SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today

Princeton Univ. Aug. 2018. 400p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691181295. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780691184142. REL
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Drawing on Pew Research Center data that indicates a general decrease in U.S. religiosity, Wertheimer (Jewish Theological Seminary) compares and contrasts the religious lives of American Jews to this national "religious recession" and traces the religious activities of contemporary American Jews. In addition to previous research, Wertheimer primarily relies on interviews conducted with 160 rabbis across the country. Issues that surfaced in these conversations include reduced levels of Jewish literacy, particularly in non-Orthodox congregations, as well as the desire for an individualized religious experience, potentially leading to fragmentation and diminished allegiance to the community. In addition, Wertheimer addresses how different denominations grapple with major social issues, such as the inclusion of women in leadership roles and LGBTQ members and welcoming increasing numbers of intermarried families.
VERDICT This work will appeal to readers in search of a scholarly yet accessible cross-denominational study of the practices of contemporary American Jews. For an introduction/history of American Judaism, readers should consult an alternative text, such as Jonathan Sarna's American Judaism: A History.

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