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More than 200 responsa offering practical guidance in all areas of life.
This volume is a revised compilation of responsa issued by CCAR from 1892 to 1982, grouped by subject for clarity and easy access. An appendix includes the report of the Committee on Patrilineal Descent on the Status of Children of Mixed Marriages.
The third in a series of rabbinic answers to questions of Jewish law and practice, this volume will provide not only new perspectives on old issues, but it will introduce new questions, as well.
Finalist for the 2013 National Jewish Book Award. Solomon Bennett Freehof (1892-1990) was one of America’s most distinguished, influential, and beloved rabbis. Ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1915, he was of the generation of rabbis from east European immigrant backgrounds who moved Reform Judaism away from its classical form toward a renewed appreciation of traditional practices. Freehof himself was less interested in restoring discarded rituals than in demonstrating how the Reform approach to Jewish religious practice was rooted in the Jewish legal tradition (halakhah). Opposed to any attempt to create a code of Reform practice, he nevertheless called for Reform Judaism to turn to the halakhah, not in order to adhere to codified law, but to be guided in ritual and in all areas of life by its values and its ethical insights. For Reform Jews, Jewish law was to offer “guidance, not governance,” and this guidance was to be provided through the writing of responsa, individual rulings based on legal precedent, written by an organized rabbinic authority in response to questions about real-life situations. After World War II, the earlier consensus about what constituted proper observance in a Reform context vanished as the children of east European immigrants flocked to new Reform synagogues in new suburbs, bringing with them a more traditional sensibility. Even before Freehof was named chairman of the Central Conference of American Rabbis Responsa Committee in 1956, his colleagues began turning to him for guidance, especially in the situations Freehof recognized as inevitably arising from living in an open society where the boundaries between what was Jewish and what was not were ambiguous or blurred. Over nearly five decades he answered several thousand inquiries regarding Jewish practice, the plurality of which concerned the tensions Jews experienced in navigating this open society—questions concerning mixed marriage, Jewish status, non-Jewish participation in the synagogue, conversion, and so on—and published several hundred of these in eight volumes of Reform responsa. In her pioneering study, Friedman analyzes Freehof’s responsa on a select number of crucial issues that illustrate the evolution of American Reform Judaism. She also discusses the deeper issues with which the movement struggled, and continues to struggle, in its attempt to meet the ever-changing challenges of the present while preserving both individual autonomy and faithfulness to the Jewish tradition.
Provides accessible, honest, and thorough answers to an important concept in Judaism, paralleling explanations with Christian themes and practices and exploring different facets touched by the tradition of tikkun olam--repairing the world. Original.
Jews have been a religious and cultural presence in America since the colonial era, and the community of Jews in the United States today—some six million people—continues to make a significant contribution to the American religious landscape. Emphasizing developments in American Judaism in the last quarter century among active participants in Jewish worship, this book provides both a look back into the 350-year history of Judaic life and a well-crafted portrait of a multifaceted tradition today. Combining extensive research into synagogue archival records and secondary sources as well as interviews and observations of worship services at more than a hundred Jewish congregations across the country, Raphael’s study distinguishes itself as both a history of the Judaic tradition and a witness to the vitality and variety of contemporary American Judaic life. Beginning with a chapter on beliefs, festivals, and life-cycle events, both traditional and non-traditional, and an explanation of the enormous variation in practice, Raphael then explores Jewish history in America, from the arrival of the first Jews to the present, highlighting the emergence and development of the four branches: Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform. After documenting the considerable variety among the branches, the book addresses issues of some controversy, notably spirituality, conversion, homosexuality, Jewish education, synagogue architecture, and the relationship to Israel. Raphael turns next to a discussion of eight American Jews whose thoughts and/or activities made a huge impact on American Judaism. The final chapter focuses on the return to tradition in every branch of Judaism and examines prospects for the future.

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