American Orthodoxy and Its Discontents

By Lawrence Grossman

Tikvah Fund, May 27, 2011

A "case study in institutional decay": that description of Orthodox Judaism in America was offered in 1955 by the late sociologist Marshall Sklare. It has long since entered the gallery of scholarly misjudgments, acknowledged as such by Sklare when events turned out to belie his assessment. But when he offered it, Sklare was simply expressing the conventional wisdom. So burdened was postwar Orthodoxy by the stigma of immigrant origins and cultural backwardness that even some of its own leaders had tried changing the movement's name to something less offensive, like "traditional." As far as anyone could see, the Orthodox younger generation, when not rejecting traditional Jewish practice altogether, was defecting to the Conservative synagogues then proliferating in the suburbs. Today we live in a different world. Orthodoxy is the only form of Judaism that is exuding self-confidence, that holds its own demographically, and whose children, for the most part, are steeped in Jewish knowledge, unambiguously identified with the Jewish collective enterprise, and devoted to the state of Israel.

Topic: Orthodox Judaism, Publications, Students

Name of Publication: Jewish Ideas Daily

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Genre: Article

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

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Bibliographic Information:
Grossman, Lawrence. American Orthodoxy and Its Discontents. Jewish Ideas Daily. Tikvah Fund. 27 May 2011:


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