If one were searching for a comprehensive study of American Judaism in the 21st century, complete with all of its contradictions and complexities, one would need look no further than Jack Wertheimer’s new volume—the winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award for American Jewish Studies. The New American Judaism is an examination of the religious lives of American Jews in their religious communities, based largely on personal interviews conducted with 160 rabbis across the denominations.
Wertheimer explores the Jewish beliefs and practices of the Jewish rank and file and demonstrates how and why the religious culture of non-Orthodox Jews is weakening and confined to liminal or “peak” moments. He also reveals the existence of a burgeoning level of creative, spiritual innovation among synagogues of all types. By the end, it is apparent that while Wertheimer appreciates the efforts behind such innovations, he believes that many are insufficient and at times misdirected.