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Beyond Chrismukkah

The Christian-Jewish Interfaith Family in the United States

Samira K. Mehta

The rate of interfaith marriage in the United States has risen so radically since the sixties that it is difficult to recall how taboo the practice once was. How is this development understood and regarded by Americans generally, and what does it tell us about the nation's religious life? Drawing on ethnographic and historical sources, Samira K. Mehta provides a fascinating analysis of wives, husbands, children, and their extended families in interfaith homes; religious leaders; and the social and cultural milieu surrounding mixed marriages among Jews, Catholics, and Protestants.

Mehta's eye-opening look at the portrayal of interfaith families across American culture since the mid-twentieth century ranges from popular TV shows, holiday cards, and humorous guides to "Chrismukkah" to children's books, young adult fiction, and religious and secular advice manuals. Mehta argues that the emergence of multiculturalism helped generate new terms by which interfaith families felt empowered to shape their lived religious practices in ways and degrees previously unknown. They began to intertwine their religious identities without compromising their social standing. This rich portrait of families living diverse religions together at home advances the understanding of how religion functions in American society today.

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Beyond Religious Borders

Interaction and Intellectual Exchange in the Medieval Islamic World

Edited by David M. Freidenreich and Miriam Goldstein

"This volume on various aspects of Judeo-Arabic civilization in its most productive age is a book for our time. In viewing Jewish culture as a constituent part of a large 'Islamicate' society, the contributors to this collection share a view of the way cultures interact that is far more sophisticated than the borrower-lender model that obtained a generation ago. The scholarship is of the highest level. Any new synthesis of the subject that is to emerge from the work of the present generation of scholars will depend on studies such as those here assembled."--Raymond P. Scheindlin, Jewish Theological Seminary The medieval Islamic world comprised a wide variety of religions. While individuals and communities in this world identified themselves with particular faiths, boundaries between these groups were vague and in some cases nonexistent. Rather than simply borrowing or lending customs, goods, and notions to one another, the peoples of the Mediterranean region interacted within a common culture. Beyond Religious Borders presents sophisticated and often revolutionary studies of the ways Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers drew ideas and inspiration from outside the bounds of their own religious communities. Each essay in this collection covers a key aspect of interreligious relationships in Mediterranean lands during the first six centuries of Islam. These studies focus on the cultural context of exchange, the impact of exchange, and the factors motivating exchange between adherents of different religions. Essays address the influence of the shared Arabic language on the transfer of knowledge, reconsider the restrictions imposed by Muslim rulers on Christian and Jewish subjects, and demonstrate the need to consider both Jewish and Muslim works in the study of Andalusian philosophy. Case studies on the impact of exchange examine specific literary, religious, and philosophical concepts that crossed religious borders. In each case, elements native to one religious group and originally foreign to another became fully at home in both. The volume concludes by considering why certain ideas crossed religious lines while others did not, and how specific figures involved in such processes understood their own roles in the transfer of ideas. David M. Freidenreich teaches Jewish studies at Colby College. Miriam Goldstein is Lecturer in the Department of Arabic Language and Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Beyond Sacred Violence

A Comparative Study of Sacrifice

Kathryn McClymond

For many Westerners, the term sacrifice is associated with ancient, often primitive ritual practices. It suggests the death—frequently violent, often bloody—of an animal victim, usually with the aim of atoning for human guilt. Sacrifice is a serious ritual, culminating in a dramatic event. The reality of religious sacrificial acts across the globe and throughout history is, however, more expansive and inclusive. In Beyond Sacred Violence, Kathryn McClymond argues that the modern Western world’s reductive understanding of sacrifice simplifies an enormously broad and dynamic cluster of religious activities. Drawing on a comparative study of Vedic and Jewish sacrificial practices, she demonstrates not only that sacrifice has no single, essential, identifying characteristic but also that the elements most frequently attributed to such acts—death and violence—are not universal. McClymond reveals that the world of religious sacrifice varies greatly, including grain-based offerings, precious liquids, and complex interdependent activities. Engagingly argued and written, Beyond Sacred Violence significantly extends our understanding of religious sacrifice and serves as a timely reminder that the field of religious studies is largely framed by Christianity.

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Beyond Sectarianism

The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism

Ferziger, Adam S.

In 1965 social scientist Charles S. Liebman published a study that boldly declared the vitality of American Jewish Orthodoxy and went on to guide scholarly investigations of the group for the next four decades. As American Orthodoxy continues to grow in geographical, institutional, and political strength, author Adam S. Ferziger argues in Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism that one of Liebman’s principal definitions needs to be updated. While Liebman proposed that the “committed Orthodox” —observant rather than nominally affiliated—could be divided into two main streams: “church,” or Modern Orthodoxy, and “sectarian,” or Haredi Orthodoxy, Ferziger traces a narrowing of the gap between them and ultimately a realignment of American Orthodox Judaism. Ferziger shows that significant elements within Haredi Orthodoxy have abandoned certain strict and seemingly uncontested norms. He begins by offering fresh insight into the division between the American sectarian Orthodox and Modern Orthodox streams that developed in the early twentieth century and highlights New York’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun as a pioneering Modern Orthodox synagogue. Ferziger also considers the nuances of American Orthodoxy as reflected in Soviet Jewish activism during the 1960s and early 1970s and educational trips to Poland taken by American Orthodox young adults studying in Israel, and explores the responses of prominent rabbinical authorities to Orthodox feminism and its call for expanded public religious roles for women. Considerable discussion is dedicated to the emergence of outreach to nonobservant Jews as a central priority for Haredi Orthodoxy and how this focus outside its core population reflects fundamental changes. In this context, Ferziger presents evidence for the growing influence of Chabad Hasidism – what he terms the “Chabadization of American Orthodoxy.” Recent studies, including the 2013 Pew Survey of U.S. Jewry, demonstrate that an active and strongly connected American Orthodox Jewish population is poised to grow in the coming decades. Jewish studies scholars and readers interested in history, sociology, and religion will appreciate Ferziger’s reappraisal of this important group.

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The Bible's Many Voices

Michael Carasik

The most common English translations of the Bible often sound like a single, somewhat archaic voice. In fact, the Bible is made up of many separate books composed by multiple writers in a wide range of styles and perspectives. It is, as Michael Carasik demonstrates, not a remote text reserved for churches and synagogues but rather a human document full of history, poetry, politics, theology, and spirituality.
 
Using historic, linguistic, anthropological, and theological sources, Carasik helps us distinguish between the Jewish Bible’s voices—the mythic, the historical, the prophetic, the theological, and the legal. By articulating the differences among these voices, he shows us not just their messages and meanings but also what mattered to the authors. In these contrasts we encounter the Bible anew, as a living work whose many voices tell us about the world out of which the Bible grew—and the world that it created.

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Blacks in the Jewish Mind

A Crisis of Liberalism

Seth Forman

Since the 1960s the relationship between Blacks and Jews has been a contentious one. While others have attempted to explain or repair the break-up of the Jewish alliance on civil rights, Seth Forman here sets out to determine what Jewish thinking on the subject of Black Americans reveals about Jewish identity in the U.S. Why did American Jews get involved in Black causes in the first place? What did they have to gain from it? And what does that tell us about American Jews?

In an extremely provocative analysis, Forman argues that the commitment of American Jews to liberalism, and their historic definition of themselves as victims, has caused them to behave in ways that were defined as good for Blacks, but which in essence were contrary to Jewish interests. They have not been able to dissociate their needs--religious, spiritual, communal, political--from those of African Americans, and have therefore acted in ways which have threatened their own cultural vitality.

Avoiding the focus on Black victimization and white racism that often infuses work on Blacks and Jews, Forman emphasizes the complexities inherent in one distinct white ethnic group's involvement in America's racial dilemma.

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Boundaries of Jewish Identity (Samuel and Althea Stroum Book)

Susan A. Glenn is Howard and Frances Keller Endowed Professor of History and a member of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Washington. Naomi B. Sokoloff is professor of Near Eastern languages and civilizations and professor of comparative li

The subject of Jewish identity is one of the most vexed and contested issues of modern religious and ethnic group history. This interdisciplinary collection draws on work in law, anthropology, history, sociology, literature, and popular culture to consider contemporary and historical responses to the question: "Who and what is Jewish?"

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A Bride for One Night

Talmud Tales

Ruth Calderon

Ruth Calderon has recently electrified the Jewish world with her teachings of talmudic texts. In this volume, her first to appear in English, she offers a fascinating window into some of the liveliest and most colorful stories in the Talmud. Calderon rewrites talmudic tales as richly imagined fictions, drawing us into the lives of such characters as the woman who risks her life for a sister suspected of adultery; a humble schoolteacher who rescues his village from drought; and a wife who dresses as a prostitute to seduce her pious husband in their garden. Breathing new life into an ancient text, A Bride for One Night offers a surprising and provocative read, both for anyone already intimate with the Talmud and for anyone interested in one of the most influential works of Jewish literature.

 

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Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal

Vol. 11 (2006) - vol.16, no. 1 (2011)

Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal is a showcase for the creative work of Jewish feminists. It brings together the traditional Jewish values of justice and tikkun olam ("healing the world") with insights honed by the feminist, lesbian, and gay movements. It provides a place in which Jews, feminists, and activists can exchange ideas and deepen the understanding of the relationship between Jewish identities and activism.

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Bukharan Jews and the Dynamics of Global Judaism

Alanna E. Cooper

Part ethnography, part history, and part memoir, this volume chronicles the complex past and dynamic present of an ancient Mizrahi community. While intimately tied to the Central Asian landscape, the Jews of Bukhara have also maintained deep connections to the wider Jewish world. As the community began to disperse after the fall of the Soviet Union, Alanna E. Cooper traveled to Uzbekistan to document Jewish life there before it disappeared. Drawing on ethnographic research there, as well as among immigrants to the US and Israel, Cooper tells an intimate and personal story about what it means to be Bukharan Jewish. Together with her historical research about a series of dramatic encounters between Bukharan Jews and Jews from other parts of the world, this lively narrative illuminates the tensions inherent in maintaining Judaism as a single global religion over the course of its long and varied diaspora history.

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