Is there more than one way to be Jewish? Can we account for the different, sometimes even conflicting, ways that people around the world connect to their Jewish identities while still maintaining some kind of unified or collective concept of what it means to be Jewish?
In Dynamic Belonging, a collection of essays edited by Harvey E. Goldberg, Steven M. Cohen, and Ezra Kopelowitz, a diverse set of educators and researchers – including a number of sociologists and anthropologists – are all interested in answering those very questions. One of the strengths of the collection is that, as it becomes clear in reading through the book, there are no easy or conclusive answers to these complicated and important inquiries. The essays in Dynamic Belonging instead recognize how, among other factors, geographies, personal and public histories, and individual choices affect the ways that people come to perceive their Jewish identities.
The seventeen contributors of this collection rehearse and debate these issues in diverse ways. Some construct and then debate comparisons between and among different groups of people (Israelis and non-Israelis, or religious, secular, and traditional Jews), others examine Jewish identity in light of sociological concepts, and still others cite their personal histories as examples of the intricacies of tracing the effects of history and geography on personal identity. While the book is written primarily for other academics, those with an interest in the topic will find that many of these essays expand their knowledge of the complexities of Jewish belonging.
Tahneer Oksman is assistant professor and director of the Writing Program at Marymount Manhattan College. She has published articles in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, Studies in Comics, and Studies in American Jewish Literature, as well as the Forward, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Cleaver Magazine, where she is the graphic narratives reviews editor.