In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews 171 hitherto unpublished text, see G. 80s, "Hayyim Vital's 'Practical Kabbalah and Alchemy,'" Journal ofJewish Thought and Philosophy 4 [1994].) Patai is to be heartily congratulated on this major contribution to the history of science. Its utility is enhanced by the inclusion in the Index of technical terms in their original language and English translation; moreover, "an alchemical vocabulary" is provided in the Appendix, containing a lengthy glossary of ingredients found in a nineteenth-century Tunisian manuscript. The Jewish Alchemists is an extraordinary resource and warrants inclusion as a standard reference book. MarkVerman Department of Religion Carleton College The Jewish Family and Jewish Continuity, edited by Steven Bayme and Gladys Rosen. Hoboken, NJ: Ktav Publishing House, 1994. 342 pp. Published in conjunction with the William Petschek National Jewish Family Center, this anthology is divided into three sections: Research, Social Theory and the Jewish Family, and Policy and Community Perspectives . According to the preface, this organizational schema reflects the Petschek Center's "threefold vision of disseminating information, valueclarification , and policy advocacy" (p. xii). The section on research includes essays by four scholars who write regularly on contemporary American Jewish life: Sylvia Barack Fishman, Rela Mintz Geffen, Natalie Friedman, and Chaim Waxman. Together the four essays provide a good summary of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey data on intermarriage, dual career families, and single-parent households as well as on marriage, divorce, and fertility. rates. All of the authors paint a portrait of changing family structures marked by increased divorce and intermarriage, and are concerned with the impact of change on Jewish continuity. One of the more surprising findings is Friedman's conclusion to her qualitative study on divorce that "divorce does not necessarily result in erosion ofJewish identity and community involvement but may, especially for families with young children, open the way for a restoration or strengthening ofJewish affiliation" (p. 98). Since many of the contributors to this volume assume that divorce has a deleterious effect on group continuity, Friedman's results offer a challenging perspective. The second section entitled "Social Theory and the Jewish Family" is less about theory and more about what Jewish religious texts have to say 172 SHOFAR Summer 1996 Vol. 14, No.4 on a variety of family-related issues. While David Biale opened the section with a general overview, "Classical Teachings and Historical Experience," David Feldman and Blu Greenberg each contributed essays on abortion, Elliot Gertel on divorce, Michael Gold on adoption, and Lawrence Grossman on pornography. The articles by Biale and Grossman move beyond description to raise interesting analytic and sociological questions about contemporaryJewish life. By relying on traditionalJewish texts, they test common assumptions held by American Jews. For example, many American Jews (including many authors in this anthology) assume that contemporaryAmericanJewish families are in crisis and lack stability partly because they no longer retain traditional structures rooted in traditional Jewish values. In his provocative essay, Biale cautions us against holding on to a nostalgic view of a past that never existed. InJewish history, too, the distinctions between "traditional" and "modem" families may not be as sharp as we tend to believe. The Jewish family of earlier times did not always correspond to our idealized image of a stable, nuclear family and, in many respects, the crisis of the family of the last few decades is not entirely new. Conflicts between communal values and individual desires, intermarriage, and the difficulties posed by single parenthood, divorce, and women working outside the home were all problems address by the historical tradition. (p. 134) By using pornography as a case study, Grossman challenges the widely held assumption that Jewish liberal opinions reflect traditional Jewish values. He is disturbed by the tolerance that many Jews exhibit towards pornography and asks the following sociological question: "Is it 'Jewish values' that impelJews to oppose restrictions on pornography?" (p. 183). After careful examination ofJewish texts, he offers us a resounding "no" as an answer. At the end of the essay Grossman, who has a doctorate in history as well as religious ordination, sheds his role as scholar and assumes the role of rabbi when he cautions American Jews that if they succumb to a "looser, beckoning contemporaryAmerican...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 171-174
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.