This introductory chapter discusses American Jews’ encounters with new media during the past century and the implications of these encounters for religious life. Over the course of the twentieth century—starting with the arrival of sound recordings and silent movies during the first decade of the century and continuing to the advent of the Internet, digital media, and their various devices—a succession of new media became fixtures of daily life for millions of Americans, as well as for many others living in technologically advanced societies. This contingency sparked a discourse among various American religious communities. For instance, Amish and Old Order Mennonites argued over the use of telephone services in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as either “a divine service” or “the devil’s wires.”
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