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The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness

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The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness

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The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness
By Sylvia Barack Fishman, PhD
Jewish Lights Publishing, 2007
ISBN 10: 1-58023-030-X
ISBN 13: 978-1-58023-030-8

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - February 27, 2007

All Jews are united by a common heritage and a common belief system, or are they? In The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, a professor of Contemporary Jewish Life at Brandies University, examines the various 'flavors' of Judaism. In this edifying book, Fishman examines how Jewish identity has changed over time. She offers a historic overview of Jewish history, from the Biblical to the Modern Era, showing how geographical and political considerations have fostered the development of different cultural perspectives among various Jewish groups. She also chronicles the development of the various different, yet interrelated Jewish religious movements, and what the future might hold for these movements. Within the scope of this book, Fishman also looks at the role and treatment of converts to Judaism throughout history.

The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness is organized both chronologically and thematically. The initial chapters in this book are devoted to an historic overview, developing the foundation upon which the development of different 'varieties' of Jewishness can be studied. Once this foundation is established, Fishman moves on to examining the numerous movements that have developed within Judaism, including the many varieties of Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism, Reconstructionist, Reform Judaism, and other movements. Finally, the book concludes with an overview of what the future might hold in store for Jewish Americans and in terms of Jewish diversity. In addition to the main text, Fishman has also included a handy historic time line, a detailed glossary, and endnotes that can be used in place of a bibliography to explore the topic of Jewish diversity in greater detail.

The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness is a fascinating and enlightening book. Although written more along the lines of an academic study, this book is very accessible and it will captivate both scholars and general readers alike. In brief, Fishman takes the reader on a guided tour of Jewish history and cultural development, and of the various movements within Judaism. This book is a must read for anyone interested in Jewish history, diversity, or religious development.

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