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Colors of Veracity

A Quest for Truth in China and Beyond

by 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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Conservative Judaism

Vol. 61 (2008-2009) - vol. 66, no. 1 (2014)

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.

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Conservative Movement in Judaism, The

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.

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Consolation

The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief

Authored by Maurice Lamm

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.

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Contemporary Sephardic Identity in the Americas

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Edited by Margalit Bejarano and Edna Aizenberg

Offers a wide overview of the Sephardic presence in North and South America through eleven essays discussing culture, history, literature, language, religion and music.

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The Contemporary Torah

a gender-sensitive adaptation of the JPS translation

Edited by David E.S. Stein

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).

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