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Vol. 61 (2008-2009) through current issue
Conservative Judaism, sponsored by the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Theological Seminary, publishes articles which express a serious, critical inquiry of Jewish texts and traditions, legacy, and law; further the quest for a Conservative Jewish theology and ideology; and explore today's changing Jewish community. Its perspective is worldwide and transcends denominational boundaries.
Dilemmas and Opportunities
Illustrates how the American Conservative Movement in Judaism can continue to prosper amidst ideological and institutional challenges. Viewing the Conservative Movement at a turning point, this book analyzes the problems facing the religious movement with the largest synagogue membership in the American Jewish community and outlines a plan of action for the future. Elazar and Geffen suggest: clarifying ideology, mission, and purpose, finding the right balance between traditionalists and advocates of change, unifying movement institutions in a cooperative effort, staunching the decline of membership to the left, recapturing the loyalty of lapsed adherents, closing the gap in observance between the laity and the standard bearers of the movement, developing the Movement in Israel and world-wide, and strengthening ties with Jewish federations and other Jewish communal bodies. The authors propose that the Conservative Movement’s remedying of these problems will benefit not just American, but all world Jewry.
The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief
For most of us, mourning is something to be endured. We are often merely passive spectators of our own pain, and we see our grief period as a grim mountain that we must climb over. But Maurice Lamm tells us it can be much more. Bereavement, he says, can often be an enriching experience, even as it is a sorrowful and often tragic one. Our faith in a higher power can move us to not only live through the present but also to stride into the future with renewed energy and a revitalized outlook on life. In this, his sequel to the best-selling The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning (over 350,000 copies sold), Rabbi Lamm helps mourners not just get through their grief, but also grow through it. He gently steers mourners on the path that allows their sorrow to teach them important lessons about life. And he shows consolers how to listen and speak with their hearts so that they can provide real comfort to others. His marvelous insights on the days of shiva, the year of kaddish, and the lovingkindness of others reveal the richness and true purpose of Jewish mourning rituals and customs. They prepare us to receive consolation and ready us for the journey that will take us beyond grief. His "Words for a Loss When at a Loss for Words" is a treasury of readings for finding and giving comfort by transforming the spiritual ideas of an ancient faith into contemporary language. Here there are stories and fables that illuminate our complicated lives, meditations from the depths of human experience, and a gallery of unforgettable images that speak to our souls during times of loss. Rabbi Lamm's words will help all who walk the path of grief to find their way to consolation--and then beyond, to an appreciation of the blessings and opportunities that present themselves to us when we confront loss. And they can even take us further, to discover the celebrated Jewish art--of wringing blessing out of tragedy.
a gender-sensitive adaptation of the JPS translation
This adaptation of the JPS translation of the Torah (1962) will appeal to readers who are interested in a historically based picture of social gender roles in the Bible as well as those who have become accustomed to gender-sensitive English in other aspects of their lives. Many contemporary Bible scholars contend that the Bible's original audience understood that the references to God as male simply reflected gendered social roles at the time. However, evidence for this implicit assumption is ambiguous. Accordingly, in preparing this new edition, the editors sought language that was more sensitive to gender nuances, to reflect more accurately the perceptions of the original Bible readers. In places where the ancient audience probably would not have construed gender as pertinent to the text's plain sense, the editors changed words into gender-neutral terms; where gender was probably understood to be at stake, they left the text as originally translated, or even introduced gendered language where none existed before. They made these changes regardless of whether words referred to God, angels, or human beings. For example, the phrase originally translated in the 1962 JPS Torah as "every man as he pleases" has been rendered here "each of us as we please" (Deut. 12:8). Similarly, "man and beast" now reads "human and beast" (Exod. 8:14), since the Hebrew word adam is meant to refer to all human beings, not only to males. Conversely, the phrase "the persons enrolled" has been changed to "the men enrolled" (Num. 26:7), to reflect the fact that only men were counted in census-taking at this time. In most cases, references to God are rendered in gender neutral language. A special case in point: the unpro-nounceable four-letter name for the Divine, the Tetragammaton, is written in unvocalized Hebrew, conveying to the reader that the Name is something totally "other"-- beyond our speech and understanding. Readers can choose to substitute for this unpronounceable Name any of the numerous divine names offered by Jewish tradition, as generations have before our time. In some instances, however, male imagery depicting God is preserved because it reflects ancient society's view of gender roles. David Stein's preface provides an explanation of the methodology used, and a table delineates typical ways that God language is handled, with sample verses. Occasional notes applied to the Bible text explain how gender is treated; longer supplementary notes at the end of the volume comment on special topics related to this edition. In preparing this work, the editors undertook a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the Torah's gender ascriptions. The result is a carefully rendered alternative to the traditional JPS translation. The single most innovative aspect of the gender-sensitive translation offered in The Contemporary Torah is its treatment of the Hebrew word 'ish as a term of affiliation more than of gender. Scholars seeking a fuller explanation of that treatment are invited to read David E.S. Stein's articles in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures (2008) and in Hebrew Studies (2008).
Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and Jewish Political Life in Germany, 1843–1933
In Contested Rituals, Robin Judd shows that circumcision and kosher butchering became focal points of political struggle among the German state, its municipal governments, Jews, and Gentiles. In 1843, some German-Jewish fathers refused to circumcise their sons, prompting their Jewish communities to reconsider their standards for membership. Nearly a century later, in 1933, another blood ritual, kosher butchering, served as a political and cultural touchstone when the Nazis built upon a decades-old controversy concerning the practice and prohibited it.
In describing these events and related controversies that raged during the intervening years, Judd explores the nature and escalation of the ritual debates as they transcended the boundaries of the local Jewish community to include non-Jews who sought to protect, restrict, or prohibit these rites. Judd argues that the ritual debates grew out of broad shifts in German politics: the competition between local and regional authority following unification, the possibility of government intervention in private affairs, the place of religious difference in the modern age, and the relationship of the German state to its religious and ethnic minorities, including Catholics. Anti-Semitism was only one factor driving the debates and it often functioned in unexpected ways. Judd gives us a new understanding of the formation of German political systems, the importance of religious practices to Jewish political leadership, the interaction of Jews with the German government, and the reaction of Germans of all faiths to political change.
Maimonides and the Outsider
James Diamond's new book consists of a series of studies addressing Moses Maimonides' (1138–1204) appropriation of marginal figures—lepers, converts, heretics, and others—normally considered on the fringes of society and religion. Each chapter focuses on a type or character that, in Maimonides' hands, becomes a metaphor for a larger, more substantive theological and philosophical issue. Diamond offers a close reading of key texts, such as the Guide of the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah, demonstrating the importance of integrating Maimonides' legal and philosophical writings. Converts, Heretics, and Lepers fills an important void in Jewish studies by focusing on matters of exegesis and hermeneutics as well as philosophical concerns. Diamond's alternative reading of central topics in Maimonides suggests that literary appreciation is a key to deciphering Maimonides’ writings in particular and Jewish exegetical texts in general.
Women and the Synagogue (A Survey of History, Halakhah, and Contemporary Realities)
Daughters of the King explores women's involvement in and around the synagogue from its antecedents in the bibical period to contemporary times. The contributors to the book, including Susan Grossman, Rivka Haut, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Judith Hauptman, Paula Hyman, and others, represent an interdisciplinary approach to the subject, drawing from history, anthropology, sociology, women's studies, Jewish law, the Bible, and rabbinic thought.
"Yetzer Hara" and the Problem of Evil in Late Antiquity
In Demonic Desires, Ishay Rosen-Zvi examines the concept of yetzer hara, or evil inclination, and its evolution in biblical and rabbinic literature. Contrary to existing scholarship, which reads the term under the rubric of destructive sexual desire, Rosen-Zvi contends that in late antiquity the yetzer represents a general tendency toward evil. Rather than the lower bodily part of a human, the rabbinic yetzer is a wicked, sophisticated inciter, attempting to snare humans to sin. The rabbinic yetzer should therefore not be read in the tradition of the Hellenistic quest for control over the lower parts of the psyche, writes Rosen-Zvi, but rather in the tradition of ancient Jewish and Christian demonology.
Rosen-Zvi conducts a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the some one hundred and fifty appearances of the evil yetzer in classical rabbinic literature to explore the biblical and postbiblical search for the sources of human sinfulness. By examining the yetzer within a specific demonological tradition, Demonic Desires places the yetzer discourse in the larger context of a move toward psychologization in late antiquity, in which evil—and even demons—became internalized within the human psyche. The book discusses various manifestations of this move in patristic and monastic material, from Clement and Origin to Antony, Athanasius, and Evagrius. It concludes with a consideration of the broader implications of the yetzer discourse in rabbinic anthropology.