Books by Aviva Cantor

Released: July 1, 1995

A fairly good survey of the first 4,000 years of Judaism and the role patriarchy has played in it—also a thinly veiled harangue against everything that raises the author's ire about modern Jewish life. From glass ceilings to boring charity dinners, Cantor gripes about subjects Jewish and not exclusively Jewish in a history that seems designed to showcase her grievances. She makes only occasional references to patriarchy's nefarious influence, focusing instead on American Jewish materialism, the lack of funding for Jewish education and culture, and antifeminism within Judaism's social hierarchy. But while her conclusions are too broad to fit the confines of her discussion of patriarchy's legacy, they are probably too narrow to hold the interest of anyone other than middle- aged, left-wing, Jewish feminists. For them, Cantor's book will provide more evidence of what they already believe: that American Judaism is ``spiritually/culturally anemic'' and that assimilationism is the primary culprit. The solution? ``The realization [by Jewish feminists] that if there is to be a Jewish future, it will have to be a feminist future.'' Cantor makes some insightful points about key players within Jewish family life—the no-win situation of the Jewish mother and what goes into the creation of the Jewish-American son, for example—but in her effort to explore stereotypes about Jews, she instead appears to accept and even reinforce them, making unfair generalizations about, among others, charitable American Jews and Jewish organizations. The author gets away with a lot by conveying the excitement she feels for her subject and through her engaging style, although she has some annoying literary tics, as when she offers two, or even three, word choices/options separated by slashes—an affectation that occasionally proves useful but more often seems merely indecisive. A vast and often entertaining look into one woman's Jewish-feminist midlife crisis. Read full book review >