Paul Mendes-Flohr, "Cultural Disjunctions: Post-Traditional Jewish Identities" (U Chicago Press, 2021)

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The identity of contemporary Jews is multifaceted, no longer necessarily defined by an observance of the Torah and God’s commandments. Indeed, the Jews of modernity are no longer exclusively Jewish. They are affiliated with a host of complementary and sometimes clashing communities—vocational, professional, political, and cultural—whose interests may not coincide with that of the community of their birth and inherited culture.

In Cultural Disjunctions: Post-Traditional Jewish Identities (U Chicago Press, 2021), Paul Mendes-Flohr explores the possibility of a spiritually and intellectually engaged cosmopolitan Jewish identity for our time. Reflecting on the need to participate in the spiritual life of Judaism so that it enables multiple relations beyond its borders and allows one to balance Jewish commitment with a genuine obligation to the universal, Mendes-Flohr lays out what this delicate balance can look like for contemporary Jews, both in Israel and in diasporic communities worldwide. Cultural Disjunctions walks us through the labyrinth of twentieth-century Jewish cultural identities and commitments. Ultimately, Mendes-Flohr calls for Jews to remain “discontent,” not just with themselves but also and especially with the reigning social and political order, and to fight for its betterment.

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at r.garfinkel@yahoo.com.

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