Social Change and Halakhic Evolution in American Orthodoxy

BookSocial Change and Halakhic Evolution in American Orthodoxy

Social Change and Halakhic Evolution in American Orthodoxy

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


August 1st, 2017

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'Wonderful..... An invaluable synthesis and a fine analysis of recent developments.'
Jonathan Sarna, Brandeis University

'The book was a pleasure to read, as well as insightful and interesting... The book is very well written – wonder of wonders, a sociology book without jargon!'
Professor Menachem Kellner, Chair, Dept of Philosophy and Jewish Thought at Shalem College, Jerusalem

'Along with his careful sociological analysis, [Waxman] brings an impeccable knowledge of Jewish history, law, and practice. His writing displays no perceivable bias for or against any denomination or sub-denomination of Judaism. He writes sociology without jargon, and, when necessary, explains fine points of Jewish law so that any reader can understand them.'
Martin Lockshin, The Canadian Jewish News

'Professor Chaim Waxman, a prominent and highly respected sociologist of contemporary Orthodoxy, has made a superb assessment of the history, development, and current and future situation of Orthodoxy in his relatively short but comprehensive 178-page book.'
Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin, Ideals

'Lucid and insightful overview... a wonderful guide to the change occurring in both directions and, ultimately, to the battle for the soul of Orthodox Judaism.'
Steven Bayme, Director of Contemporary Jewish Life at AJC

Chaim Waxman, a prominent sociologist of contemporary Orthodoxy, is one of the keenest observers of American Jewish society. In illustration of how Orthodoxy is adapting to modernity, he presents a detailed discussion of halakhic developments, particularly regarding women’s greater participation in ritual practices and other areas of communal life. He shows that the direction of change is not uniform: there is both greater stringency and greater leniency, and he discusses the many reasons for this, both in the Jewish community and in the wider society. Relations between the various sectors of American Orthodoxy over the past several decades are also considered.

‘[The] data and demographical research [are] superbly synthesized by Chaim I. Waxman… By providing us with a clear, comprehensive picture of American Orthodoxy’s past and present, Chaim Waxman helps us understand what the future may look like – and what Orthodoxy must do to remain as vibrant then as it is now.’
Daniel Ross Goodman, Public Discourse 

'One of the most trenchant observers of the American Jewish scene, Professor Chaim I. Waxman, the distinguished sociologist, has written a wide-ranging, engaging and comprehensive analysis that examines changes in conduct as well as halachic behavior in Orthodox Judaism in America, from a social and psychological perspective... a valuable addition to anyone interested in understanding the past, present, and future directions of Orthodox Judaism in America.’
Alan Rosenbaum, Jerusalem Post
‘Chaim Waxman, one of the most renown and astute observers of the Jewish community, has written an excellent work on the social changes and halachic evolution of the American Orthodox community.’
David Tesler, Association of Jewish Libraries

'This is a valuable book, and anyone interested in American Jewish studies and halakhic development will gain much from Waxman’s analysis... I highly recommend it.'
Marc. B. Shapiro, American Jewish History

'Veteran observers will find Waxman’s formulations enlightening and convincing while newcomers to the field will find his descriptions fascinating. This is a wise book that is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand an important American Jewish religious movement.'
Shaul Stampfer, Religious Studies Review

'A significant and enlightening work... Contrary to popular belief, Waxman found that American Modern Orthodoxy is hardly unchanging.'
Alex Grobman, Jewish Link

'Students of all varieties of Judaism in the modern world as well as Orthodox Judaism in America are surely indebted to Waxman for Social Change and Halakhic Evolution in American Orthodoxy. It will enrich the understanding of all who study religious traditionalism in the contemporary setting.'
David Ellenson, AJS Review

Author Information

Chaim I. Waxman is Chair of the Behavior Sciences Department of Hadassah Academic College, Jerusalem, and Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Jewish Studies, Rutgers University. His many books include 'American Aliya: Portrait of an Innovative Migration Movement' (1989) and 'Jewish Baby Boomers: A Communal Perspective' (2001).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Note on Transliteration10
1. Group Size, Social Class, Religion, and Politics42
2. The Contemporary Orthodox Jewish Family in America63
3. It’s Kosher to be Orthodox in America84
4. American Orthodoxy Adopts Stringency100
5. Tensions within Modern Orthodoxy115
6. Halakhic Change and Meta-Halakhah138
7. Revival of the Bible158