Judaism, America, Mobility
The introduction presents the case of a single mobile Jew with eclectic religious practices, Edward Rosewater, arguing that he is a compelling if unexpected starting point from which to redescribe religion in America. Building on religious studies methodologies developed in the American Catholic context, this book helps explain American religious eclecticism. As with contemporary “nones,” for nineteenth-century Americans like Rosewater, congregations, denominations, and stable identities were not obvious or inevitable. Rather, they were particular strategies—among many others—for coping with life amidst the individuating forces of American law, economics, and racial logics. While some Jews believed that Judaism was already suitable for all locales, most Jews recognized that they would have to reconcile Judaism with this new context, whether through individual adaptations like those of Rosewater or through the national projects proposed by famous leaders Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and Isaac Leeser.
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