Sure to generate great controversy as it provides new insights, "Who Is a Jew?" courageously takes on this timely and controversial question. It provides the full range of perspectives necessary to let us draw our own conclusions. A seasoned journalist, Meryl Hyman weaves her own life experiences into this complex and controversial subject, exploring profound and highly personal questions of identity in conversations with Jew and non-Jew. The daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian mother, she set out to find out why so many Jews say she is not a Jew, even though she has practiced Judaism and identified herself as a Jew since birth. She found a people struggling with its own history, customs, and laws; a people who fear that their unity may be sacrificed. Featured in "Who Is a Jew?" are leaders from all parts of the Jewish world, eminent scholars, and others from all spectrums of belief—from Israel, England, and the United States—who speak out on the subject and delve into such questions as: What are the many-faceted "answers" to this seemingly simple question? Why are these answers crucial for all Jews? Why does Jewish identity have a bearing on all cultural, religious, and ethnic groups? Why and how does Israel's answer to the question matter to Jews everywhere in the world?
Journalist Hyman has gathered the voices of more than 35 religious leaders, including Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, the associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Jim Sibley, coordinator of Jewish ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention, to address the question of Jewish identity. Rabbis from the full range of Jewish traditions in Israel, Europe and the United States offer their own answers to questions like, "Why is it crucial for Jews to establish the definition of Jewish identity?" and "What impact does Israel's answer to the question Who is a Jew? have on Jews in the rest of the world?" Many of the writers assert that there exists no collective Jewish identity that can be regulated in any fashion, while others contend that elements such as the existence of the Israeli state as the place to which all Jews will one day return or the religious force of halakhic observance are the hallmarks of Jewish identity. Hyman's volume is a sober and balanced collection of voices struggling to come to terms with the fraught question of Jewish identity.