Studying the Jewish Future explores the power of Jewish culture and assesses the perceived threats to the coherence and size of Jewish communities in the United States, Europe, and Israel. In an unconventional and provocative argument, Calvin Goldscheider departs from the limiting vision of the demographic projections that have shaped predictions about the health and future of Jewish communities and asserts that "the quality of Jewish life has become the key to the future of Jewish communities."
Through the lens of individual biographies, Goldscheider shows how context shapes Jewish senses of the future and how conceptions of the future are shaped and altered by life experiences. Goldscheider's distinctive comparative approach includes a critical review of population issues, a consideration of biographies as a basis for understanding Jewish values, and an analysis of biblical texts for studying contemporary values. He combines demographic and sociological analyses in historical and comparative perspectives to dispel the notion that quantitative issues are at the heart of the challenge of Jewish continuity in the future.
Numbers are clearly the building blocks of community. But the interpretations of these demographic issues are often confusing and biased by ideological preconceptions. As a basis for studying the core themes of the Jewish future, "hard facts" are less "hard" and less "factual" than interpreters have made them out to be. Population projections are limited by the vision of those who prepare them.
Goldscheider concludes that the futures of Jewish communities--in America, Europe, and Israel--are much more secure than has been presented in most scholarly and popular publications, and discussions about the Jewish future should shift to other patterns of distinctiveness.
This book will appeal to the general Jewish reader as well as to social scientists and modern Jewish historians. It is appropriate for Jewish studies courses, particularly, but not exclusively, those focusing on Jews in the United States, the American Jewish community, and modern Jewish society, and in courses on ethnicity, multiculturalism, cultural diversity, and ethnic relations.