A BREATH OF LIFE

FEMINISM IN THE AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY

An uneven analysis by Fishman (a senior research associate at Brandeis), who argues here—only sometimes convincingly—that feminism has brought a 'breath of life' into a faltering American Jewish community. Perhaps the best statistical evidence of this phenomenon are the 280 women who have been ordained as rabbis by Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Jewish seminaries in the 20 years since the gender line was broken in 1972. In these seminaries, the number of women cantorial candidates exceeds that of men, even though only 30 years ago it was forbidden for women even to study Talmud. Fishman also introduces us to a wide range of female life-cycle ceremonies that modern Jews have begun to practice (one of those at which a woman rabbi might officiate is the shalom bat—welcoming the daughter—ceremony, paralleling the longstanding rites welcoming male Jewish babies to the community), and the author successfully renders the ongoing tension between feminism and traditional, especially Orthodox, Judaism. But the statistics and conclusions that support the thesis here sometimes appear suspect. Fishman states, for instance, that 70% of married women affiliated with the rigorously orthodox Agudah sect practice birth control after the arrival of their first child—even though this group's continued proclivity for large families is well documented. Similarly puzzling is the statement that ``recent surveys show that even highly educated, ambitious young women—but not men—say that they would rather be thin than be successful and happy.'' The author is most appealing when she abandons sociological data for first-person accounts. Her account of American and Israeli women trying to hold prayer services at Jerusalem's Western Wall, despite violent opposition, is riveting. Fishman attempts to examine feminism's impact on too many aspects of Jewish life, and the subsequent lack of focus weakens her thesis—which, in any case, will appeal most strongly to those already committed to both feminism and traditional Judaism.

Pub Date: May 3, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-910342-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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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