Imag­in­ing the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Community

Jack Wertheimer, ed.
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012
This col­lec­tion of six­teen orig­i­nal arti­cles address­es the evo­lu­tion of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and the con­tem­po­rary chal­lenges that lead us to imag­ine what it might become in the future. The arti­cles focus on an impor­tant range of top­ics, includ­ing the his­to­ry of Jew­ish patri­o­tism, transna­tion­al phil­an­thropy, the role of Jew­ish moth­ers, the impact of dif­fer­ent types of Yid­dish school­ing on the reli­gious and eth­nic iden­ti­ties of their stu­dents, and the his­to­ry of Ortho­dox Jew­ish sports. As a group, the arti­cles are inter­est­ing and cov­er issues not often dis­cussed in ear­li­er pub­li­ca­tions. The title of this book evokes Bene­dict Anderson’s con­cept of imag­ined com­mu­ni­ties,’ which was orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived to explain the devel­op­ment of nation­al­ism in mod­ern soci­eties but, curi­ous­ly, only one arti­cle in this excel­lent col­lec­tion makes ref­er­ence to this con­cept. Jack Wertheimer’s intro­duc­tion points to the fact that “[T]he cur­rent moment marks a par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing time in the dynam­ic his­to­ry of Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty for­ma­tion. Mount­ing evi­dence attests to declin­ing lev­els of par­tic­i­pa­tion in the key insti­tu­tions of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty.… Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, new types of com­mu­ni­ties have sprung into exis­tence.” The edi­tor and authors are to be com­mend­ed for pro­vid­ing impor­tant insights into the imag­ined and the reimag­ined Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in the past, present, and future.
Susan M. Cham­bré, Pro­fes­sor Emeri­ta of Soci­ol­o­gy at Baruch Col­lege, stud­ies Jew­ish phil­an­thropy, social and cul­tur­al influ­ences on vol­un­teer­ing, and health advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions. She is the author of Fight­ing for Our Lives: New York’s AIDS Com­mu­ni­ty and the Pol­i­tics of Dis­ease and edit­ed Patients, Con­sumers and Civ­il Soci­ety.

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