Dynam­ic Belong­ing: Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Col­lec­tive Identities

Har­vey E. Gold­berg, Steven M. Cohen, and Ezra Kopelowitz, eds.

  • Review
By – November 16, 2012

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.

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