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How Judaism Redefined Itself As An American Religion

Allan C. Brownfeld
Spring - Summer 2019

By Steven R. Weisman,  
Simon & Schuster,  
328 Pages,  
This book comes at a moment when Judaism in America is increasingly divided. Some Jewish groups define Judaism as a religion of universal values. Others, adopting the Zionist narrative, define Judaism largely in nationalistic and ethnic terms. There are Jewish groups which accept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration that Israel is the “nation-state” of the “Jewish people,” ignoring more than 20 per cent of Israel’s population, which is non-Jewish. Other Jews respond that the “nation-state” of American Jews is the United States. Some Jewish groups want to make it illegal to advocate a boycott of Israel in response to its 50-year occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Other Jewish groups support a boycott ,arguing that Israel’s policies violate Jewish moral and ethical values. Making sense of all this is not easy.  
In this important book, Steven R. Weisman, who served as a correspondent, editor, and editorial board member of The New York Times, tells the dramatic history of how Judaism redefined itself in America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—-the personalities who competed with one another and shaped its evolution and the force of the American dynamic that transformed an ancient religion.  
The struggles that produced a redefinition of Judaism illustrate the larger American experience and the efforts of Americans of all religious backgrounds to reconcile their faith with modern demands. The narrative begins with the arrival of the first Jews in New Amsterdam and proceeds over the nineteenth century as a massive immigration takes place at the dawn of the 20th century.  
Spirit Of Dynamism And Change  
“The thesis of this book,” writes Weisman, “is that the Judaism of America today—-even as practiced by many in the traditional Orthodox branch—-bears witness to a spirit of dynamism and change similar to what had existed among the rabbis and Jewish scholars throughout Jewish history. That spirit infused the rulings and actions of German reformers of the nineteenth century. The impact was different in the United States, however, where it produced a particularly American response, influenced inevitably by the culture of a country that disdained religious hierarchies while allowing and even encouraging citizens of all faiths to create institutions reflecting their own, distinctive understanding of God.”  
A major focus of the disputes of the earlier era was theological and existential in nature. “It centered,” notes Weisman, “on whether Jews should pray for an altogether human messiah to deliver them back to the Holy Land, there to worship at the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Titus’s Roman legions in 70 CE. For as long as Jews have seen themselves as exiles—-which they have done since the temple’s destruction—-they have prayed for a return to Zion. But in early-nineteenth century America, where Jews were emancipated and accepted as equal American citizens, they instead embraced the United States as their Zion. There was no longer a need in their view to pray for a messiah or the prophet Elijah to come back to life and lead them away from the land to which they now happily extended their loyalty. The dispute over the Messiah grew so emotional that it provoked a fist-fight and riot on Rosh Hashanah in 1850 on the pulpit of Isaac Mayer Wise’s synagogue in Albany, New York, and the sheriff’s police were called in to clear the sanctuary.”  
The evolving mission of Jews emerged in the nineteenth century, redefined by reformers who relegated to the sidelines the requirements to carry out hundreds of practices in clothing, diet, work, and prayer, they rejected the idea of reestablishing the Kingdom of David in Zion and, instead, embraced the idea that Jews themselves were a messianic people. They were, in this view, a priestly group designed by God to bring the belief in one God to the rest of the world—-to seek justice and charity in behalf of God.  
Idealism And Exemplary Works  
This idea, says Weisman, is one deeply ingrained in the American spirit: “Idealism and commitment to exemplary works is built into the DNA of a great many Americans as well as American Jews. It can be traced to the audacious pilgrims aboard the Arbella who escaped persecution in England and organized themselves in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 around John Winthrop’s vision: ‘We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.’ American Jews have come to define a similar universalist mission from the divine message conveyed by the prophet Isaiah, translated as, ‘I the Lord have called you...and set you for a covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations...’ (Isaiah 41:2-7).”  
Different from Europe, in America Jews lived in a secularly neutral state with guarantees of being treated as equal citizens. Historian Jonathan Sarna notes that they felt liberated in America and confident enough to reinvent their faith. Exercising the right to govern their own practices in each community, they could be Jews in an American way. They wanted no “chief rabbis” to dictate rules. They could, and did, elevate the role of women. They allowed men and women to sit together in family pews. American Jews wrested the leadership of their religion from rabbinical authorities.  
As Weisman points out, “It was believed that if democracy was good enough for American citizens, it was good enough for American members of Jewish congregations. Disputes between rabbis and lay leaders of their congregations became the norm. ‘We have no ecclesiastical authorities in America, other than the congregations themselves,’ lamented Isaac Leeser, a prominent exponent of Jewish Orthodoxy...American Jews adopted the word temple for their synagogues...it bore ideological significance especially for reformist Jews, who employed it to show that Jews did not need to pray for the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem because they had temples of their own in America.  
Outsized Personalities And Dramatic Conflicts  
This book is filled with stories of the outsized personalities and dramatic conflicts that produced a distinctively American Judaism. It is a uniquely American story and starts at the very beginning of our country.  
The first Jews to arrive in the New World may well have been converts or secret Jews aboard one of Columbus’s ships that landed in 1492 on an island in the Bahamas that Columbus named San Salvador. Columbus, it has been speculated, may have been one of these “hidden” Jews himself.  
In 1630, Dutch forces took the Brazilian coastal city of Recife from the Portuguese. Dutch Jews then settled in Recife, establishing a community that included rabbis, a synagogue and two Jewish schools. But the Portuguese took Recife back in 1654 and the Jews fled—-some to England, some to the Caribbean, some to Amsterdam—-and some to New Amsterdam in North America. It was there that 23 Jewish asylum seekers arrived.  
Historical Jewish Memories  
Weisman provides historical perspective to these events: “....more than the followers of any other religion, Jews saw themselves as escapees, strangers, as galut—-the Hebrew term for uprooted and living in exile...Yet like Odysseus, Jews in biblical literature always contemplate a return—-and a redemption...Always on the move, the Jews took flight from slavery back to the Promised Land, along the way receiving a body of laws from God in Sinai. These historical memories are tattooed into the Jewish psyche. But the escape from persecution to Dutch territory in the New World in the seventeenth century was different. It led eventually to Jews accepting their existence in a new Promised Land, for which their arrival in New York marked the beginning of a struggle to belong..”  
Interesting Jewish personalities fill colonial history. One of them, Dr. John de Sequeyra, a native of London whose ancestors were court physicians to the Kings and Queens of Spain and Portugal, studied medicine in Holland. He moved to Williamsburg, Virginia where he practiced medicine in an office on Duke of Gloucester Street from 1745 to 1782. One of his patients was Thomas Jefferson, who credits him with introducing the tomato to America as an edible fruit. In 1773, the first insane asylum in the 13 colonies, Eastern State Hospital, opened in Williamsburg. Dr. De Sequeyra was one of the first physicians at the hospital, which still stands today. He completed a manuscript titled “Diseases of Virginia.”  
American Jews acclimated quickly. A 1777 diary entry from a Hessian officer fighting for the British, Conrad Doehle, reports: “The Jews (in America) cannot ...be told, like those in our country, by their beards and costume, but they are dressed like all other citizens , shave regularly and also eat pork...moreover, do not hesitate to intermarry. The Jewish women have their hair dressed and wear French finery like the women of other faiths.”  
The inauguration of George Washington as the first president in 1789, writes Weisman, “served as an emotional capstone for Jews living in the newly established United States. (Gershom Mendes) Seixas , as a widely renowned figure in the colonies, , represented the Jewish community at the festivities, along with fifteen Christian ministers. He also became the first Jew to serve as a trustee of Columbia College...Seixas became the first ‘rabbi’ (however unofficial the term for him) to use English (rather than Portuguese) for some prayers. As an acquaintance of Christian leaders in the community, he sometimes gave sermons to Christian congregations, including St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and invited Christian ministers to his congregation. He went so far as to describe himself as ‘minister’ to the Jews of New York City, a symbol of his acceptance outside his community...he became what one historian calls ‘the first Jewish example of a type of religious leadership characteristic of Protestantism in the American setting but new to the Jewish tradition’...a full-fledged member of the new country’s pluralistic religious establishment.”  
Charleston, South Carolina  
By 1800, Charleston, South Carolina had the largest Jewish community in the United States—-500 people out of a total population of 1:000 Jews in South Carolina, which, in turn, constituted approximately 40 per cent of the entire Jewish population of 2,500 in the country. In 1838 a major fire broke out, more than a thousand buildings were destroyed, including the city’s synagogue. In 1840 the cornerstone was laid for a new synagogue.  
“On the wall of the synagogue,” writes Weisman, “was placed the Ten Commandments and—-in an unusual innovation—-only ten of the thirteen articles of faith enunciated by Maimonides...Omitted were the belief in the coming of the messiah who will someday restore Israel’s fortunes, the resurrection of the dead, and the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple, where animal sacrifices would be resumed as they had existed before the fall of the Temple in 70 CE.”  
The new synagogue introduced an even more startling innovation—-an organ. A Reformed society within the synagogue substituted in its credo the immortality of the soul, an emerging idea among Jewish scholars, for the traditional Jewish belief in a resurrection of the dead. They further declared that only the Ten Commandments, not the entire Torah, were revealed by God to the Jewish people and that the 613 commandments that governed daily practices of Jews were also not revealed orally by God to Moses, as traditional Judaism asserted. The society also introduced a newly explicit concept of”good faith towards all mankind” as a Jewish tenet and discarded the belief in a personal messiah, replacing it with the idea that God was “the only true redeemer” for humanity. Their synagogue would be called a “temple,” intending to suggest that worship would be conducted in a place supplanting the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.  
Reform Was On The Move  
Traditionalists resisted, and even challenged the installation of an organ in court proceedings. But Reform was on the move. Weisman notes that Rabbi Gustav Poznanski “...praised ‘the restoration of instrumental music’ in the synagogue, declaring that ‘it was beautiful and solitary as well as spiritually proper in praising God with strong instruments and an organ.’ He further praised the expansion of English ‘instead of a tongue unintelligible’ to most members. His speech won plaudits from the Charleston Courier newspaper, which declared that the ‘dark clouds of sectarian prejudice and religious intolerance seem everywhere to be fading away, before the widely spreading lights of right reason and philosophy.’”  
Finally, in his dedication of America’s first Reform synagogue in Charleston in 1841, Rabbi Poznanski declared: “This happy country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple. As our fathers defended with their lives that temple, that city and that land, so will their sons defend this temple, this city and this land.”  
The demographics of the American Jewish community began to change in the 1840s with an influx of immigrants from Germany and Central Europe. Upon arriving, they wrote to family and friends to join them. An early German Jewish immigrant, Aaron Phillips, wrote to his parents in Bavaria: “Here we are all the same, all the religions are honored and respected and have the same rights. An Israelite with talent who does well, can like many others achieve the highest honors.”  
Individual Choice On Religion  
The land they left behind had an altogether different Jewish life than they found in America. “It had been governed,” writes Weisman, “In all aspects of life by Jewish law, Jewish courts and rabbinical decree. Jews in Europe had been guided by an elaborate code of behavior...In the new world of individual choice on religion, peddlers were often the first Jews to arrive in various towns or regions...In such far-flung places...they had to adjust their traditions..”  
A variety of outspoken rabbis, of diverse points of view—- emerged, among them Max Lilienthal, David Einhorn, Isaac Leeser and Isaac Mayer Wise. In the case of David Einhorn, a follower of German Jewish enlightenment figures such as Abraham Geiger, under whom he had studied. In 1855, he became the first rabbi at Har Sinai Congregation in Baltimore and produced his own prayer book. He questioned whether Jews needed to observe Tisha B’Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Like other reformers, Einhorn rejected the idea of a return to Jerusalem. Later, Einhorn had to flee Baltimore at the time of the Civil War because of his vocal opposition to slavery. Other rabbis, in both the North and South, embraced slavery as consistent with the Bible, as did many Christian ministers.  
A leading personality of this era is Isaac Mayer Wise, who emigrated from Bohemia in 1846 at the age of 27. In Weisman’s view, “Wise changed the course of Judaism as it settled and integrated itself into the fabric of religious life in America...He established the first Jewish seminary to graduate rabbis in America, , an important new American Jewish prayer book, an organization of American reform rabbis, and what was to become the largest organization of Jews in the United States, now known as the Union for Reform Judaism. ..He was the pivotal figure in creating a new normal for American Jewish belief.”  
Civil War Is “A Watershed” For Jewish Life  
The advent of the Civil War represented a “watershed” for American Jewish life, writes Weisman, “...that involved Jewish soldiers from all over the nation...Of the 150,000 Jews living in at least 160 identifiable Jewish Communities (25,000 of them in the South)...the number of Jews serving in the South was 2,000 to 3,000 and 6,000 in the North—-more than 5 per cent of the total population, a remarkably large number. In addition, this number included generals, surgeons, and medal winners. David Urbansky, a Jewish soldier who had emigrated from Prussia, was the first American Jew to be awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism at the Battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg...Diaries and journals attest to the experience of Jews feeling at home in military service.”  
In military service, Jews did their best to observe their faith. General Robert E. Lee, a devout Christian, pledged in 1864 “to try to facilitate the observances of the duties of their religion by the Israelites in the army.” The historian Jonathan Sarna cites two accounts of Passover in 1862, one on the Union side and the other Confederate, as they sought to obtain matzo and kosher meat for the Seder.  
The highest ranking Jew during the Civil War was Judah P. Benjamin, who served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War in the Confederate government and was a close aide to Jefferson Davis. When he represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate prior to the Civil War, Benjamin, a slaveholder, was referred to as “the Hebrew with Egyptian principles.”  
Colorful Jewish Characters  
Many colorful Jewish characters emerge during this period. Perhaps the best known Jew to interact with Abraham Lincoln was Issachar Zacharie, a foot doctor who treated the president. “The conversations between Lincoln and his doctor,” notes Weisman,”were said to have ranged through many subjects and included a share of gossip since Zacharie also treated various members of Lincoln’s cabinet, the Senate and the Union’s commanding general and thorn in Lincoln’s side, George P. McClellan...Zacharie’s most famous mission entailed a trip to the Confederate capital of Richmond in 1863 to discuss a possible accommodation between North and South. When aspects of his discussion came to light—-supposedly involving a scheme for the Confederacy to attack Napoleon lll’s  
French troops in Mexico...and install Jefferson Davis as president of Mexico—-they were widely ridiculed.”  
After Lincoln’s assassination, a Jewish shop-keeper in Buffalo, New York, Julius T. Francis, campaigned for Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, to be a national holiday—-the cause of his life, he said. Francis died in 1881, after founding the Buffalo Lincoln’s Birthday Association, which continued work that is widely credited with the success of making Lincoln’s birthday the holiday it has become. In 1909, to commemorate Lincoln’s 100th birthday, Victor David Brenner, a Jewish sculptor originally from Lithuania, designed the profile of Lincoln in bronze that remains on the penny. In 1942, the composer Aaron Copland wrote his “Lincoln Portrait,” a musical accompaniment to Lincoln’s words.  
Support For Slavery  
Jewish support for slavery was to be heard not only in the South. Rabbi Morris Raphall of New York, in a celebrated address delivered on the National Fast Day (Jan. 4, 1861) declared that even if southern slaveholders had acted wrongly, slave holding as such was “no sin,” for slave property was “expressly placed under the protection of the Ten Commandments.”  
Rabbi Raphall’s address reinforced familiar Protestant arguments but nevertheless received wide circulation, coming as it did from a learned rabbi. It sparked debate in both Jewish and non-Jewish circles about how the Bible should be interpreted and read. Opponents of slavery condemned Raphall’s literal reading of the biblical text and insisted on a more contextualized reading or one that focused on the spirit rather than the letter of divine law.  
Rabbi David Einhorn, for example, argued that it was “rebellion against God to enslave human beings created in His image.” On the other hand, one Protestant minister was so convinced by Raphall’s close textual reading based on the Hebrew original , that he declared the rabbi’s lecture to be “as true almost as the word of God itself.” The controversy focused attention on the “Jewish view of slavery.” Clearly, on this issue, the Jewish community did not speak in a single voice.  
Some expressed surprise that Jews, who had suffered persecution over many years, would be sympathetic to slavery. “The objects of so much mean prejudice and unrighteous oppression as the Jews have been for ages,” declared the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, “more than any other denomination, ought to be the enemies of caste and the friends of universal freedom.”  
Uniquely American Judaism  
The 19th century saw the emergence of a uniquely American Judaism. The first Reform congregation in Chicago in 1861 took the name Chicago Sinai Congregation. Weisman writes that, “Sinai was one of the early American exponents of the redefinition of the Jewish people as the equivalent of the Messiah. As its preamble put it’We are deeply convinced that Israel has been called by God to be the Messiah of the nations and spread truth and virtue on earth. In order to fulfill this high mission, Israel has to undergo a process of purification in its own midst...The special mission of American Israel, therefore, is to place Judaism before the world, purified in doctrine and content,and to become a shining example to Israelites the world over.’...The congregation also called for the omission of ‘prayers for the restoration of the sacrificial cult, for Israel’s return to Palestine, the expression of a hope for a personal Messiah and for the resurrection of the body.”  
A meeting of rabbinical leaders was held in Philadelphia in 1869, convened by Samuel Adler of Temple Emanu-El in New York. This conference achieved consensus on the matter of opposing prayers calling for the restoration of the Jewish state in the Holy Land. The conference also discarded the principle that the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem was the product of God’s wrath over the sins of the Jewish people. The conference endorsed the teaching that the Temple’s destruction and the Jews’ dispersal was part of a divine plan for the realization of their high priestly mission to lead the nations to the true knowledge and worship of God.  
“The Philadelphia conference,” Weisman declares, “proved a landmark in the Jewish effort to distance itself from identity as a ‘nation’ or ‘people’ as well as from Jewish traditional practices. In doing so, it effectively fulfilled the legacy of the principles enunciated in Charleston...that ‘this country is our Palestine,this city our Jerusalem,this House of God our Temple.”  
The proceedings in Philadelphia led to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, born in Cincinnati in July 1873, which brought together thirty four congregations from thirteen states. In July 1883, two years after the founding of Hebrew Union College, a celebration was held to commemorate the first ordination of rabbis in America.  
“The Trefa Banquet”  
This celebration became famous for what became known as “the trefa banquet,” at which non -kosher food was served. “Furious planning went into what Wise and others hoped and expected would be a landmark event,” writes Weisman. “More than a hundred leaders from seventy six congregations around the country descended on the city to see four young men installed as rabbis. Also attending were Jews in town to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and members of the Rabbinical Literary Association, a forerunner of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.”  
The banquet which followed is described by the author as a “disaster,” because of “the decision by the caterer to provide crabs, shrimp, clams and frogs legs—-prohibited by kosher dietary laws—-to Jews of all persuasions, including Orthodox rabbis in attendance, provoked a backlash. At least two of the observant clerics stormed out of the event, according an eyewitness. Articles in Jewish journals around the country gleefully condemned Wise’s seminary for colossal insensitivity.” In the end, Weisman suggests, the serving of non-kosher food was likely an inadvertent error of the caterer.  
Two years later, in November 1885, Reform rabbis meeting in Pittsburgh wrote an eight point platform. It emphasized that Reform Judaism denied nationalism of any variety. It stated: “We recognize in the era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching realization of Israel’s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.”  
Embracing Social Progress  
Weisman provides this assessment of the platform adopted in Pittsburgh: “At a little more than six hundred words in length , the Pittsburgh Platform reflected the most ambitious attempt in modern Jewish history to embrace the goal of social progress among all citizens, while seeking to reconcile Judaism with science, history, modern interpretations of text, and practical realities of the contemporary world. Breaking dramatically with a vast legacy of law, tradition and history, the platform capped decades of incremental and fitful moves by American Jewish leaders...Pittsburgh is known as the foundation of the ‘classical’ phase of Reform Judaism...The platform also edged Judaism into increasing alignment with the influential social gospel of Protestantism,Catholicism and—most important—-the leanings of many secularized Jews in America toward the belief that religious faith must be fulfilled by pursuing religiously inspired social justice.”  
Many interesting 19th century personalities are portrayed by the author. One, Felix Adler, the son of the rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in New York, became involved with the Free Religious Association, one of whose leaders was Ralph Waldo Emerson, the transcendentalist philosopher and son of a Unitarian minister, who rejected organized religion. Adler eventually left Judaism and formed the Ethical Culture movement. Isaac Mayer Wise said of this movement that, “There is no God, and Felix Adler is his prophet.”  
In the case of Emma Lazarus, born in New York in 1849: we have someone who contributed to America’s image of itself. A well known author of poetry, prose and translations, she wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus,” in 1883 which includes words of world-wide welcome to the United States. Her words are inscribed in a bronze plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The last stanza of the sonnet was later set to music by Irving Berlin as the song, “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor” for the 1949 musical “Miss Liberty.”  
Change In The Twentieth Century  
In the 20th century, with the immigration of Eastern European Jews in large numbers, American Judaism continued to change. The emergence of Zionism and the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe caused many to sympathize with the idea of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. Reform Judaism slowly began to accommodate to this idea. What Weisman tends to overlook, however, is that the universalist and anti-nationalism ideas of 19th century Reform Judaism lived on, particularly in the American Council for Judaism. At the time of the Balfour Declaration, Weisman discusses American Jewish supporters of Zionism, such as Louis Brandeis, but overlooks the vigorous Jewish opposition of those days.  
In 1919, in response to the Balfour Declaration’s call for the establishment of a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine, a petition was presented to President Woodrow Wilson. It represented the dominant view of American Jews with regard to Zionism and Palestine. The petition criticized Zionist efforts to segregate Jews “as a political unit...in Palestine or elsewhere,” and underlined the principle of equal rights for all citizens of any state “irrespective of creed or ethnic descent.” It rejected Jewish nationalism as a general concept and held against the founding of any state on the basis of religion and/or race.  
Among those signing this petition were Rep. Julius Klein of California, Henry Morganthau, Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Simon W. Rosendale, former Attorney General of New York, Mayor L.H. Kempner of Galveston, Texas, E.M. Baker, President of the New York Stock Exchange, Jesse L.Straus of Macy’s, and New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs.  
How Judaism Became An American Religion  
Weisman focuses on the years leading up to the twentieth century, and discusses our contemporary challenges only briefly. His message is a positive one—-of how Judaism became a genuinely American religion, and continues to evolve.  
When Jews began to emigrate to America in its early years, many predicted that Judaism would not survive the challenges of a free and open society. But, Weisman shows us, “Jews did more than outwit the pessimists and survive. They thrived in part by adjusting their religion to their new environment’s demands. ...the Jews wanted to make Jewish customs more ‘American’ in their own eyes and the eyes of their fellow citizens. Finally, they embraced an intellectual transformation guiding them to rethink and revise ancient laws, practices and doctrines to keep Judaism alive for future generations.”  
A central thesis of his book, Weisman concludes, is that,”,,,after Jews came to the United States, they evolved in the nineteenth century from believing in a messiah who would return Jews to the Holy Land toward a belief in seeking redemption for humanity through good works —-specifically by working for social justice and harmony among all peoples. It is thus important that this tradition—-the mission—-remains central to American Jews, who believe that ‘leading an ethical life’ is essential to American Judaism...They may say ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ at Passover. But for the most part...they have left behind the goal of restoring the Kingdom of David in the Holy Land...The transformation of Judaism into a faith that seeks redemption through adhering to core traditions while practicing good works to hasten a ‘messianic’ age of redemption has become the bulwark of their survival in America...The history recounted in this book must be seen as a story that continues. Perhaps the biggest lesson is that Jews should be unafraid to stand up for how they want to pursue their varied religious paths toward meaning and toward faith and worship. Doing so is not only an American tradition. It is a tradition of American Judaism.”  
Movement Toward Universalism  
This book tells the important story of how Judaism became an American religion. As the 21st century unfolds, further changes are inevitable. Where the future will lead is impossible to predict. One hopeful possibility is that the movement toward universalism and the rejection of nationalism which proceeded dramatically in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—-and was interrupted by the rise of Nazism, World War II and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine—-will once again move forward in the future. There is now every indication that this will be the case. The current divisions in American Judaism certainly point in this direction. *

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