This Week’s Guest: Jack Wertheimer
Contemporary America has seen religious faith buffeted by cultural change, social upheaval, and serious intellectual and moral challenges. American Judaism has hardly been immune from this broader trend as Jews across—and outside—the denominational spectrum have tried to adapt to the complexities of modern life. The eminent historian Jack Wertheimer has spent a career examining these issues, and now he takes them up again in his indispensable new tour of the Jewish religious horizon The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today. This week, Wertheimer joins the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic for the first in a multi-part series of discussions on what he has learned about American Jewry.
In this installment, Professor Wertheimer directs our attention to how average Jews—in the pews, as opposed to communal leaders or clergy—practice Jewish religious life. He discusses everything from the prevalence of belief in God to how Jews observe holidays and bar and bat mitzvahs. And he takes a look at the Jewish community’s struggle with the deep challenges of contemporary culture’s individualist ethos, the unexpected growth of American Orthodoxy, and much more.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as the original Broadway cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and “Above the Ocean” by Evan MacDonald.
Every Thursday, the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic will bring to your car/earbuds/home stereo/Alexa the latest in our efforts to advance Jewish thought. For more on the new podcast, check out our inaugural post here.
A final note: If you would like to share your thoughts on the podcast, ideas for future guests and topics, or any other form of feedback, just send us an email at [email protected]. We’re grateful for your support, and we look forward to a new year of great conversations on Jewish essays and ideas.