ABSTRACT: Nathan Glazer’s 1957 semi-popular book, American Judaism, was unprecedented in its academic and unapologetic approach to its topic. Even more noteworthy was Glazer’s perspective on the future of Jews and religion in America. While Glazer did not foretell the end of Jews in America, his book, unlike several “Introduction to Judaism” books of its era, also did not attempt to portray Judaism as a religion just like Christianity. Rather, Glazer noted the essential difference of Judaism: it did not fit comfortably within the category of religion. And yet, Judaism had, in recent years, attained a hallowed position among American religions. Much of Glazer’s book sought to explore this puzzle of why contemporary Judaism in America did not harmonize with Protestant notions of religion even as it was being embraced as “America’s third faith.” To understand this tension between Judaism and other religions and between Jewish intellectuals such as Glazer and the Judaism that they observed on the new suburban frontiers of American Jewish life was not resolve it. Glazer’s book sought to keep alive such tensions. In this way, Glazer shared common with some of the young Jewish novelists of his era. Glazer’s book is also distinctive in its attention to socioeconomic factors: a newly middle class status among American Jews affected their use of a religion category and the level of acceptance they received from other Americans. So too did a rise in economic status become correlated with a loss of distinctive Jewish culture, in Glazer’s telling.
Jewish Quarterly Review – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Jan 14, 2015
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