Non­fic­tion

Jew Vs. Jew: The Strug­gle for the Soul of Amer­i­can Jewry

Samuel G. Freedman
  • Review
By – October 26, 2011

Jew Vs. Jew is the book of the sea­son. It is a prob­ing, well-writ­ten inves­ti­ga­tion into the heart and soul of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in Amer­i­ca. Samuel G. Freed­man dis­sects Amer­i­can Jew­ry, opens raw wounds, uncov­ers weak­ness­es, and points out foibles. Jew Vs. Jew shows you just where and how Amer­i­can Jew­ry failed.

Freedman’s account is an hon­est, anec­do­tal por­tray­al of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in Amer­i­ca. He is unbi­ased and shows a tru­ly deep under­stand­ing of numer­ous com­mu­ni­ties many of which are sel­dom giv­en a fair por­tray­al. His con­clu­sions are obvi­ous, yet, nev­er­the­less, jolting. 

Freed­man brings an array of exam­ples to prove his point that Amer­i­can Jew­ry is decay­ing and that it is mov­ing into sev­er­al clear­ly marked cat­e­gories. The most pro­nounced groups are sim­ple. They are those who will be total­ly dis­con­nect­ed to Judaism, and those who will be seri­ous­ly com­mit­ted to Jew­ish law and their Jew­ish community. 

Many peo­ple will be upset and even insult­ed by Freed­man and his cri­tique. His insight and under­stand­ing must be addressed regard­less of whether or not you agree with his the­sis or his exam­ples. His cri­tique includes the break­down of Zion­ist edu­ca­tion. He shows the fail­ure of inter­de­nom­i­na­tion­al work. He shows how Jew­ish extrem­ists are born and why they are moti­vat­ed. And he shows that, even in the sub­urbs of Cleve­land in the holy city of Jerusalem, teh inter­nal dis­putes between Jews are far more dan­ger­ous than anti-Semi­tism could ever be.

Susan M. Cham­bré, Pro­fes­sor Emeri­ta of Soci­ol­o­gy at Baruch Col­lege, stud­ies Jew­ish phil­an­thropy, social and cul­tur­al influ­ences on vol­un­teer­ing, and health advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions. She is the author of Fight­ing for Our Lives: New York’s AIDS Com­mu­ni­ty and the Pol­i­tics of Dis­ease and edit­ed Patients, Con­sumers and Civ­il Soci­ety.

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