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Does the World Need the Jews?: Rethinking Chosenness and American Jewish Identity

Rabbi Gordis makes a vigorous attempt to reconnect U.S. Jews to their religious heritage. He argues that as they became assimilated into the mainstream, Jews gradually lost their central Jewish identity. For example, they stopped learning Hebrew and drifted away from the Torah’s teachings. They also left behind the fundamental belief in being a chosen people, because, Gordis contends, they didn’t want to be seen as different by U.S. society. He calls for Jews to no longer shy away from their chosenness and to embrace it as the only way to reclaim their “authentic voice.” It’s only in being different, he stresses, that Jews can offer something to the larger world. And this difference will be found with a return to Jewish teachings, laws, and culture. Provocative, forceful, and exquisitely reasoned, the book should spark much debate in the Jewish community.

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