“Who Is a Jew” and Sabbath Laws
Cultural analysis seeks to preserve a tradition’s integrity and authenticity while simultaneously justifying the development of the tradition in response to cultural change. Chapter 5 explores these themes in the context of the fundamental question of “who is a Jew” according to Jewish law. The topic of membership became a source of conflict as a result of the Reform movement’s unilateral abandonment of the traditional Jewish law standard according to which someone is considered Jewish if born to a Jewish mother or has been converted according to halakhah. This chapter also discusses a set of debated rulings issued by the Conservative movement concerning Sabbath observance, an area of vital importance given the centrality of the Sabbath in Jewish law and culture. Both of the topics addressed in this chapter necessitate a careful delineation of whether, and how, to balance the particularity of the Jewish legal tradition with the social forces of modernity.
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