the impact of Shlomo Carlebach (1925–1994). While he wrote almost nothing, was not an active participant in the many debates about Jewish identity discussed in this book, and did not formally weigh in on...
The challenge of writing a conclusion to this book is that in some way it is largely dealing with something that hasn’t happened yet. It is about the (trans) morphing of the “Americanization” of Judaism that is very much in progress, a process that I argue is more than the normative adaptation of current norms in tension with...