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"Judaism's many insights into the nature of our relationship to media, icons, ideas, and to one another led me to explore the historical roots of its stories and people. That's when it all began to make sense....[that the] core values of this religion may, in fact, prove quite applicable to the broader challenges of our time and help a world struggling with the impact of globalism, the lure of fundamentalism, and the clash of conflicting value systems."
—from the Preface to Nothing Sacred
Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism is both a modern-day reckoning with what it means to be a Jew in the 21st century, as well as a powerful polemic as to how this meaning has been lost and now needs to be reclaimed.
Disaffected by their synagogues’ emphasis on self-preservation and obsession with intermarriage, Rushkoff asserts, most Jews looking for an intelligent inquiry into the nature of spirituality have turned elsewhere, or nowhere. Meanwhile, he counter-points, faced with the chaos of modern life, returnees run back to Judaism with a blind and desperate faith and are quickly absorbed by outreach organizations that, in return for money, offer compelling evidence that God exists, that the Jews are, indeed, the Lord’s “chosen people,” and that those who adhere to this righteous path will never have to ask themselves another difficult question again.
Ironically, Rushkoff points out, the texts and practices making up Judaism were designed to avoid just such a scenario. Jewish tradition stresses transparency, open-ended inquiry, assimilation of the foreign, and a commitment to conscious living. It is an “open source” tradition—one born out of revolution, committed to evolution, and willing to undergo renaissance at a moment’s notice. However, Rushkoff concludes that some of the very institutions created to protect the religion and its people are now suffocating them.
In a provocative assessment Rushkoff postulates that if the Jewish tradition is actually one of participation in the greater culture, a willingness to wrestle with sacred beliefs, and a refusal to submit blindly to icons that just don’t make sense to modern-day Jews, then the “lapsed” Jews may truly be the faith's most promising members.
“This is one of the most important books I have read about contemporary faith and particularly about Judaism. It is uncompromising and honest and brilliant and true. It will be a painful revelation to many, but also, for all of us, a burst of badly needed intellectual and spiritual oxygen and light.”—Naomi Wolf
“Nothing Sacred is provocative, exquisitely challenging, fearless, and brilliant. It is chock-full with ideas and insights that will change the way people look at their Judaism. It is, at the same time, a penetrating look, done with compassion, at what is wrong with contemporary Jewish life and an inspiring exploration of what is right about Judaism for the world.” —Rabbi Irwin Kula, president, CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
“I read Nothing Sacred reluctantly, from a stance of deep skepticism, and learned to my delight and enlightenment that this is truly a Jewish approach. Rushkoff uses millennia of Jewish teachings to reveal that God is indeed to be questioned, not obeyed, created, not worshiped, continually revised, reconsidered, and debated—not graven in stone. I truly believe this book might end up as one of the most important works of Jewish literature, worthy of comparison with Maimonides and Buber. Many will be outraged and even furious at Rushkoff for daring to revise the Jewish tradition of self-questioning. I thank him for helping me feel like a Jew again.” —Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs
“This is an extraordinary book. It is both analytical and passionate, rational and imbued by faith, calling on its readers to lend their minds, their hearts, and their souls to the construction of a Judaism that works for our times.”—Ruth Messinger