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Since their arrival on these shores over 350 years ago, American Jews who have wished to maintain a Jewish communal life have faced a set of novel challenges. Throughout their history in the U.S., Jews have been free to embrace or eschew communal involvement; to support or ignore Jewish institutions; to associate with other Jews or to distance themselves from coreligionists. The dispersal of Jews across so vast a country has also posed serious challenges to Jewish unity. For these and other reasons examined in this volume, the group existence of Jews in the U.S. has depended on a variety of creative efforts to develop and sustain communities in the face of powerful pressures to disperse and assimilate. This volume explores the multiple conceptions of community in the American Jewish imagination. Essays by leading scholars working in the fields of history, ethnography, material culture, literary criticism and Jewish thought uncover the underlying assumptions of those who continually redefined the Jewish community from colonial times to the present day. Topics include the notion of "synagogue-community" in prerevolutionary America, the role of commerce and business in nineteenth-century communal life, transnationalism and Jewish immigration, suburbanization, Jewish patriotism in wartime, sports and board games, Jewish literary classics, Jewish mothers, feminism,Yiddish schools, Jewish museums, and the communal possibilities of the internet.
Engaging media has been an ongoing issue for American Jews, as it has been for other religious communities in the United States, for several generations. Jews, God, and Videotape is a pioneering examination of the impact of new communications technologies and media practices on the religious life of American Jewry over the past century. Shandler’s examples range from early recordings of cantorial music to Hasidic outreach on the Internet. In between he explores mid-twentieth-century ecumenical radio and television broadcasting, video documentation of life cycle rituals, museum displays and tourist practices as means for engaging the Holocaust as a moral touchstone, and the role of mass-produced material culture in Jews’ responses to the American celebration of Christmas. Shandler argues that the impact of these and other media on American Judaism is varied and extensive: they have challenged the role of clergy and transformed the nature of ritual; facilitated innovations in religious practice and scholarship, as well as efforts to maintain traditional observance and teachings; created venues for outreach, both to enhance relationships with non-Jewish neighbors and to promote greater religiosity among Jews; even redefined the notion of what might constitute a Jewish religious community or spiritual experience. As Jews, God, and Videotape demonstrates, American Jews’ experiences are emblematic of how religious communities’ engagements with new media have become central to defining religiosity in the modern age.
This lively book focuses on how different Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities engage with new media. Rather than simply reject or accept new media, religious communities negotiate complex relationships with these technologies in light of their history and beliefs. Heidi Campbell suggests a method for studying these processes she calls the "religious-social shaping of technology" and students are asked to consider four key areas: religious tradition and history; contemporary community values and priorities; negotiation and innovating technology in light of the community; communal discourses applied to justify use. A wealth of examples such as the Christian e-vangelism movement, Modern Islamic discourses about computers and the rise of the Jewish kosher cell phone, demonstrate the dominant strategies which emerge for religious media users, as well as the unique motivations that guide specific groups.

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