TWO WORLDS OF JUDAISM: The Israeli and American Experiences by Charles S. & Steven M. Cohen Liebman

TWO WORLDS OF JUDAISM: The Israeli and American Experiences

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KIRKUS REVIEW

American and Israeli Jews have restructured elements of their common tradition to meet the demands of two very different environments. Here, an Israeli political scientist (Liebman) and American sociologist (Cohen) combine their professional skills and personal insights in an exploration of the differences and similarities between the two communities. Many of the authors' conclusions confirm their expectations, which were based on personal experience and common sense. For example, they find that both groups consider themselves threatened minorities. American Jews feel that danger arises from their status as a minority within a pluralistic society, while Israelis feel threatened from anti-Semites outside the country. This fundamental difference leads to many variations in religious conceptions and practices, most particularly the predominant American-Jewish perception that liberal principles are part and parcel of being Jewish. Israelis, on the other hand, are much less apt to extend rights and privileges to outsiders, whom they perceive as enemies of the Jewish people or strangers in their midst. Another major divergence between the two communities stems from their respective attitudes toward the state of Israel, which Israelis consider the essence of their communal, extended Jewish family existence, but which Americans see more as Jewish political entity with a role to play in the larger world of nation-states. Complicating matters is a second axis that divides the two groups along religious, educational, and ethnic lines. In some essential ways, Liebman and Cohen find, Orthodox American Jews are closer in their thinking and living to religious Israeli Jews than either is to secularized, nonobservant Jews here or in Israel. The scenario is complex and in a state of flux, but, the authors conclude, Judaism is in no danger of splitting in two. Although Liebman and Cohen sometimes belabor the obvious, this study is helpful in pinpointing and validating what many Jews already know or suspect. For non-Jews, it is a handy introduction to a complicated subject.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press