How have modern Jews appropriated traditional aspects of their culture and religion to sustain them in the modern world? Twenty-one distinguished scholars address this question by drawing on a range of disciplines: social and cultural history, ethnography, folklore, sociology, educational theory, and rabbinics. They examine Jewish communities from Russia to North Africa, from Israel to the United States. Among the subjects they explore are Jewish art, holiday practices, feminist ceremonies, adult education, and religious movements in Israel.
The Uses of Tradition demonstrates the persistence of tradition and the limits to continuity. It asks: How extensively can tradition be reinterpreted before it is subverted? At what point is creative reinvention an act of betrayal? How effectively can selective borrowing from tradition sustain a religious community?
The study of German Jewish history of the last two hundred years has primarily centered around a description of Jewish religious and cultural reform. Jewish defense organizations and the rise of a small but significant Zionist movement have also garnered considerable academic attention. With the exception of some work on Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the Orthodox have not been a major focus of these investigations. The reason for this is that Orthodox Judaism has largely been perceived as irrelevant to this tale of how Jewish tradition confronted the challenge of living in a radically changed milieu.
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