The decision to write a book in a popularized format, without the citations of the vast array of theological, historical, sociological and anthropological sources that were available to the author, is an interesting one. It may, by definition, serve to create a book that will have a broader appeal and thus a greater impact on its intended audience. Rabbi Steinsaltz, prolific writer, scholar, educator, and hailed by Time magazine as a “once-in-a-millennium scholar,” tackles a wide range of issues in chapters all characterized by intriguing titles and subtitles. I found myself at times intrigued and at other times suspect of attempts to make sweeping generalizations about “We Jews.” Nonetheless, Steinsaltz’ insights on our historic abilities to assimilate, our fundamental long-term lack of unity and unified leadership, the tension between emotionalism and intellectualism, and the Jewish search for unifying principles were particularly fascinating. The brief questions and answers that follow each chapter regrettably tend to be far less illuminating. Ultimately and perhaps ironically, this book perhaps mirrors the Jewish people. It displays flashes of brilliance interspersed within a range of important issues and concerns, but ultimately and significantly is unsatisfying because it fails to fully realize its potential.
We Jews: Who Are We and What Should We Do
William Liss-Levinson is vice president, chief strategy & operations officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a consumer health research, information, and publishing company. He holds a Ph.D. in education and is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Book Council.
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