A frank and grave analysis that at times trembles with concern and worry.



An authority on American Judaism returns with a comprehensive report—descriptive, analytical, predictive—on today’s Jewish religious practices.

Wertheimer (American Jewish History/Jewish Theological Seminary; The New Jewish Leaders: Reshaping the American Jewish Landscape, 2011, etc.) bases this work on numerous interviews with practicing rabbis, members of synagogues, and others, as well as his comprehensive scholarship in the field (he includes more than 90 pages of notes at the end of the book). Maintaining a neutral tone throughout—he neither attacks nor excessively praises—Wertheimer surveys the broad range of practice currently available, from Orthodox to Conservative to Reform to just about every other form (some of the less conventional he calls “Pop Ups”). He also notes troubling trends: declining attendance, an aging population of those who do attend, the fierce competition of cultural clutter (the internet, social media, etc.). He describes how some synagogues are modifying their approaches, trying to accommodate the young and the uncertain, offering more music, bountiful offerings of food, and “looser” behavior in the services. He examines the difficulties of inclusion of interfaith married families, of the LGBTQ community, and of women, who, of course, were long denied principal roles in synagogue activities. The author also shows how Orthodox groups, especially, are working hard to attract more people to the synagogue, and he shows us what is a surprising Jewish presence at such cultural events as Burning Man. In a similar vein, he points out the struggles that Christian congregations are having with many of the same issues. As membership in the traditional denominations declines, Christians have turned in ever greater numbers to less conventional congregations. Wertheimer’s style is straightforward and highly organized (bullet lists are common), and he ends with some glances into an uncertain future as our culture becomes increasingly secular and self-absorbed.

A frank and grave analysis that at times trembles with concern and worry.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-18129-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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