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Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity

Holistic benefits of observance

    Transforming the World
    By Leo Dee
    Urim, £17.99

    In Transforming the World, Rabbi Leo Dee, the former rabbi of Radlett United Synagogue, attempts to offer an easily-digestible guide to core Jewish values and practices and their relevance to an educated, cynical and affluent audience. In essence, Rabbi Dee addresses a pivotal question faced by many young and not-so-young Jews today: why bother being Jewish in a modern, complex, secularised world.

    Echoing the style and structure of previous similar works (Carmell's Masterplan and Wein's Living Jewish come to mind), Rabbi Dee divides his work into three sections comprising 66 brief chapters. These deal with the transformational aspects of an observant lifestyle in the areas of personal happiness, societal improvement and ambitions for world redemption. The middle section, by far the longest, primarily addresses the value of observance in the interpersonal and ritual spheres, while the others consider the impact of Jewish values, beliefs and aspirations on the lives of their adherents and on the destiny of humanity.

    It is noteworthy that Rabbi Dee's first career in private equity provided him with many valuable ideas that enhance the book. These are evident mostly in the work's early sections which explore the relationship between happiness and financial success. The author also draws on a range of classical and modern Jewish sources, contemporary science and psychology to present useful insights into the holistic benefits of a full Orthodox lifestyle and belief-framework. Of particular note are Rabbi Dee's treatment of the festival cycle in which he contemplates the mission, national development and resilience of the Jewish people.

    However, the work is over-ambitious in scope and errs on the side of superficiality in content, rather than tackling a smaller number of topics in greater depth. It would also be enhanced by the use of a more traditional font and longer paragraphs.

    Nevertheless, this work is accessible and easy to read. It provides a basic tool for the exploration of Jewish concepts and their practical implementation - one that some will find helpful.

    Reviewed by Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski

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