And They Shall Be My People: An American Rabbi and His Congregation

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9780802137258: And They Shall Be My People: An American Rabbi and His Congregation

Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum is devoted to his congregation of mostly middle- and upper-middle-class Conservative Jews -- yet their lax observance frustrates and saddens him. Competing daily with an increasingly secular culture, Rosenbaum struggles to show his congregation the riches and fulfillment of an observant Jewish life. Exploring the rabbi's sometimes troubled, sometimes joyful leadership, And They Shall Be My People presents a complex and human portrait of American Judaism in our modern age. "A striking and valuable book.... A powerful, haunting story for a society easily seduced by new emphases and values." -- Gerald I. Wolpe, The Philadelphia Inquirer; "To call this 'a revealing portrait' is an understatement. It is a mirror of organized Jewish life." -- Robert L. Wolkoff, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

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From the Inside Flap:

ERFUL BOOK...Lucid, compassionate, inspiring, touching, affecting, extraordinarily well-written and well-reported."
--Chicago Tribune
Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, though not famous or especially distinguished, is an extraordinary individual--a spiritual leader deeply committed to his congregation in Worcester, Massachusetts; a Jewish scholar steeped in ancient tradition; an American man all too familiar with the temptations of an affluent, secular society. Award-winning author Paul Wilkes spent a year with Rabbi Rosenbaum--silently observing his life and work, getting to know his congregation, listening in as he performed the myriad tasks both spiritual and practical that occupy a rabbi's long day. This fascinating, thought-provoking book is at once an intimate portrait of a year in a rabbi's life and a vivid account of the state of American Judaism today.
"The heart of his book is the story of a community acting out the dilemma and contradictions of its dual identity....[It is] a

From Kirkus Reviews:

Sometimes perceptive scenes from the life of a rabbi, as observed through the eyes of a Catholic journalist. Both uneasy hybrids, rabbi and book seek the spiritual but often bog down in the mundane. Wilkes, whose In Mysterious Ways (1990) profiled a parish priest who was stricken with cancer, here attaches himself to Jay Rosenbaum, the 42-year-old rabbi of a midsize Conservative synagogue in Worcester, Mass., who is himself the son of a pulpit rabbi. How does a rabbi stem the Jewish tide of assimilation and indifference in a society where his people have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams? Wilkes has remarkable access to Rosenbaum's long days--not all parts of which are so interesting for a man who is both the synagogue's spiritual leader and chief bottle washer- -and we are privy to the rabbi as he counsels noncongregants who want to raise their baby as a Jew even though the expectant mother has no desire to convert to Judaism; leads an acculturation class for Russian immigrants, where sometimes only one or two pupils show up; officiates at a ritual circumcision of the son of marginally observant Jews; visits a congregant who is dying of Alzheimer's; hustles to get congregants to join a trip to Israel that he's leading; tells a tale about a Hebrew-speaking parakeet to the Jewish day school's nursery school class; and haggles with the synagogue's board of directors over a new contract. Several congregants confide to Wilkes that the rabbi is unknowable; to the reader he appears under-appreciated, very caring and very frustrated, but also naive and presumptuous in his desire to make his congregants observant Jews. His wife, overweight and depressed, briefly confides her unhappiness with never seeing her husband; more from this insightful rebbitzen would have been welcome. Wilkes follows the rabbi on the congregational tour of Israel, but it's a choppy, pretty banal travelogue. Also annoying is his sometimes wide-eyed appreciation of his subject as evinced by his references to Rosenbaum as a Moses and as the person charged with the care of his congregants' souls. More respectful reportage than rigorous analysis, Wilkes's latest effort begs the question: If, as statistics proffered here suggest, two-thirds of American Jews today are not affiliated with a synagogue, who's going to buy a book on the nuts and bolts of a rabbi's world? -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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