The Myth of the Cultural Jew
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The Myth of the Cultural Jew : Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition

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A myth exists that Jews can embrace the cultural components of Judaism without appreciating the legal aspects of the Jewish tradition. This myth suggests that law and culture are independent of one another. In reality, however, much of Jewish culture has a basis in Jewish law. Similarly, Jewish law produces Jewish culture. A cultural analysis paradigm provides a useful way of understanding the Jewish tradition as the product of both legal precepts and cultural elements. This paradigm sees law and culture as inextricably intertwined and historically specific. This perspective also emphasizes the human element of law's composition and the role of existing power dynamics in shaping Jewish law. In light of this inevitable intersection between culture and law, The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition argues that Jewish culture often lacks grounding in Jewish law. Roberta Rosenthal Kwall develops and applies a cultural analysis paradigm to the Jewish tradition that departs from the understanding of Jewish law solely as the embodiment of Divine command. Her paradigm explains why both law and culture must matter to those interested in forging meaningful Jewish identity and transmitting the tradition.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 162 x 235 x 22mm | 600g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195373707
  • 9780195373707
  • 1,641,117

Review quote

Kwall's survey of the Jewish past and present through the lens of "cultural analysis law" is enlightening and instructive, and especially the discussion of how the different denominations (and post denominations) of American Judaism have juggled legal and nonlegal considerations in confronting hot-button issues in modernity (who is a Jew, homosexuality, gender equality, etc.). * Professor Tzvi Novick, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies * Its a remarkable book, a tour de force all the more remarkable because its author is not a rabbi, not a Judaic scholar in the traditional sense, not a Talmudist at all. She is, however, very insightful, very bright, and full of the wisdom she brings from her own field of scholarly expertise to the domain of Jewish studies. I recommend her book to you all! * Martin S. Cohen, The Ruminative Rabbi * Kwall presents a drastic shift in the way we discuss Jewish continuity, calling her new paradigm 'cultural analysis,' a methodology which views law and culture as mutually influential and historically inseparable. Through this analytical lens, Kwall brings a fresh perspective to the questions that for generations have plagued those committed to Jewish survival. * Avidan Halivni, New Voices * The Myth of the Cultural Jew is a fascinating book. It is both scholarly and practical, grappling with the challenges that face all of us in the contemporary world. Roberta Rosenthal Kwall writes a powerful and relevant message for the religious and non-religious alike. This book will lead you to a deeper understanding of who you are as a Jew in the 21st century. * Rabbi Asher Lopatin, President, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School * The Myth of the Cultural Jew will change the way in which lay people, academics, and Jewish clergy and professionals think about the development of Jewish law. It is the first book to apply to Jewish law the method of cultural analysis used in secular legal studies. This book also has broader implications, for Kwall uses this method to address the critical question for Judaism today: What kind of Jewish religion and identity will be viable for the future? It is a 'must read' for anyone interested in Judaism or Jewish law. * Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University * A brilliant exploration of the relationship between law and culture in the context of Judaism. Kwall offers a provocative thesis and impressively analyzes a myriad of contemporary topics. This book is a 'must read' not only for all interested in Judaism, but for all who are studying the relationship between law and culture. * Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine, School of Law *show more

About Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall is the Raymond P. Niro Professor at DePaul University College of Law. Prior to teaching at DePaul, she practiced law at Sidley & Austin in Chicago and served as a judicial clerk for Judge Leonard I. Garth, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Kwall earned her JD from the University of Pennsylvania and received her undergraduate degree from Brown University. Currently she is completing a Master's Degree in Jewish Studies. Kwall is an internationally renowned scholar and lecturer and has published articles on a wide variety of topics including Jewish law and culture, property law, and intellectual property. Her book, The Soul of Creativity: Forging a Moral Rights Law for the United States, is the seminal work in this area. She has received numerous awards for teaching and scholarship and in 2006, was designated as one of the 10 Best Law Professors in Illinois by Chicago Lawyer magazine.show more

Table of contents

Acknowledgments ; Introduction-The Myth of the Cultural Jew ; Chapter One-Culture, Law, and the Development of Jewish Tradition ; Chapter Two-Origins and Development of Jewish Law: A Top-Down View ; Chapter Three- The Norms of Jewish Law Observance: A Bottom-up View ; Chapter Four-The Birth of Jewish Denominations in Modernity and ; Their Divergent Views on Jewish Law ; Chapter Five-Foundational Conflicts:show more

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