Reform of Tradition, Tradition of Reform

The lion’s share of Bruce L. Ruben’s excellent biography Max Lilienthal: The Making of the American Rabbinate is devoted to his American experience.  As a result, Lilienthal’s life provides a lens through which we watch American Judaism, Reform Judaism in particular, struggle with the consequences of its own idiosyncratic condition.  Unlike their German and Russian coreligionists, who were prepared to sacrifice some of the benefits of Enlightenment and Emancipation to preserve their traditional Jewish identities, American Jews—who were, by and large, less educated in both Judaic and secular terms—compromised religious principle as the price of admission to unrestricted social acceptance.  

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