WHERE ARE WE?: The Inner Life of America's Jews by Leonard Fein

WHERE ARE WE?: The Inner Life of America's Jews

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A cogent social analysis of and liberal prescription for America's Jews, as Fein (a founding editor of Moment magazine) redefines American Judaism and its potential central purpose. From a secular but passionate viewpoint, Fein painstakingly unravels the knotted threads that tie American Jews to their Jewishness, seeing the most basic of the sacred texts as the Jewish people themselves. Religion is, for him, a language of the Jews, an expression of their human activities. Thus, radically at odds with an Orthodox Jewish understanding of religion, Fein moves easily to religious pluralism: there are, he maintains, many authentic ways to be Jewish. In analyzing American Jewish life, he does come to terms with the Holocaust and Israel, recognizing their centrality in Jewish history but seeing a need for a new purpose beyond these concerns for American Jews. He views the American Jewish soul as struggling between liberal universalism and neoconservative particularism, between seeing the Jewish purpose as repairing the world and seeing it primarily as a mission to protect the Jews. Taking a liberal stance, Fein scorns Jewish ties to Christian fundamentalists or conservative politicians, arguing that American Jews are most articulate as they participate in politics to fulfill their vocation to improve the world. Many will be put off by Fein's brief, not only for his questioning of Israeli policies and for his trenchant liberalism, but also for his failure to grasp the inner, esoteric soul of Judaism. But he writes very well indeed, understands the ambiguities gnawing at American Judaism, and overall delivers a provocative, valuable contribution to contemporary American Judaic thought.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1988
Publisher: Harper & Row