Judaism's Encounter with American Sports

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Indiana University Press, Aug 31, 2005 - Social Science - 248 pages
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Judaism's Encounter with American Sports examines how sports entered the lives of American Jewish men and women and how the secular values of sports threatened religious identification and observance. What do Jews do when a society -- in this case, a team -- "chooses them in," but demands commitments that clash with ancestral ties and practices?

Jeffrey S. Gurock uses the experience of sports to illuminate an important mode of modern Jewish religious conflict and accommodation to America. He considers the defensive strategies American Jewish leaders have employed in response to sports' challenges to identity, such as using temple and synagogue centers, complete with gymnasiums and swimming pools, to attract the athletically inclined to Jewish life. Within the suburban frontiers of post--World War II America, sports-minded modern Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis competed against one another for the allegiances of Jewish athletes and all other Americanized Jews. In the present day, tensions among Jewish movements are still played out in the sports arena.

Today, in a mostly accepting American society, it is easy for sports-minded Jews to assimilate completely, losing all regard for Jewish ties. At the same time, a very tolerant America has enabled Jews to succeed in the sports world, while keeping faith with Jewish traditions. Gurock foregrounds his engaging book against his own experiences as a basketball player, coach, and marathon runner. By using the metaphor of sports, Judaism's Encounter with American Sports underscores the basic religious dilemmas of our day.


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I wish I could give this book no stars. Gurock, with his minimal knowledge of basketball gleaned from the 1950's style he still advocates for in the 21st century, acts as the final word on Jews in sports. I can think of at least three cases in the book where he did no research other than a Google or LN and then opines as if he has insider knowledge of each specific case. The truth is, the book is what any writer worth his salt would agree is extremely lazy and haphazardly researched at best. Gurock could have easily contacted those he was writing about, but instead of doing so, cowardly gathered uninformed half truths and sprinkled in his own smarmy opinions to elaborate his fallacies and incomplete and erroneous information henattempts to pass of as fact. Jeffrey Gurock should be embarrassed of this awfully lazy and incompetent effort and anyone who was moronic enough to purchase this coffee mug coaster, should find the nearest garbage dump and tear it up page by page before shredding it so warehouse shippers have material to pack their boxes with. I suppose if "Ishtar" could get made in Hollywood, Jeff Gurock could babble on about things he knows nothing about. An embarrassment that words cannot even comprehend.  



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Page 16 - He who regulates his life in accordance with the laws of medicine with the sole motive of maintaining a sound and vigorous physique and begetting children to do his work and labor for his benefit is not following the right course. A man should aim to maintain physical health and vigor in order that his soul may be upright, in a condition to know God.
Page 21 - Whereas, at present we generally perceive, much injurious dissoluteness among Jews, Moors, and Christians, as well in living, in dress, and in association, which is disgraceful, improper, and abominable. And we notice Jew cavaliers, mounted on richly caparisoned horses and mules, in fine cloaks, cassocks, silk doublets, closed hoods, and with gilt swords, that it is impossible to recognise them.

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About the author (2005)

Jeffrey S. Gurock, Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University, is author or editor of 13 books, including A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community: Mordecai M. Kaplan, Orthodoxy and American Judaism, which received the Saul Viener Prize from the American Jewish Historical Society. Gurock has served for the past 25 years as assistant men's basketball coach at Yeshiva and has run the New York City Marathon 12 times. He lives in New York City.

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