Respecting the Wicked Child: A Philosophy of Secular Jewish Identity and Education

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This book provides a philosophical rationale for maintaining a Jewish identity and explains how this can be done without compromising one's liberal or secular values. Mitchell Silver believes that many third- and fourth-generation American Jews have retained only a hazy knowledge of their ethnic traditions and rich history. But as they watch their own children grow up in a materialist, multicultural, Christian-dominated American society, many contemporary Jewish parents are loathe to abandon their distinctive heritage and wish to pass it on to their offspring. Silver begins by situating the possible emergence of a secular American Judaism within the context of attempts to reconcile the imperatives of tradition and modernity. He then proposes specific spiritual, moral, and institutional pathways that could lead to this reconceived form of Judaism. While the book's emphasis is on the possibilities and values of a secular American Jewish identity, Silver also proposes a supplemental school curriculum for children that would lay the groundwork for a viable contemporary Judaism.

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About the Author:

Mitchell Silver teaches philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

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"This is an excellent book―intelligent, articulate, and thought-provoking. The writing is top notch, the arguments compelling. The issues raised have potentially far-reaching implications. I wholeheartedly recommend Respecting the Wicked Child."―Joel Marks, University of New Haven

"The basic argument of this book is very appealing. The presentation is clear and often engaging. It is not too technical and will not put off the layperson, but it still remains of interest to the theoretical philosopher. In addition to secular Jews, the book should be of interest to those who feel some conflict between the most cosmopolitan identities and their inherited 'tribal' or ethnic or racial identities."―David B. Wong, Brandeis University

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