No longer controlled by a handful of institutional leaders based
in remote headquarters and rabbinical seminaries, American Judaism
is being transformed by the spiritual decisions of tens of
thousands of Jews living all over the United States. A pulpit rabbi
and himself an American Jew, Dana Evan Kaplan follows this
religious individualism from its postwar suburban roots to the
hippie revolution of the 1960s and the multiple postmodern
identities of today. From Hebrew tattooing to Jewish Buddhist
meditation, Kaplan describes the remaking of historical tradition
in ways that channel multiple ethnic and national identities.
While pessimists worry about the vanishing American Jew, Kaplan
focuses on creative responses to contemporary spiritual trends that
have made a Jewish religious renaissance possible. He believes that
the reorientation of American Judaism has been a "bottom up"
process, resisted by elites who have reluctantly responded to the
demands of the "spiritual marketplace." The American Jewish
denominational structure is therefore weakening at the same time
that religious experimentation is rising, leading to the innovative
approaches supplanting existing institutions. The result is an
exciting transformation of what it means to be a religious American
Jew in the twenty-first century.
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