Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is American Grace Good for the Jews?

The Economist has a fascinating review of the findings of a new book, Robert D. Putnam and Robert E. Campbell's American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. According to the review, Americans are mostly religious (we already knew that), but within certain limits this unifies them rather than divides them. If you can't read the book, you really ought to read the review.

The reality described in the review is one in which Jews, mainstream Protestants and Catholics have accepted each other fully, with Evangelicals slightly on the side, Mormons more so, and others not really accepted; Muslims, predictably, come out worst. For the individual Jews of America this is great, and also an extreme and historically unprecedented abnormality. It's probably also very good for Israel. What's not clear to me is if it's good for American Jewry: in a society which totally welcomes marriages across denominational lines, indeed, celebrates them, a religion which has long defined it's perimeters through who marries whom will need radical adaptation, perhaps more than can be contained. We've had this discussion on this blog before, and the topic is unlikely to go away.

Jeffrey Goldberg recently posted a hilarious example of the degree to which Jews are part of the very fabric of American society; here also, such a story would have been inconceivable in any society worldwide before the 2nd half of the 20th century in the US, and anywhere else to this very day.

Addendum: For those of you intending to make seasonal purchases on Amazon, please consider launching your visit from links such as the above to Amazon pages. When you do so Amazon records the fact that you arrived from this blog, and pays me a small commission for each purchase you make, whether of the book I recommended or a set of garden chairs; this enables me to indulge in my favorite pastime of acquiring more books of my own at Amazon. Ah, and Happy Kwanzu, of course.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

here's the link for the review at the Economist

as to book ordering at I checked with them whether there was a way I could use your link, get you the benefit and stll have it delivered via (cheaper and faster).

You'll need to contact our partner site,, for more information about your favorite blogger to profit from your purchases as our international websites operate independently. You can contact them directly at:

I love it when self-styled global players send me into a bureaucratic loop. You are their contract partner and they should be keen to keep you happy which by such an answer they are clearly not doing. At a minimum they should hold relevant information available on their website, always assuming of course that they are aware of the fact that bloggers tend to have multi-continental readerships.