Coming to Terms with America by Jonathan D. Sarna
Essays on Jewish History, Religion, and Culture
Coming to Terms with America examines how Jews have long “straddled two civilizations,” endeavoring to be both Jewish and American at once, from the American Revolution to today.
In fifteen engaging essays, Jonathan D. Sarna investigates the many facets of the Jewish-American encounter—what Jews have borrowed from their surroundings, what they have resisted, what they have synthesized, and what they have subverted. Part I surveys how Jews first worked to reconcile Judaism with the country’s new democratic ethos and to reconcile their faith-based culture with local metropolitan cultures. Part II analyzes religio-cultural initiatives, many spearheaded by women, and the ongoing tensions between Jewish scholars (who pore over traditional Jewish sources) and activists (who are concerned with applying them). Part III appraises Jewish-Christian relations: “collisions” within the public square and over church-state separation.
Originally written over the span of forty years, many of these essays are considered classics in the field, and several remain fixtures of American Jewish history syllabi. Others appeared in fairly obscure venues and will be discovered here anew. Together, these essays—newly updated for this volume—cull the finest thinking of one of American Jewry’s finest historians.
Year first published: 2021