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The Choosing

A Rabbi's Journey from Silent Nights to High Holy Days

Andrea Myers

A young Lutheran girl grows up on Long Island, New York. She aspires to be a doctor, and is on the fast track to marriage and the conventional happily-ever-after. But, as the Yiddish saying goes, "Man plans, and God laughs." Meet Andrea Myers, whose coming-of-age at Brandeis, conversion to Judaism, and awakening sexual identity make for a rich and well-timed life in the rabbinate.

In The Choosing, Myers fuses heartwarming anecdotes with rabbinic insights and generous dollops of humor to describe what it means to survive and flourish on your own terms. Portioned around the cycle of the Jewish year, with stories connected to each of the holidays, Myers draws on her unique path to the rabbinate--leaving behind her Christian upbringing, coming out as a lesbian, discovering Judaism in college, moving to Israel, converting, and returning to New York to become a rabbi, partner, and parent.

Myers relates tales of new beginnings, of reinventing oneself, and finding oneself. Whether it's a Sicilian grandmother attempting to bake hamantaschen on Purim for her Jewish granddaughter, or an American in Jerusalem saving a chicken from slaughter during a Rosh Hashanah ritual, Myers keeps readers entertained as she reflects that spirituality, goodness, and morality can and do take many forms. Readers will enthusiastically embrace stories of doors closing and windows opening, of family and community, of integration and transformation. These captivating narratives will resonate and, in the author's words, "reach across coasts, continents, and generations."

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Chosen Capital

The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism

Edited and with an introduction by Rebecca Kobrin

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The Chosen Few

How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492

Maristella Botticini

In 70 CE, the Jews were an agrarian and illiterate people living mostly in the Land of Israel and Mesopotamia. By 1492 the Jewish people had become a small group of literate urbanites specializing in crafts, trade, moneylending, and medicine in hundreds of places across the Old World, from Seville to Mangalore. What caused this radical change? The Chosen Few presents a new answer to this question by applying the lens of economic analysis to the key facts of fifteen formative centuries of Jewish history. Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein offer a powerful new explanation of one of the most significant transformations in Jewish history while also providing fresh insights into the growing debate about the social and economic impact of religion.

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The Chosen People in America

A Study in Jewish Religious Ideology

Arnold M. Eisen

"This is a book of extraordinary quality and importance. In tracing the encounter of Jews (the chosen people) and America (the chosen nation).. Eisen has given the American Jewish community a new understanding of itself." -- American Jewish Archives

"... one of the most significant books on American Jewish thought written in recent years." -- Choice

What does it mean to be a Jew in America? What opportunities and what threats does the great melting pot represent for a group that has traditionally defined itself as "a people that must dwell alone"? Although for centuries the notion of "The Chosen People" sustained Jewish identity, America, by offering Jewish immigrants an unprecedented degree of participation in the larger society, threatened to erode their Jewish identity and sense of separateness.
Arnold M. Eisen charts the attempts of American Jewish thinkers to adapt the notion of chosenness to an American context. Through an examination of sermons, essays, debates, prayer-book revisions, and theological literature, Eisen traces the ways in which American rabbis and theologians -- Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox thinkers -- effected a compromise between exclusivity and participation that allowed Jews to adapt to American life while simultaneously enhancing Jewish tradition and identity.

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Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry

Moshe Herczl

The complicity of the Hungarian Christian church in the mass extermination of Hungarian Jews by the Nazis is a largely forgotten episode in the history of the Holocaust. Using previously unknown correspondence and other primary source materials, Moshe Y. Herczl recreates the church's actions and its disposition toward Hungarian Jewry. Herczl provides a scathing indictment of the church's lack of compassion toward—and even active persecution of—Hungary's Jews during World War II.

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Colors of Veracity

A Quest for Truth in China and Beyond

Vera Schwarcz

In Colors of Veracity, Vera Schwarcz condenses four decades of teaching and scholarship about China to raise fundamental questions about the nature of truth and history. In clear and vivid prose, she addresses contemporary moral dilemmas with a highly personal sense of ethics and aesthetics. Drawing on classical sources in Hebrew and Chinese (as well as several Greek and Japanese texts), Schwarcz brings deep and varied cultural references to bear on the question of truth and falsehood in human consciousness. An attentiveness to connotations and nuance is apparent throughout her work, which redefines both the Jewish understanding of emet (a notion of truth that encompasses authenticity) and the Chinese commitment to zhen (a vision of the real that comprises the innermost sincerity of the seeker’s heart-mind). Truth matters, even if it cannot be mapped in its totality. Veracity is shown again and again to be neither black nor white. Schwarcz’ accomplishment is a subtle depiction of “fractured luminosity,” which inspires and sustains the moral conviction of those who pursue truth against all odds.

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Coming of Age in Jewish America

Bar and Bat Mitzvah Reinterpreted

Patricia Keer Munro

The Jewish practice of bar mitzvah dates back to the twelfth century, but this ancient cultural ritual has changed radically since then, evolving with the times and adapting to local conditions. For many Jewish-American families, a child’s bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is both a major social event and a symbolic means of asserting the family’s ongoing connection to the core values of Judaism. Coming of Age in Jewish America takes an inside look at bar and bat mitzvahs in the twenty-first century, examining how the practices have continued to morph and exploring how they serve as a sometimes shaky bridge between the values of contemporary American culture and Judaic tradition.
 
Interviewing over 200 individuals involved in bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, from family members to religious educators to rabbis, Patricia Keer Munro presents a candid portrait of the conflicts that often emerge and the negotiations that ensue. In the course of her study, she charts how this ritual is rife with contradictions; it is a private family event and a public community activity, and for the child, it is both an educational process and a high-stakes performance.
 
Through detailed observations of Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, and independent congregations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Munro draws intriguing, broad-reaching conclusions about both the current state and likely future of American Judaism.  In the process, she shows not only how American Jews have forged a unique set of bar and bat mitzvah practices, but also how these rituals continue to shape a distinctive Jewish-American identity.  
 

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Commandments and Concerns

Jewish Religious Education in Secular Society

Authored by Michael Rosenak

In this cutting-edge study, Michael Rosenack provides a new understanding of the challenges inherent in teaching Judaism today. His ground-breaking theories are based on close examination of religious experience in individual's lives, consulting sources from all Jewish denominations, from Israel and the Diaspora, and from the non-Jewish world. Rosenak uses his research and a wealth of academic theories to formulate and present proposals for an honest, new approach to teaching religion in our contemporary, secular world.

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Communings of the Spirit

The Journals of Mordecai M. Kaplan, Volume 2: 1934-1941

Edited by Mel Scult

Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983), founder of Reconstructionism, is the preeminent American Jewish thinker and rabbi of our times. His life embodies the American Jewish experience of the first half of the twentieth century. With passionate intensity and uncommon candor, Kaplan compulsively recorded his experience in his journals, some ten thousand pages. At times, Kaplan thought his ideas were too radical or complex to share with his congregation, and what he could not share publicly he put into his journals. In this diary we find his uncensored thoughts on a variety of subjects. Thus, the diary was much more sophisticated and radical than anything he published while living.While in the first volume of Communings of the Spirit, editor Mel Scult covers Kaplan's early years as a rabbi, teacher of rabbis, and community leader, in the second volume we experience through Kaplan the economic problems of the thirties and their shattering impact on the Jewish community. It becomes clear that Kaplan, like so many others during this period, was attracted to the solutions offered by communism, notwithstanding some hesitation because of the anti-religious nature of communist ideology. Through Kaplan we come to understand the Jewish community in the yishuv (Jews in Palestine) as Kaplan spent two years teaching at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and his close circle of friends included Martin Buber, Judah Leon Magnes, and other prominent personalities. It is also during this time that the specter of Nazi Germany begins to haunt American Jews, and Kaplan, sensitive to the threats, is obsessed with Jewish security, both in Europe and Palestine.More than anything else, this diary is the chronicle of Kaplan's spiritual and intellectual journey in the early 1930s and 1940s. With honesty and vivid detail, Kaplan explores his evolving beliefs on religious naturalism and his uncertainties and self-doubts as he grapples with a wide range of theological issues.

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Comparing Judaism and Christianity

Common Judaism, Paul, and the Innter and the Outer in Ancient Religion

by E. P. Sanders

Few scholars have so shaped the contemporary debate on the relation of early Christianity to early Judaism as E. P. Sanders, and no one has produced a clearer or more distinctive vision of that relationship as it was expressed in the figure of Paul the apostle. Gathered for the first time within one cover, here Sanders presents formative essays that show the structure of his approach and the insights it produces into Paul’s relationship to Judaism and the Jewish law.

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