- Book Notes
American Jewish Life
American Reform Judaism: An Introduction, by Dana Evan Kaplan. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003. 297 pp. $60.00 (c); $22.00 (p). ISBN 0-8135-3218-3 (c); 0-8135-3219-1 (p).
To distinguish itself from Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, the Reform movement tries to be an egalitarian, open, and innovative version of the faith true to the spirit of the tradition but nonetheless fully compatible with modern secular life. Promoting itself in this way, Reform Judaism has been tremendously successful in recruiting a variety of people who resist more traditional forms of worship. This book analyzes the forces challenging the Reform movement, now the largest Jewish denomination in the United States.
Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State, by Molly Cone, Howard Droker, and Jacqueline Williams. Seattle: Washington State Jewish Historical Society, in association with University of Washington Press, 2003. 394 pp. $45.00. ISBN 0-295-98297-7.
The authors draw on newspaper accounts, articles, and oral histories to provide this account of Washington State’s Jewish residents. The first Jewish immigrants came in a small trickle during the middle of the nineteenth century, and then in larger numbers during the open-door era that lasted until 1924. Initially the various groups had little in common, but they succeeded in developing a community whose members have contributed to the civic and cultural history of Washington State.
Ancient World and Archaeology
Max Webers Studien des Antiken Judentums, by Eckart Otto. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002. 377 pp. Euro 79.00. ISBN 3-16-147897-5.
Eckart Otto provides a history of Max Weber’s work on the cultural history of ancient Judaism, a subject on which Weber spent more than ten years. He shows how closely these studies are linked not only to theology and Jewish studies, jurisprudence and economics, the science of history, and philosophy but also to the contemporary discussions surrounding the historico-cultural significant of Judaism for the “spirit of capitalism” and the chances for Judaism to preserve its identity in the conflict between assimilation and Zionism. (German) [End Page 198]
Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?, by William G. Dever. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 268 pp. $21.00. ISBN 0-8028-0975-8.
William Dever examines the controversies and the archaeological evidence behind Bible stories. He rejects both the revisionists who characterize biblical literature as “pious propaganda” and the conservatives who do not question its factuality. Instead, he seeks to approach the biblical text and the external data by singling out where the two lines of evidence converge.
Art, Music, and Film
An Artist Against the Third Reich: Ernst Barlach, 1933–1938, by Peter Paret. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 191 pp., 38 illus. $25.00. ISBN 0-521-82138-X.
The conflict between National Socialism and Ernst Barlach was an unusual episode in the history of Hitler’s efforts to rid Germany of international modernism. Barlach did not passively accept the confiscation and destruction of his sculptures. He protested the injustice and continued his work. This study focuses on the artist in a time of crisis, combining the history of modern Germany and the history of modern art.
Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish Sitcom,” by Vincent Brook. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003. 225 pp. $60.00 (c); $22.00 (p). ISBN 0-8135-3210-8 (c); 0-8135-3211-6 (p).
From 1989 to 2002 there was a surge in American sitcoms featuring explicitly Jewish lead characters, 32 compared to seven in the previous 40 years. Vincent Brook asks why this trend appeared at this time, and what the significance of this phenomenon is for Jews and non-Jews.
Biblical and Rabbinic Literature
Baruch ben Neriah: From Biblical Scribe to Apocalyptic Seer, by J. Edward Wright. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003. 186 pp. $24.95. ISBN 1-57003-479-6.
Baruch ben Neriah’s legacy grew from that of a scribe who edited or wrote the Book of Jeremiah to a divine sage granted a tour of heaven itself. In this assessmant of Baruch ben Neriah, J. Edward Wright charts the...