Deceptive Images

Deceptive Images

Towards a Redefinition of American Judaism

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ISBN: 978-1-4128-6306-3
Pages: 134
Binding: Paperback
Publication Date: 05-16-2016
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Deceptive Images is a profoundly thoughtful effort by a social scientist—who is a participant observer in American Jewish life—to come to terms with his concerns about how American Jews and Judaism have been studied, and his sensitivity to the policy implications of such studies. Liebman writes about what he cares deeply about; as a social scientist he is able to use concepts and theories in which he has been trained, although not without a sense of their limitations.

In the passionately argued book that results, Liebman contends that those concerned with American Jews, both social scientists and communal leaders, have placed too much emphasis on what Jews do and too little emphasis on Judaism itself. Because they have depended too much on quantitative studies to help them understand contemporary American Jews, they have given too little encouragement to efforts to probe the meaning of Judaism in the lives of American Jews.

This stimulating volume takes exception to the notion that American Jewish life is flourishing. It calls for reassessment both of the study of American Judaism and the priorities of American Jewish organizations.

Editorial Reviews

“Outstanding Title… This work marks an important point in the social scientific study of American Jewry. Its essays firmly embed the study of Jews within sociological theories of securalism and religion… [P]rovides a polemic on American Jewish life.”

—R. E. Prell, Choice

"Charles Liebman is, without doubt, the most perceptive and original social thinker who is writing today about the American Jewish community. Deceptive Images is important, and is very likely to become one of the standard works in the field."

—Arthur Hertzberg, Dartmouth College

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Table of Contents



1 Introduction

2 The Sociology of Religion and the Study of American Jews

3 Religious Extremism

4 Orthodoxy Faces Modernity

5 Traditionalists and Transformationists

6 The Quality of Jewish Life

7 Reflections on Social Science and Jewish Public Policy