The memoirs by Stephen P. Cohen and Debbie Weissman reconstruct an optimistic time when dialogue prevailed in political and religious spheres, and resolution of ancient grievances seemed just beyond the next handshake.

In America in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Judaism and Christianity would come to be defined in political space by Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr.’s, marching together in Selma; the image we carry of that day in late March 1965 is now as iconic and out of reach as Norman Rockwell’s covers for the Saturday Evening Post. In the cultural sphere, the same spirit was reflected in early fictions by Philip Roth, Grace Paley, and Saul Bellow celebrating what I call the “urban congregation,” where Jews and Christians came together to create something uniquely American: an amalgamation that respected difference by laughing lovingly at one’s...

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