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Being Jewish [Hardcover]

By Ari L. Goldman (Author)
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Item description for Being Jewish by Ari L. Goldman...

Discussing the practice of Judaism from both a contemporary and a historical perspective, an exploration of the nature of Judaism, its spiritual heritage, and its rituals offers a non-ideological framework for its viewpoint.

Publishers Description
Increasing numbers of Jews are returning to their religious roots in a search for meaning, eager to explore a heritage that is deeply embedded in history and at the same time rapidly changing. But what "is" Judaism today? And what does it mean -- culturally, spiritually, and ritually -- to be Jewish in the twenty-first century?
In "Being Jewish, " Ari L. Goldman offers eloquent, thoughtful answers to these questions through an absorbing exploration of modern Judaism. A bestselling author and widely respected chronicler of Jewish life, Goldman vividly contrasts the historical meaning of Judaism's heritage with the astonishing and multiform character of the religion today. The result will be a revelation for those already involved with Judaism, and a fascinating introduction for those whose interests are newly minted or rekindled.
Taking the reader through the process of discovery -- or rediscovery -- "Being Jewish" is divided into three sections, each focusing on one of the cycles of human life. Beginning with the traditions associated with the life cycle -- birth, marriage, death -- Goldman moves on to describe the rituals that mark the course of the Jewish year, starting with Rosh Hashanah. Finally, he reflects on the character of the Jewish day, exploring the role of prayer, dietary laws, and ethical behavior. All of these moments, from a minute to a lifetime, take on vibrant meaning in his thoughtful picture.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of "Being Jewish" is Goldman's discussion of the extraordinary variations in how Jews live their Judaism today. He finds a wide variety of practices, between Judaism's branches and within them. For example, a family on Long Island keeps a unique version of kosher: they have three sets of dishes and utensils -- one for meat, one for milk, and one for nonkosher Chinese takeout. While traditional Judaism frowns on such quirky modes of observance, Goldman elevates them. Jews today, he concludes, are "reaching for the holy" in unexpected and innovative ways.
These dramatically different ideas about how a Jewish life may be lived suggest how difficult it can be for today's reader to find an objective account of Judaism. And it is precisely Goldman's reporter's eye that sets this book apart. Informed by tradition without embracing any one ideology, this award-winning journalist's probing book moves across the boundaries of modern Judaism to demonstrate how it is lived. While other efforts to tackle these themes are written from the perspective of a particular religious tradition, "Being Jewish" is the work of a sophisticated observer who describes rather than proscribes. By weaving a complex and compelling commentary on Judaism, this inspiring volume encourages us to find our own place within the tradition and leads us into a deeper understanding not just of the details of the religion but, ultimately, of what it means to be Jewish.

From Publishers Weekly
HYet another book about being Jewish? This entry stands out because of Goldman's unusual perspective as an "Orthodox pluralist" who asserts up front that "there is no single way to be Jewish in America today." Goldman, a former New York Times reporter who wrote The Search for God at Harvard, claims that being Jewish can be about "feeling good" as well as observing ritual, and suggests that a little idiosyncrasy in religious practice is beneficial. The book is divided into three sections: life cycle events from birth to death, the Jewish calendar and holidays, and the rhythm of the Jewish day, including prayer and keeping kosher. It explains what tradition demands, but doesn't shy away from describing the quirky ways people really observe Judaism. For instance, there's the man who recognizes it's Passover by discarding the bun from his nonkosher hotdog and eating the meat on matzoh. Goldman focuses on ritual because, he says, it is both a simple, accessible way to strengthen Jewish identity and a powerful tool to transform the mundane into the sacred. Each chapter includes basic information, biblical and rabbinic sources, historical background, conversations with rabbis of various denominations, personal recollections, anecdotes and a glossary. Goldman explores his subject with sincerity and sensitivity, accomplishing an impressive task without overwhelming the reader. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Being Jewish by Ari L. Goldman has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 131
  • Kirkus Reviews - 08/01/2000 page 1095
  • Publishers Weekly - 08/14/2000 page 350
  • Library Journal - 09/01/2000 page 215
  • Booklist - 09/01/2000 page 34
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2001 page 13
  • Publishers Weekly - 08/11/2000
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 106

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Simon & Schuster
Pages   286
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.58" Width: 6.5" Height: 1.13"
Weight:   1.22 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 5, 2000
Publisher   Simon & Schuster
ISBN  0684823896  
ISBN13  9780684823898  

Availability  0 units.

More About Ari L. Goldman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ari L. Goldman is a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and was a reporter for The New York Times from 1973 to 1993. He lives in New York City with his wife and children.

Ari L. Goldman currently resides in New York City, in the state of New York. Ari L. Goldman was born in 1949.

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Product Categories

2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Jewish Life

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Reviews - What do customers think about Being Jewish?

Some Good Insight  Apr 13, 2002
Being Jewish gives a comprehensive account of the spiritual and cultural practices of Judaism. Similar in content to Anita Diamant's Living A Jewish Life, Being Jewish discusses the many life cycle events of Judaism as well as the holidays and common practices of prayer, giving tzedakah, keeping kosher, etc..

An advantage of Being Jewish is the more specific examples of how the different denominations practice some of the customs of Judaism. The book has a very modern appeal and that is a plus.

However, the author does tend to cite a few times too many that there are people who vary the practice of Judaism to their own needs. To paraphrase the author, there are six million jews and six million interpretations. Whereas some Jews alter their beleifs somewhat, I would say its a bit extreme to say that Judaism can be catered to the individual. Goldman eventually does focus in on the core foundations of each custom, holiday, etc.

And its the history behind each ceremony that makes this book stand tall. Goldman really gives a very good account on the history of the Brith noting the rise and the fall of its prominence in today's society. He also gives a nice history of the first Bat Mitzvah and how this trend has caught the attention of the Jewish Community. Some good summaries from the Bible are included to illustrate such points of marriage and keeping kosher. Even issues of vegatarianism are discussed as a part of the stories of Noah and Adam.

Some good summaries exists at the end of each chapter which make for easy learning. One can utilize the Bibliography as a guide for suggested readings even if it is not too extensive.

A good guide for those intersted in pursuing Judaism further. It provides a good hsitorical point of view while adding a modern touch.

A Mixed Blessing  Mar 21, 2002
If you are looking for a solid overview of traditional Jewish ritual practice, this book is a good place to start. Goldman begins with the rituals that mark "life events" (birth, coming of age, wedding, death), then runs through the annual festival calendar, and finally turns to daily ritual acts, such as prayer, keeping kosher, hospitality toward guests, sex, charity, and Torah study. For each of these, Goldman essentially takes you through the traditional ritual from beginning to end (with some rituals described in more detail than others).

What I found disappointing was the narrowness of the focus. The subtitle of the book is "The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today," but it really should have been "The Practice of Orthodox Judaism Today." Although Goldman notes in passing where Conservative and Reform (and, very occasionally, Reconstructionist) Judaism differ from Orthodox practice, he plainly considers Orthodoxy to be the "real" Judaism. He claims that "you don't have to do it all" (26) and that he intends to show that all idiosyncratic practices (such as the man who eats his non-kosher ham and cheese sandwich on matzah during Passover) are "efforts to reach for the holy" (32). Yet what he is really asking is "why don't these people do more?" And his "hope" is to make (Orthodox) ritual more accessible, so that more people will make more of it part of their lives. (32-33) I don't mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with this goal; it's just that both the subtitle and the book jacket are misleading to the extent they suggest that this book celebrates the variety of spiritual experiences and practice within Judaism.

"Being Jewish" is also somewhat lacking in the "spiritual" aspect advertised in the subtitle. Given the amount of territory Goldman covers in only 280 pages, it's probably not surprising that the mechanical details of the rituals predominate. But only a few chapters (particularly those on the Sabbath and prayer) gave me any sense of the spiritual experience that one might find in these rituals.

Last but not least, I remain troubled by a statement in the last chapter of the book, concerning the study of Torah. Goldman describes the Orthodox approach as treating both the Written and the Oral Torah as the revealed word of God, and the act of studying as an act of devotion. He then describes the "historical and critical" approach to the texts taken by the non-Orthodox rabbinical seminaries, and concludes that "You cannot both critique and fully revere texts at the same time." (259-60) (To be fair, Goldman also notes that the "faith-based approach" often flies in the face of historical fact.) This conclusion, that critique and reverence are fundamentally at odds, seems to me to be symptomatic of Goldman's attitude throughout the book. If you define "fully revere" as "accept uncritically," then of course reverence and critique are mutually incompatible. What Goldman fails to acknowledge (here and elsewhere) is that there may be other ways to "fully revere" the text (or to respect traditions and rituals) that have the same spiritual impact for particular individuals as traditional observance plainly has for Goldman.

A good place to start  Jan 16, 2001
I bought this book after a few years of not being interested in being a Jew or following any Jewish traditions. However I did maintain a group of orthodox friends throughout that time but I was simply turned off by Judaism all together. After a trip to Israel this past summer, I became very interested in my religion and felt a need to get myself involved again ...but I had forgotten so much about various traditions and laws that I didn't know where to start. A good friend of mine recommended this book to me and after reading it I feel I understand more about various Jewish practices and feel comfortable in allowing Judaism into my life again. Goldman himself claims to be a "Orthodox pluralist" where he believes that the "right answer for me is not the right answer for everyone" and describes how each person can choose/accept different aspects of Judaism that fit them. Its important to remember that when reading the book...this book is a good introduction to being Jewish but understand that actions and participating in Judaism is important but being Jewish really begins with what is in your heart. And that is something Goldman left unsaid in this book.
Very Informative  Jan 11, 2001
I'm newly interested in Judaism, and I found this book to be very helpful in straightening out all the different pratices in Judaism today. Goldman writes in a way where he doesn't come across as thinking one way of doing something is better than another way, and I really appriciate that.
Shows with specific examples how Jews from a wide variety of life and intellectual perspectives search for G-d in their everyday activities.

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