Dynamics of Continuity and Change in Jewish Religious Life

Dynamics of Continuity and Change in Jewish Religious Life


Edited by Simcha Fishbane and Eric Levine

Series: Touro University Press
ISBN: 9781618117137 (hardcover)
Pages: approx. 350 pp.
Publication Date: February 2018

Add To Cart

While the oft-quoted saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” seems to aptly describe the nature of social life, the reverse may be equally accurate: the more things stay the same, the more they change. Indeed, the recognized institutions of human society, of which religion is a primary example, are both sources of stability and continuity as well as innovation and change. The dynamics of Jewish religious continuity and change are presented in this book through a group of distinguished scholars from the fields of sociology, history, medicine, religion, and Jewish studies examining key cases and themes in religious life, emphasizing illustrations of the maintenance of tradition and facing of trends pressing for transformation. 

This volume demonstrates the importance of case studies and historical, ideological, and philosophical surveys in understanding the actions of individual, organizational or communal actors attempting to create, maintain, or disrupt religious institutions, across geographical boundaries and time frames. This research has the potential not only to positively affect scholarly discussions, but also to generate greater understanding and dialogue among those who study Jewish life and those who work in Jewish organizations and live and function in religious communities. Indeed, the book brings a sophisticated understanding of Jewish law, religious texts, communities and institutions, of the interplay of internal and external social and ideological forces, of the impact of organizations, and of the potential for individuals and groups to shape their religious environments.

Simcha Fishbane, PhD, is Professor of Jewish Studies at the Touro College Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He has been a rabbi, scholar, and educator serving the Jewish community for many years. Professor Fishbane is the author of numerous books and articles on such diverse topics as Mishnah Berurah, Aruch Hashulchan, Mishnah, Talmud, and Jewish custom and ritual, as well as contemporary Jewish life in North America. He is co-editor of Touro University Press and the Editor in Chief of the journal Studies in Judaism, Humanities and the Social Sciences. He has served Touro College in its overseas campuses in countries such as Russia, Germany, France, and Italy, and also holds the position of Special Assistant to the President of Touro College. 

Eric Levine, DSW, LMSW, is Director, Social Work Alumni Engagement, Continuing Education and Financial Resource Development, as well as a faculty member at the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, where he teaches courses in social welfare policy and ethics. He has held leadership roles for major not for profit organizations with recognized expertise in communal planning and policy, organizational and communal change, and financial resource development. He also taught as an adjunct professor for over twenty years at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, teaching courses in ethics, social policy, organizational theory, ethnicity, administrative practice, and community relations. He has authored numerous articles, book chapters and papers, and co-editor of the journal Studies in Judaism, Humanities and the Social Sciences. His current research interests focus on contentious politics, organizations, social movements, and ethics. He co-edited with Fishbane the two-volume work Contention, Controversy and Change: Evolutions and Revolutions in the Jewish Experience, published by Touro University Press in 2016.


The editors argue for the importance of academic case studies in understanding the forces for both stability and change in Jewish religious life. ... The range of the essays presented does achieve this goal. Recommended for academic libraries.
— Harvey Sukenic, Hebrew College Library, AJL Reviews

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Eric Levine: Movements, Institutions and Organizations: Mobilizing for Religious Change

I. Continuity and Change: Explorations in Contemporary Religious and Communal Life
Simcha Fishbane: No “Right” of Passage? The Rabbinic Dispute Regarding the Propriety of Bat Mitzvah Celebrations
Calvin Goldscheider: Globalization and Judaism

II.Tradition and Transition: Historical Case Studies
Benjamin Brown: The Comeback of “Simple Faith”: The Ultra-Orthodox Concept of Faith and Its Development in the Nineteenth Century
Judith Bleich: Clerical Robes: Distinction or Dishonor?
Zvi Jonathan Kaplan: The Plight of the Agunah: The Proposal of the Union des Rabbins Français
Nissan Rubin: Changes in the Circle of Relatives for Whom One Was Required to Mourn—A Sociological Analysis of Talmudic Sources

III. The Challenges of Modern Medicine: Halachic and Ethical Responses
Alan Kadish: The Rabbinic Response to Modern Medicine: Two Types of Piety
Pnina Mor and Chaya Greenberger: Family Member’s Presence at a Seriously Ill Patient’s Bedside: May Sabbath Prohibitions be Overridden?