Beyond Yiddishkeit

The Struggle for Jewish Identity in a Reform Synagogue

By Frida K. Furman

Series: SUNY series in Anthropology and Judaic Studies
Paperback : 9780887065149, 152 pages, August 1987
Hardcover : 9780887065132, 152 pages, August 1987

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Table of contents

1. The Transformation of Jewish Identity
Traditional Jewish Society
The Religious Dimension
The Individual and the Group
The Power of the Past
The Move to Modernity
The Dissolution of Traditional Jewish Society
Alternative Jewish Paths
The American Experience
Tradition and Modernity: A False Dichotomy
2. Temple Shalom: Setting and Reform Context
Temple Shalom Today
The Membership
Professional Staff
Organizational Structure
The Religious School
The Reform Movement in America
3. Ideology and Identity
Social Activism
The Jewish Tradition
The Yarmulke Controversy
The Question of Jewish Content
Summary and Conclusions
4. Ritual and Identity
The Ritual Context
The Sabbath Service
The Prayerbook
The Normative Ritual
The Chaverim Service: Ritual of Reversal
5. Community and Identity
The Construction of Community: Uniqueness and Identity
The Temple Shalom Family
Differentiation from the Jewish Community
Temple Shalom as Community
6. Conclusions
The Sacralization of Identity
The Liberal Ethic
Universalism and Individualism
The Construction of a New Ethic


"Beyond Yiddishkeit deals in an intelligent and perceptive way with the issue of Jewish identity in an affluent and highly educated suburban community. Particularly significant is that it relies upon participant observation, as well as ethnographic interview techniques and data, on the part of the author. In this way, the work constitutes the first major study of this type conducted within the liberal Jewish American community. As such, it is a "pioneering" work. Equally impressive is the author's command of the sociological literature on issues of identity and her ability to apply it to the data gathered in this study. She makes sociological jargon intelligible and presents an easily-read and well-constructed book. Her ability throughout the work to focus on issues of modernity is insightful and brilliant. I found myself racing through the book and, indeed, read it in one sitting. This really is an unparalleled work in this field. " — David Ellenson, Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion

Frida Kerner Furman is Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at DePaul University.


"This book addresses an intellectually and socially important question using data which are original and powerful demonstrations of the main argument. It is well written—even fast-paced. I found myself eager to continue reading because the descriptions and analyses were presented in an accessible and lively manner that showed respect for the reader's intellect but avoided a dry, jargon-filled style. The conclusions follow neatly from the premises and are thought-provoking. " — Terrie G. Raphael, Elderplan, Inc.