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An Exploration of Modern Jewish Ontology via Identities in Popular Culture
Author: Joel West
Historically Judaism has been called both a nation and a religion, yet there are those Jews who eschew the religious and national definitions for a cultural one. For example, while TV’s Mrs. Maisel is ostensibly a Jew, the actor playing her is not, and Mrs. Maisel’s actions are not always Jewish. In The Fractured Jew Joel West separates Judaism into phenomenological and performative, starting with popular portrayals of Jews and Judaism, in today’s media, as a jumping-off point to understand Judaism and Jewishness, not from the outside, but from the emic, internal, Jewish point of view.
Author: Joel West


In North America there is a marked difference between being a Jew as a nationality, practicing Judaism as a religion, and being Jewish as a cultural identity. These identities intersect, and while they may well be separate from each other they also inform each other and, in a sense, nourish each other. While many books attempt to understand Jewish performance in the surrounding outside culture, asking questions such as “Why are Jews funny?”, this book attempts to understand North American Jewish identity as a Jewish thing, from a Jewish point of view in relation to both Jews and the outside, Gentile, culture. The book starts off by understanding that Judaism as a religion is denominationalized, that even within North America there is more than one Jewish culture, and that Jewish national identity, while existing historically, is also fraught politically. The idea of who counts as a Jew, to Jews, is questioned and while no answers are supplied, this question will be important in the future. It is also noted that some thinkers have questioned if Judaism is a thing at all, where the claim is that Judaism has no Ontology. In this book, it is demonstrated that while Judaism, Jewishness and the Jew as identities are split apart from each other, and while some definitions are fraught, that each one of these identities is essential to the others for a continued existence.

In: The Fractured Jew