Review of Jeffery Shandler, Jews, God, and Videotape: Religion and Media in America.

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Arts/Article review


I was somewhat surprised that the Journal of American History invited a review of Jeffrey Shandler's new book on America's Jews and their media. The work focuses on communication and media, some of which—like the “videotape” featured in its title—have not accumulated much of a history. The word “history,” in fact, is not found among the twenty-five Library of Congress subject headings for the book, and much of Shandler's excellent previous work has tended to highlight the contemporary matrix of tensions shaped by the encounter of Jews, media, and today's America.Nonetheless, having read the book, I find that a review of it in a historical journal is amply merited on at least three grounds. The first is probably sufficient: Some of the book's most illuminating chapters focus on the past as they describe and analyze the dynamics merging religion, media, and culture over the twentieth century. Thus, the story of the American cantorate charts the uneasy encounters of cantors with recording technologies and sheet music, then talkies, radio, and television. Through these encounters Shandler probes the more general tensions between cantors’ liturgy and artistry, their agency and celebrity. In the process, khazones (cantoral music) emerges as an exciting topos for negotiating the old-home and America, Jews and Gentiles, communality and individualism, past and present.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-279
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of American History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2011


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