Further Forward through the Past: Postwar American Jews Reconfigure the East European Tradition in Cultural Terms
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 35, Number 4, Summer 2017
- pp. 111-131
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- Additional Information
From the 1940s well into the 1960s, a new sociocultural constellation let American Jews redefine their relationship to the religious tradition. This article analyzes the response of a religious elite of rabbis and intellectuals to this process, which was driven by various factors. Many American Jews were at least one generation away from traditional Judaism, which seemed out of place in postwar America. Liberal Judaism, with its narrow concept of religion, on the other hand, while fitting a larger social consensus, did not satiate many Jews' spiritual and identity needs. Sensing this deficit, rabbis and other religious thinkers explored broader concepts of Judaism. Religious journals that sprang up in the postwar decades served as vehicles for the attempt to understand Judaism in broader, cultural terms, while preserving a religious core. The article shows how in this search religious thinkers turned to the Eastern European past as a resource. As other groups similarly tried to mine this past for the sake of their present agendas, its reconstruction became a key process in the transformation of postwar American Judaism and its relationship to the tradition.