Featured in Publishers Weekly and Hadassah Magazine
NEW YORK, NY, March 12, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ — The American Jewish experience is placed under a microscope in a new, thought-provoking book by a rabbi who is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the legendary, best-selling book, The Jewish Catalog, which has sold over 300,000 copies since he edited the 1973 edition.
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, the author, retired from the pulpit after 25 years of serving as a Reconstructionist rabbi in New York City. He grew up in Boston in an Orthodox home. His father was a rabbi who was born in Ukraine and raised in Germany until his immediate family left a few years before World War II. The rest of his family was murdered in the Holocaust by the Nazis. Strassfeld grew up with the burden of knowing Judaism was always under threat from the outside world.
Today, he believes it is under a different threat, one from within. A few generations removed from the Holocaust, America has become less religious across all religions, and houses of worship struggle to keep membership and stay afloat. Fewer people feel engaged with their faith.
“This book – Judaism Disrupted: A Spiritual Manifesto for the 21st Century (February 2023, Ben Yehuda Press) – is my attempt to answer a question: Why bother?” says Rabbi Strassfeld. “I wrote it from the perspective of someone who has had an evolving commitment to Judaism over the course of my life. I became a rabbi at the age of 41, but have always been involved in Jewish life. From the Orthodox world in which I grew up, I now embrace a Judaism that draws upon the richness of the tradition as well as insights drawn from the contemporary moment.”
Judaism Disrupted is sure to stir some heated discussions. It seeks to spark a conversation that embraces the essence of Judaism, however it is practiced — and to re-invigorate it. The book provides a framework for a new paradigm and helps the reader explore the evolution of an ancient faith. It shows how it can be reinvigorated and practiced anew.
Rabbi Strassfeld is available to discuss the following:
• The 11 core principles that should define today’s Judaism.
• The purpose of life and how Judaism helps us live it and find fulfillment.
• How to create a meaningful Jewish life, sustain a community, and live more spiritually.
• What has changed in the 50 years since The Jewish Catalog was published?
• How the Jewish faith helps us pursue compassion and social justice in the world.
• How we can re-invent the notion of Torah in our lives.
• Whether the rituals are meaningless, if traditional prayer still works, and whether rabbinic Judaism fits into the modern Jew’s pursuit of meaning, the sacred, and the holy.
• How religion can enhance our lives and not feel like an anchor of guilt and obligation.
• Why Judaism is not just an ancient practice comprised of laws and rituals.
• Why we must unite against the rising tide of anti-Semitism.
• How we might come to see God in a new light.
• How we can successfully balance tradition with the contemporary moment.
“The purpose of Judaism is not to be a good Jew by doing lots of its rituals,” says Rabbi Strassfeld. “The purpose of Judaism is to be a good person, a mensch.” Judaism Disrupted is a heartfelt, fascinating, honest, and deeply expressive culmination of thought and experience in an ever-changing lifetime journey touring Judaism. It may also be a blueprint for keeping the faith relevant and purposeful.
“To be disrupted is to experience a break with the past and simultaneously reconnect in a new way to the past,” says the rabbi. “This is what this book is about – taking Judaism as it is being disrupted to the world around it, and engaging in a renewed examination of the tradition that has been my home all my life. I hope others will offer their own versions of Judaism disrupted. Just as when we went from biblical Judaism to rabbinic Judaism, we are on the cusp of another type of Judaism. We each will come to define what that is.”
Rabbi Michael Strassfeld has served the Jewish community for over five decades, in numerous capacities, including as an educator, writer, editor, rabbi, and community leader.
He earned a PH.D. in Jewish History, and an MA and a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. All three of his degrees come from Brandeis University. He resides with his wife, Joy, in New York City. For more information, please consult: www.michaelstrassfeld.com.
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