New Jewish Identities

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9789639241626: New Jewish Identities

A unique collection of essays that deal with the intriguing and complex problems connected to the question of Jewish identity in the contemporary world. Based on a conference held in Budapest, Hungary in July 2001, it analyzes and compares how Jews conceive of their Jewishness. Do they see it in mostly religious, cultural or ethnic terms? What are the policy implications of these views and how have they been evolving? What do they portend for the future of world Jewry? The authors present new data from west European and post-Communist countries (Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Ukraine) and re-interpret data from other European countries as well as from Israel and the United States, making this a truly comprehensive, comparative and contemporary work.

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From the Author:

This volume focuses mostly on developments within the Jewish populations of Europe. The authors, most of whom base their chapters on recent empirical studies, examine the Jewish consciousness of European Jews and the meanings they impute to their Jewishness. This book, more than any other, brings together concrete information about the attitudes, values and behaviors of contemporary European Jews. In general, the authors find a weakening of collective, communal claims on individual Jews and a concomitant trend toward individualism and making choices about which aspects of Jewish tradition to preserve in one’s own life. There seems to be a decline in religious commitment, or at least to the practice of Judaism, though there are significant differences among the generations in this respect. Boundary issues—who is to be included in the Jewish collective and who not—have taken on greater salience with the increase in inter-ethnic marriage. They are crucial also to the relationship between European Jews and those in Israel and North America.

These trends and issues obviously bear directly on the future of European Jewry. The Talmud warns that since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the gift of prophecy was given to fools and small children. None of the contributors falls into either category and none would dare say with certainty what European Jewry will be like twenty years from now. But they have provided the most comprehensive empirically based portrait of a European Jewry that now includes populations once thought beyond the pale of world Jewry, one which is increasingly defining itself independently of Israeli and American Jewry, but will continue to stand under the same umbrella labeled "Jews."

From the Inside Flap:

This volume analyzes and compares how Jews conceive of their Jewishness. Do they see it in mostly religious, cultural or ethnic terms? What are the policy implications of these views and how have they been evolving? What do they portend for the future of world Jewry?

Identity as a Jew is in most places a matter of choice, making for a wide variety of self-understandings and definitions. Even where tradition is attractive to many Jews, they increasingly sense that it is they who choose the tradition or whatever aspects of the tradition they choose to celebrate; the tradition is not imperative and cannot impose attitudes and forms of behavior.

A distinguished group of sixteen scholars from several countries addresses these issues in this volume. The chapters focus on Jewish meaning—how Jews define the Judaism to which they subscribe and how they define their Jewishness, how they relate to the organized Jewish community, what are the implicit or explicit boundaries of Jewishness. The authors present new data from west European and post-Communist countries (Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Ukraine) and re-interpret data from other European countries as well as from Israel and the United States, making this a truly comprehensive, comparative and contemporary work.

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