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The Jews in the Center: Conservative Synagogues and Their Membersby Jack Wertheimer
Synopses & Reviews
Why do well-educated, highly Americanized, and financially secure Jews join a synagogue and participate in its religious life? This study of Conservative Jews examines the largest movement of synagogue-affiliated Jews in the United States, a group that outnumbers the combined membership of Reform and Orthodox congregations and a population that adheres to a centrist version of Judaism. The scholars who contribute to this study ask a series of provocative questions: How do these Jews negotiate the tensions between the traditional values of their religion and modern sensibilities? What meaning do they find in synagogue participation? How crucial are rabbis in the "success" of congregations?
Written by a team of scholars employing the tools of demography, ethnography, sociology, history, and comparative religious studies, Jews in the Center offers the most comprehensive view of any religious movement within American Judaism----and indeed, one of the most detailed studies of any denomination in American religious life.
Jews in the Center seeks to understand how synagogues function as congregations and to what extent they allow for individual self-expression. By focusing on a mainstream population, this book sheds light on religious people who generally receive the least attention----the broad center who neither retreat from society nor blur all boundaries between their religion and modern American culture.
Book News Annotation:
Addressing provocative questions on synagogue participation and modern values, eight contributors discuss the findings of the North American Study of Conservative Synagogues and Their Members, 1995-96, within the landscape of American religion. The study is based on new research and a reanalysis of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey. Wertheimer teaches American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Table of Contents
Assessing the vitality of conservative Judaism in North America: evidence from a survey of synagogue members / Steven M. Cohen — Conservative Jewry: a sociodemographic overview / Sidney Goldstein and Alice Goldstein — Holding firmly with an open hand: life in two conservative synagogues / Samuel C. Heilman — Public worship: the partnership between families and synagogues / Paul Ritterband — Coming of age in the conservative synagogue: the Bat/Bar Mitzvah class of 5755 / Barry A. Kosmin — Communities of choice and memory: conservative synagogues in the late twentieth century / Riv-Ellen Prell.
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