In this innovative and comprehensive collection of essays Jack Lightstone and Frederick Bird document and interpret ritual practice among contemporary Canadian Jews. They particularly focus on the character and meaning of the public performance of the Sabbath liturgy in six urban Canadian synagogues, ranging from Orthodox to Reform, and from large congregations to a small house synagogue-yeshiva (rabbinic academy). Their examination of synagogue ritual is complemented with accounts of the ritual life of contemporary Canadian Jews outside the synagogue — amongst their families, within their homes and beyond.
In contrast with other studies of Jewish observance, Lightstone and Bird document not simply which rituals are practised and how often; rather they stress the meaning, including the social meaning, of these rituals and treat them as complex symbolic systems. Their multidisciplinary approach together with their openness to include a wide variety of phenomena in their study (for example, the organization of the physical setting of the Sabbath, dress codes and patterns of greeting and handshaking) place this work at the very forefront of current research.
Ritual and Ethnic Identity will be of great value to historians and sociologists of religion, anthropologists and all those concerned with religion, ritual and Canadian Jewish and ethnic studies.
About the authors
Jack N. Lightstone is Vice-President Academic at Concordia University in Montreal. His previous publications include Society, the Sacred, and Scripture in Ancient Judaism and The Rhetoric of the Babylonian Talmud, Its Social Meaning and Context. Frederick B. Bird teaches Comparative Ethics and the Sociology of Religion at Concordia University.
Frederick B. Bird teaches Comparative Ethics and the Sociology of Religion at Concordia University.
Marc Lalonde completed his PhD under the direction of Charles Davis and is currently engaged in post-doctoral study of the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanual Levinas at Catholic University in Belgium. He has taught at Concordia University in Montreal and St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia.
''[T]he book is a valuable contribution to contemporary writing on the state of religion in Canada. It reminds those not burdened by prejudice that the problems are very similar in all religious communities today and it warns Jews what might happen if they are to declare God absent, or 'dead,' because of the carnage at Auschwitz or the triumph in Jerusalem, instead of trying to find the divine voice in their rich religious tradition.''
''As a whole, Ritual and Ethnic Identity makes a contribution to our understanding of Canadian Jewish religious practice, ritual, and identity, thereby providing a companion piece to various related studies done in the U.S. and Israel in recent years.''
Frida Kerner Furman
''These theoretically sophisticated essays link solid ethnographic studies of Sabbath morning services at several synagogues to the larger discourse of symbolic anthropology....An important contribution to the study of contemporary Jewish life, it provides a solid foundation for exploring the meaning of prayer.''
Other titles by Jack N. Lightstone
Society, the Sacred and Scripture in Ancient Judaism
A Sociology of Knowledge
The Rhetoric of the Babylonian Talmud, Its Social Meaning and Context
Truth and Compassion
Essays on Judaism and Religion in Memory of Rabbi Dr Solomon Frank
Mishnah and the Social Formation of the Early Rabbinic Guild
A Socio-Rhetorical Approach