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by Seymour Martin Lipset & Earl Raab

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-674-47493-7
Publisher: Harvard Univ.

 A sociological survey, with historical background, of the American Jewish community's current state. Raab (Director, Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy/Brandeis Univ.) and Lipset (Public Policy/George Mason Univ.) present an upbeat view of where American Jews are today and how they got there. In general, the sociological data, which relies on public opinions polls and surveys, is presented with more depth than the historical information. The emphasis here is on cultural Judaism and on what the authors term the ``unprecedented commercial accomplishment'' of some American Jews. There is little about Judaism as religious system and even less about the diverse modes of traditional Jewish learning. The book is strongest when it describes the integration of immigrant Jewish groups into the American cultural mainstream. Twentieth-century American Jewish history receives the most attention, and the sections on Jewish participation in the garment industry and the labor movement are quite exciting. Less engaging--and less accurate--are the depictions of colonial and 19th-century Jewish life. The lack of information on traditional Judaism is paralleled by errors of fact on Jewish matters, especially the history of the State of Israel. Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president, was not a ``German-born Englishman''; his Russian shtetl origins were central to his leadership style. Sephardic Jews were ``being brought en masse to Israel by its government'' not in the 1960s, but in the late '40s and '50s. Despite such errors, the book excels in delineating the stormy relationship between American Jews and their Israeli ``cousins.'' One would have to agree with the authors' contention that ``profound institutional consequences for American Jewry have followed from the emergence of the State of Israel.'' A welcome addition to the growing shelf of books on the American Jewish experience, though its grasp of history is not as firm as its mastery of sociology.