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Beyond Yiddishkeit

The Struggle for Jewish Identity in a Reform Synagogue

Frida K. Furman

Publication Year: 1987

“Beyond Yiddishkeit deals in an intelligent and perceptive way with the issue of Jewish identity in an affluent and highly educated suburban community. Particularly significant is that it relies upon participant observation, as well as ethnographic interview techniques and data, on the part of the author. In this way, the work constitutes the first major study of this type conducted within the liberal Jewish American community. As such, it is a “pioneering” work. Equally impressive is the author’s command of the sociological literature on issues of identity and her ability to apply it to the data gathered in this study. She makes sociological jargon intelligible and presents an easily-read and well-constructed book. Her ability throughout the work to focus on issues of modernity is insightful and brilliant. I found myself racing through the book and, indeed, read it in one sitting. This really is an unparalleled work in this field.” — David Ellenson, Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Anthropology and Judaic Studies (discontinued)

Front Matter

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank the people of Temple Shalom - members, clergy, and staff - for making this study possible. Beyond that, however, I want to thank them for their hospitality, warmth, and generosity. I learned much from Temple Shalom, not only about how a synagogue structures Jewish meaning for its members, but also how its inhabitants ...

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pp. 1-8

Concern with personal identity has become a preoccupation in contemporary America. Whereas in the past the question of self-definition was thought to belong to the province of adolescence, today the quest for identity spans the life cycle. This question not only raises philosophical, existential concerns, but it addresses also the perceived ...

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1. The Transformation of Jewish Identity

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pp. 9-26

Travelers from a different time and place might have a difficult time, on first blush, recognizing members of Temple Shalom as Jews. This would be the case should their perspectives be those of the Middle Ages, eighteenth-century Europe, or even contemporary Chassidic communities in New York City. They would see people who, though ...

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2. Temple Shalom Setting and Reform Context

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pp. 27-40

While driving from the valley to the sea, the driver can easily spot a building hugging the land adjacent to the freeway. Temple Shalom is shaped to resemble the ancient Hebrews' tent of meeting in the Sinai wilderness. It is an impressive yet simple, stark concrete structure surrounded by neatly maintained shrubbery and a lush green hillside. ...

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3. Ideology and Identity

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pp. 41-64

Groups express their beliefs, values, and attitudes in a variety of ways. A community's ideology - as these elements together might be called - serves to define social meanings for its members.1 It presents a world view - a particular reading of reality - and calls for the embrace of certain values. In doing so, an ideology serves to cultivate group ...

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4. Ritual and Identity

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pp. 65-96

One of the contributions of secularization to modern society has been the devaluation of ritual. Moderns have generally experienced a loss of ritual awareness and, in fact, generally assume that ritual is useless (Sullivan 1975, 10).1 Undoubtedly, this assumption reflects the rationalistic and perhaps unimaginative mentality of moderns, that is, the ...

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pp. 97-118

"Community" is a rather imprecise term, insofar as it is used in various ways by different writers. Some use it as a synonym for society, social organization, or social system. Others employ it to denote biological or sociocultural concepts, such as an ethnic group or culture. Yet others stress subjective criteria, such as identification (Sjoberg 1964, 114-15). ...

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6. Conclusions: The Sacralization of Identity

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pp. 119-134

Modernity places all kinds of stresses on personal and collective identity. Rapid social change, physical mobility, pluralism, relativism, and secularism conspire against the stability of people's identity. Traditionally, religion played a central role in fixing personal and group identity, since "stability, continuity and coherence [were] provided ...


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pp. 135-140


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pp. 141-142


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pp. 143-154


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pp. 155-157

E-ISBN-13: 9781438403502
E-ISBN-10: 143840350X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780887065132
Print-ISBN-10: 0887065139

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 1987

Series Title: SUNY series in Anthropology and Judaic Studies (discontinued)