Jews and the New American Scene

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9780674474932: Jews and the New American Scene

Will American Jews survive their success? Or will the United States' uniquely hospitable environment lead inexorably to their assimilation and loss of cultural identity? This is the conundrum that Seymour Lipset and Earl Raab explore in their wise and learned book about the American Jewish experience.

Jews, perhaps more than any ethnic or religious minority that has immigrated to these shores, have benefited from the country's openness, egalitarianism, and social heterogeneity. This unusually good fit, the authors argue, has as much to do with the exceptionalism of the Jewish people as with that of America. But acceptance for all ancestral groups has its downside: integration into the mainstream erodes their defining features, diluting the loyalties that sustain their members.

The authors vividly illustrate this paradox as it is experienced by American Jews today--in their high rates of intermarriage, their waning observance of religious rites, their extraordinary academic and professional success, their commitment to liberalism in domestic politics, and their steadfast defense of Israel. Yet Jews view these trends with a sense of foreboding: "We feel very comfortable in America--but anti-Semitism is a serious problem"; "We would be desolate if Israel were lost--but we don't feel as close to that country as we used to"; "More of our youth are seeking some serious form of Jewish affirmation and involvement--but more of them are slipping away from Jewish life." These are the contradictions tormenting American Jews as they struggle anew with the never-dying problem of Jewish continuity.

A graceful and immensely readable work, Jews and the New American Scene provides a remarkable range of scholarship, anecdote, and statistical research--the clearest, most up-to-date account available of the dilemma facing American Jews in their third century of citizenship.

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About the Author:

Seymour Martin Lipset is Virginia E. Hazel and John T. Hazel, Jr., Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and a Senior Scholar of the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Earl Raab served for thirty-five years as Executive Director of the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council and is currently Director of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University.

Review:

In their latest collaboration...Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab issue a stern warning to American Jews: Return to your roots or dissolve into the melting pot. These seasoned observers of the Jewish community survey Jewish life in America since the earliest days of the Republic and conclude that a 'basic dwindling cycle is evident' precisely because Jews have adapted to to America so successfully...[They] have written an important book, and their pessimism about the future of American Jewry is well-founded. (Jay P. Lefkowitz Wall Street Journal)

In the age of identity politics, this is a courageous and unsettling book. When cultural 'diversity' is an American national obsession, two distinguished researchers, Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, each with a long, unbroken commitment to Jewish continuity in the United States and Israel, forecast the decline of American Judaism as a vibrant, active community. (Anne Swidler Times Literary Supplement)

An open...incisive, many-faceted discourse on the state of America's Jews at the threshold of the 21st century...In seven provocatively articulated chapters, the authors dissect American Jewry layer by layer against a synoptic historical backdrop interspersed with apt vignettes drawn from the American and Jewish past...A wise contribution to an understanding of both American and Jewish exceptionalism. (Moses Rischin Washington Times)

Some very keen analyses...Jews and the New American Scene is part history, part sociology, part demography, and part futurology...[A] deeply interesting book. (Elliott Abrams American Spectator)

Raab and Lipset present an upbeat view of where American Jews are today and how they got there...The book excels in delineating the stormy relationship between American Jews and their Israeli 'cousins.' One would have to agree with the authors' contention that 'profound institutional consequences for American Jewry have followed from the emergence of the State of Israel. (Kirkus Reviews)

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