THE WONDERING JEW | Kirkus Reviews

An Israeli scholar considers the future of Judaism.

In a thoughtful social, political, and philosophical examination of Judaism, Goodman—a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and author of the acclaimed and controversial 2018 book Catch-67, among other works—argues for the revitalization of Judaism that meets what he sees as an abiding hunger for connection and communion. Because Orthodox Judaism is the established religion in Israel, many Israeli Jews feel a “painful tension between modern values and ancient traditions. Religious Jews feel compelled to sacrifice their conscience for their faith,” and secular Jews feel compelled to reject orthodoxy’s cultural insularity and strictures. But in rejecting religion, Goodman asserts, secular Jews cut themselves off from strong communal ties and sustaining traditions. “Human beings need to feel that they are part of, and have a part in, a story that is bigger than themselves,” he writes. Religious traditions “instill a sense that the individual will is not the most important thing in life, and this feeling pushes people to make room in their lives for others.” Goodman brings to bear the thinking of myriad Jewish philosophers and theologians to support his view that all Jews, even atheists, can benefit from a connection to Jewish tradition, including seminal texts such as the Torah, and “that secularism at its most profound maintains a relationship with the past.” “In the Jewish tradition,” he adds, “the past is engaged in a dialogue with the future.” As a member of an Orthodox congregation, he is “well aware that the stricter Orthodox Juda­ism becomes, the more acute the paradoxes at its heart will be.” Yet he believes that maintaining an “intimate contact with the cultural assets of the past” enriches his, and his family’s, life. “Judaism,” he asserts, “is the Jews’ ongoing conversation. The conversation about Judaism is Judaism.”

A cogent consideration of the place of religion in the modern world.

Pub Date: today


Page Count: 264

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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