He put on tefillin every day. He was rarely absent from shul. He ate only kosher. But during the busy season in the garment industry, this Bronx Jew who grew up in the first half of the 20th century worked on Shabbat. Can such a person be considered an Orthodox Jew?
Today many Jews would answer "no." However, this gentleman and many others like him appear in a new book, Orthodox Jews in America, which examines the many shades of American Orthodoxy over the past 350 years.
The book's author, Jeffrey Gurock, has written and edited 14 other works, is a former associate editor of American Jewish History, and currently is Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University. The Jewish Press recently interviewed him about his book.And the major talking point?
"What makes someone Orthodox is his understanding that one is required to observe the mitzvot. Someone could be a Reform Jew and observe many of the mitzvot, but he's not Orthodox because this is a personal decision he makes not based upon a belief in a halachic tradition."