In Religious Parenting, a trio of professors analyze the results of an extensive study of the attitudes of Americans who wish to inculcate religious belief in their children. Melissa Langsam Braunstein, in her review, notes that the authors display a conspicuous lack of understanding of Judaism, beginning with their choice of subjects:
By interviewing 235 single and coupled parents—215 of whom self-identified as religious, and fifteen of whom were Jewish—the co-authors [found] remarkably similar answers across geography, social class, and religious background. In short, they find that religious people . . . have much in common.
[The Jews include] a mother who found “it weird to have [her baby] do Jewish things, like Shabbat or putting a little yamaka [sic] on his little head”; the father who blamed religion for “the overwhelming number of wars”; the mother who insisted that “rules don’t have intrinsic truth or value to them” in Judaism; or the father who acknowledged, “‘I’m not really a spiritual or religious person.’” . . . That the authors completely ignore Orthodox Jews, who observe Judaism as a 24/7 religion and have a better retention rate, makes zero sense.
Moreover, writes Braunstein, the book seems to miss something more profound hidden in the data:
That many parents expressed a willingness to skip religious services in favor of weekend sports leagues . . . sounded less like commentary on any particular religious group than an expression of Americanism, our non-sectarian religion. Ditto where the authors note, “The story is thus identical across all of these demographic differences: in life, each individual must be self-determining and true to [his] unique self.” That perfectly encapsulates American individualist thinking, but not community-oriented Judaism. And when the authors observe [that] “Children’s ‘best selves’ do not automatically happen. They must be nurtured and achieved,” they are summarizing American upper-middle-class achievement culture, not a religious idea.