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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions


The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today

by Jack Wertheimer,
The Forward, December 31, 2018

In “The New American Judaism,” Jack Wertheimer, a professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the author of “A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America,” draws on interviews with 200 rabbis, survey data and visits to many synagogues to examine the experience of Jews who have lived in the United States. Wertheimer focuses on Jewish religious life rather than on the totality of the contemporary Jewish experience, because religious practices, rituals, holidays and commandments “keep the Jewish people Jewish.” In the absence of pervasive anti-Semitism, he maintains, religious engagement is more likely than any other factor to transmit “a strong Jewish identity from one generation to the next.” Conversely, “Jewish families without religion don’t stay Jewish for very long.”


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