Book Review – American Judaism

By Jonathan D. Sarna. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. Xx, 490 pp. $ 35.00, ISBN 0-300-10197-X.)

In "American Judaism: A History, Brandeis University 's renowned historian Jonathan D. Sarna, gives an account of 350 years history of American Jewry in a straight and readable form submitted. With an optimistic view on the history and the future of Judaism in America, Sarna describes the developments in American Jewish faithin God, their religious practices, traditions and religious organizations, and concepts such as the marriage was and is a serious threat to the survival of the Jewish faith in America, with vivid detail. The book has received many awards, among them was awarded the 2004 National Jewish Book Award.

This book is about the history of the Jewish religion in America, it's not about the history of Jews in America. Even if the lives and actions of Jews in America are discussed in somePart of the book but they all serve the goal of telling the story of the Jewish faith in America.

Jonathan Sarna is a professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and chairman of the Academic Board of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. He is the author of more than twenty books on American Jewish history and life of his forthcoming book entitled "Illustrated American Judaism," which will be published inOctober 2008. He is also the chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History and the 350th Memory of Jewish life in America.

In 1654 occurred when there were more than 20 Jews to New Amsterdam (now New York) The first group of Jewish immigration to North America has, and what ensued was a great migration of Jews to America to Jews is the second largest religious community in the U.S. Christians. According to Sarna Jewish practice in theUnited States has been in the frame work of a clearly defined frame or border, but Judaism in the United States has been constantly been reinvented time and place, has been practiced. This is one of the main reasons why Judaism has been preserved to this day.

According to Sarna, one of the major challenges that faced Jews in America, like the Jewish preserve and defend practices such as observing the Sabbath, synagogue attendance and not forbidden to eat meat. Unlike Jewsin Europe, which saw some discipline and punishment as the key to the maintenance of Jewish law, Jews in America forced after an initial short period of unsuccessful attempts in place respecting the Jewish practices in a very diverse Jewish community chose to maintain Judaism and bring its core values in the center of their concern. This approach is evident, for example, in 1757
New York, when some members of the assembly at the first and punished by the Community under an expulsionNon-observance of Jewish laws, but later forgiven and resumed calling Isaiah's call to open "the gates for a nation that keeps faith" (Isaiah 26:2). This was done to keep the unity among the Jews to assemble and maintain high level of participation in the. Making Jewish laws more "lax" was a means of survival of Judaism in America.

Another important theme of the book is touched, the concept of designation, which meant in eighteen century in America was no particular church, was thedominant church, and all were equal under the law. These movements re-invent influenced Judaism in different ways in the U.S.. While it is important to note that in Judaism, these movements were not as strong as the name that has in Protestantism, and created many different sects. The movements within the Jewish faith in the United States is essential, where Judaism stands today. Sarna has been very successful in describing the roots of these movements andtheir influence on the development of Judaism.

Sarna also believes that the common place was the fear of assimilation and gradual disappearance of Judaism in America, well, as established anti-Semitism, persecution and pressure from the majority Christian population, the minorities to convert to Christianity was a reality in the 17th and 18 Century America. Also, there were times in American history of religious practice had been rejected by the Jews and also a relatively large number of JewsIntermarriage with people of other faiths. In each period, with a pessimistic people would see this as the end of Judaism in America to see, but after each period, there was a revival of faith among the Jews, and even if these violations are evident in the history of Judaism in the United States they are usually accompanied by periods of "Awakening". For this reason, Sarna this whole process as a regenerative cycle that is not destructive. Sarna, has an optimistic and positive viewon the history of Judaism in America and it is clear throughout the book.

Sarna does not see the times of religious decline and mixing with other religious groups, like the first steps of assimilation, and finally as a means of extermination of the Jews in the United States. Sarna, however, not to specify why the Jews receive such circumstances, when other faiths entirely disappeared from the United States. Sarna himself says: "Between 1890 and 1906, fully 13.8Percent of groups in the U.S. Census listed by religious organizations went out of existence from 1912 and 1926 the rate jumped to 15.3 percent "do not explain it but in the book why these religions, Judaism survived and disappeared, although many of these reformed religions and has reinvented itself and also what were the different characteristics of Judaism helped to ensure that it is to survive in 350 years of American history. Another criticism that can be made of Sarna, that he does notexplain the influence of Zionism in the Jewish faith in America, with depth and detail. Sarna himself points out on page 203 of the book: "Proven for years no problem in Jewish life as a difference of Zionism," but there are only a few pages on this subject in the book Sarna. Assign a chapter of the book discuss this critical issue would have made the book a complete history of Judaism in America.

Compared to other books on the subject such as "American Judaism" by NathanGlazer and "Judaism in America" by Marc Lee Raphael, Sarna book is more on the history of Judaism in America instead of concentrating on the true story of Jews in America and in this respect is the title. This is one of the advantages of the book works in general, and Sarna, Sarna focuses on the issue without unnecessary deviation on other topics or issues that are very tempting for many writers. Some writers, such as Harvard Professor Alan M. DershowitzIn his book "The Vanishing American Jew" strongly disagree with Sarna positive attitude towards the development and survival of Judaism in America and believe that unless that Judaism seriously, it revitalizes gradual disappearance in America is doomed.

In conclusion, "American Judaism: A History" by Jonathan D. Sarna is a valuable and relatively balanced work on the development of 350 years of Jewish faith in America. The book describes what the AmericanJews believed, as God, their religious customs, traditions, religious customs, religious organizations, synagogues, and finally, reform movements in the Jewish faith with great detail. Throughout the book, Sarna, a positive view of the history of Judaism in America has seen periods of religious decline as natural events in a larger cycle of religious reinvention and reform. Sarna successfully to a high degree, on this large and important issue in an appropriate size and readableWriting style.


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