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  • Book Notes

American Jewish Life

Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal, by Dana Evan Kaplan. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. 446 pp. $34.50. ISBN 978-0-231-13728-7.

American Judaism is being transformed by the spiritual decisions of tens of thousands of Jews living in all corners of the United States. A pulpit rabbi and himself an American Jew, Dana Evan Kaplan follows this religious individualism from its postwar suburban roots to the hippie revolution of the 1960s and the multiple postmodern identities of today. He describes the remaking of historical tradition in ways that channel multiple ethnic and national identities, focusing on the creative responses to contemporary spiritual trends that have made a Jewish religious renaissance possible.

How Strange It Seems: The Cultural Life of Jews in Small-Town New England, by Michael Hoberman. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008. 253 pp. $28.95. ISBN 978-1-55849-646-0.

Jews have lived in small-town New England since the colonial era, but during the last hundred years they have been especially active contributors to the region's cultural life. Part oral history, part ethnography, and part literary portrait, How Strange It Seems tells the story of this often overlooked group, tracing its patterns of settlement, economic activity, civic involvement, and religious life since the late 1800s. Based on more than fifty interviews with men and women of all ages from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, it seeks to understand what is distinctive—and not so distinctive—about contemporary Jewish communities outside the larger urban centers of the Northeast.

The Jews of West Point in the Long Gray Line, by Lewis L. Zickel. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV, 2009. 321 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-1-60280-117-2.

This book, written by a 1949 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, focuses specifically on the Jews who have attended [End Page 220] West Point and gone on to serve with distinction as professional military officers. The book is divided into three parts. The first is an account of the role of Jews in military history and at West Point, with considerable attention given to the creation of a Jewish Chapel for cadets and to the Academy's Jewish chaplaincy. The second part is autobiographical, and the final part consists of excerpts from a questionnaire Zickel sent to each of the 630 living Jewish graduates of West Point. Among other things, they were asked to recount memories about their tenure at the Academy that would be of Jewish interest. Very few reported any experience of antisemitism. Moreover, many mentioned that West Point had brought them closer to Judaism and Jewishness, not merely because of activities connected with the Jewish Chapel, but also through contact with the chaplains, and because they so often came from homes or places where there was little Jewish content. Several of them were bar or bat mitzvah at West Point.

Ancient World and Archaeology

Jewish Perspectives on Hellenistic Rulers, by Tessa Rajak, Sarah Pearce, James Aitken, and Jennifer Dines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. 363 pp. $49.95. ISBN 978-0-520-25084-0.

This volume gathers sixteen essays on monarchy and power in the Hellenistic period and approaches Hellenistic history by focusing attention on biblical and Jewish evidence and reading that evidence in new ways. The essays consider the kings, queens, and power figures of the Hellenistic dynasties, as well as ancient Israelite kings, the Babylonian and Persian rulers of the Bible, Parthians, and Romans. The volume also represents a new kind of interpretation of the Greek Bible (Septuagint) and of the Jewish literature of the period, setting them in the context of Hellenistic political thought and practice.

Art and Music

Daniel Libeskind and the Contemporary Jewish Museum: New Jewish Architecture from Berlin to San Francisco, by Connie Wold, with text by Daniel Libeskind, Mitchell Schwarzer, and James E. Young. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2008. 128 pp., 68 color photos, 8 illustrations. $45.00. ISBN 978-0-8478-3165-4.

An internationally renowned architect and lecturer, Daniel Libeskind is one of the world's most influential figures in architecture. Best-known for [End Page 221...


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