Beyond Yiddishkeit: The Struggle for Jewish Identity in a by Frida Kerner Furman

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By Frida Kerner Furman

Examines Jewish identification within the prosperous and knowledgeable neighborhood of a liberal reform synagogue. The publication explores how one synagoue grapples with the method of id building as a social phenomenon, revealing tensions among individualism and corporatism and different opposing components.

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Additional info for Beyond Yiddishkeit: The Struggle for Jewish Identity in a Reform Synagogue

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149). The Reform movement now suggests that the individual and the people are interdependent entities. Going beyond the Columbus Platform in its commitment to particularism, the "Centenary" principles suggest that Jews, by birth or conversion "constitute an uncommon union of faith and peoplehood. Born as Hebrews in the ancient Near East, we are bound Temple Shalom: Setting and Reform Context 37 together like all ethnic groups by language, land, history, culture and institutions" ("Reform Judaism" 1977,8).

More frequently, however, the ritual prescriptions of traditional Judaism are seen in contradistinction to the activist social ethic propounded here. The call for the pursuit of social justice on a universal scale results in an "outward" as opposed to an "inward" view of Judaism. As one congregant suggests, "There is a commitment to basic human rights, a commitment to experience, understanding and involvement with people other than ourselves. " Another individual expresses this sentiment as follows: There is a stress placed on the experience ofJewishness as it relates to the outside world, with less stress on the development of the self as a Jew ....

In every way, the Platform is an expression of modernizing efforts. ) The reformers begin with a view of]udaism as an evolutionary religion, one whose merits must be measured by rational scrutiny. Universalistic convictions, as well, inform the Platform in significant ways, frequently selfconsciously contrasted with dismissed particularistic positions. For the reformers, Judaism was "no longer a nation but a religious community" (Plaut 1965,34). The assumption that had informed all of Jewish life for millenia was therefore dismissed, by changing the stress of Jewishness from national or ethnic dimensions to solely that of a religion with universalistic commitments.

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