Moses Maimonides was the most significant Jewish thinker, jurist, and doctor of the Middle Ages. Author of both a monumental code of Jewish law and the most influential and controversial work of Jewish philosophy, Maimonides looms larger than any other figure in the Jewish Middle Ages.
The essays in this volume were written to mark the 800th anniversary of Maimonides’s death in 1204. Written by the leading scholars in the field, they cover all aspects of Maimonides’s work and infuence. From his work on Jewish law to his unique understanding of God; from his view of the soul to his understanding of other religions; from his influence on Jewish scholars in the eastern Mediterranean to his impact on the emergence of modern Judaism—the essays in this volume cover all this and more. It is an indispensable collection for all those interested in the history of Judaism over the last 800 years.
Making History/Making Blintzes is a chronicle of the political and personal lives of progressive activists Richard (Dick) and Miriam (Mickey) Flacks, two of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). As active members of the Civil Rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s, and leaders in today’s social movements, their stories are a first-hand account of progressive American activism from the 1960s to the present.
Throughout this memoir, the couple demonstrates that their lifelong commitment to making history through social activism cannot be understood without returning to the deeply personal context of their family history—of growing up “Red Diaper babies” in 1950s New York City, using folk music as self-expression as adolescents in the 1960s, and of making blintzes for their own family through the 1970s and 1980s. As the children of immigrants and first generation Jews, Dick and Mickey crafted their own religious identity as secular Jews, created a critical space for American progressive activism through SDS, and ultimately, found themselves raising an “American” family.
The story begins with a grandfather who heroically escaped from Russia by swimming the Pruth River to Romania—or did he? Then there are stories of another grandfather who kept a lifelong mistress; grandmothers who were ignored except in the kitchen; migrations legal and illegal from Eastern Europe to Canada to California; racketeers on one side of the family and Communists on the other; and a West Coast adolescence in the McCarthy years. All of these (mostly true) stories form a Jewish family's history, a tale of dislocation and assimilation. But in the hands of award-winning historian Robert Rosenstone, they become much more. The fragments of memory so beautifully preserved in The Man Who Swam into History add unforgettable, human characters to the now familiar story of the Jewish diaspora in the twentieth century. This combination memoir/short story collection recounts the Rosenstone family's passage from Romania to America. Robert Rosenstone tells the story not as a single, linear narrative, but through “tales, sequences, windows, moments, and fragments resurrected from the lives of three generations in my two parental families, set in five countries on two continents over the period of almost a century.” This more literary and personal approach allows Rosenstone's relatives to emerge as distinct personalities, voices who quarrel and gossip, share their dreams and fears, and maintain the ties of a loving, if eccentric, family. Among the genre of “coming to America” tales, The Man Who Swam into History is a work of unique vision, one that both records and reconstructs the past even as it continuously—and humorously—questions the truth of its own assertions.
Dora Apel analyzes the ways in which artists born after the Holocaust-whom she calls secondary witnesses-represent a history they did not experience first hand. She demonstrates that contemporary artists confront these atrocities in order to bear witness not to the Holocaust directly, but to its "memory effects" and to the implications of those effects for the present and future.
Drawing on projects that employ a variety of unorthodox artistic strategies, the author provides a unique understanding of contemporary representations of the Holocaust. She demonstrates how these artists frame the past within the conditions of the present, the subversive use of documentary and the archive, the effects of the Jewish genocide on issues of difference and identity, and the use of representation as a form of resistance to historical closure.
The menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum, has traversed millennia as a living symbol of Judaism and the Jewish people. Naturally, it did not pass through the ages unaltered. The Menorah explores the cultural and intellectual history of the Western world’s oldest continuously used religious symbol. This meticulously researched yet deeply personal history explains how the menorah illuminates the great changes and continuities in Jewish culture, from biblical times to modern Israel.
Though the golden seven-branched menorahs of Moses and of the Jerusalem Temple are artifacts lost to history, the best-known menorah image survives on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Commemorating the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the arch reliefs depict the spoils of the Temple, the menorah chief among them, as they appeared in Titus’s great triumphal parade in 71 CE. Steven Fine recounts how, in 2012, his team discovered the original yellow ochre paint that colored the menorah—an event that inspired his search for the history of this rich symbol from ancient Israel through classical history, the Middle Ages, and on to our own tumultuous times.
Surveying artifacts and literary sources spanning three thousand years—from the Torah and the ruins of Rome to yesterday’s news—Fine presents the menorah as a source of fascination and illumination for Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and even Freemasons. A symbol for the divine, for continuity, emancipation, national liberation, and redemption, the menorah features prominently on Israel’s state seal and continues to inspire and challenge in surprising ways.
In this illuminating book, Elana Maryles Sztokman investigates a fascinating new sociological phenomenon: Orthodox Jewish men who connect themselves to egalitarian or quasi-egalitarian religious enterprises. She examines the men who have enabled these transitions by constituting the requisite ten-man prayer quorum of Orthodoxy. By participating in “Partnership Minyanim,” these men support the reconstruction of both male and female roles without leaving the Orthodox religious world. Sztokman interrogates the ideologies and motivations of more than fifty such men in the United States, Israel, and Australia. Beginning with the “Orthodox Man Box” of conventionally constructed male behavior, she explores their struggles to navigate individualism and conformity, tradition and change. Setting their experiences in the context of gender role construction in traditional and contemporary synagogues, she shows how, for example, changes in leadership in Partnership Minyanim facilitate a fresh approach to liturgical expression, offering the possibility of reforming how modern Orthodox Jews attend services and pray.
While most gender-based analyses of rabbinic Judaism concentrate on the status of women in the halakhah (the rabbinic legal tradition), Judith R. Baskin turns her attention to the construction of women in the aggadic midrash, a collection of expansions of the biblical text, rabbinic ruminations, and homiletical discourses that constitutes the non-legal component of rabbinic literature. Examining rabbinic convictions of female alterity, competing narratives of creation, and justifications of female disadvantages, as well as aggadic understandings of the ideal wife, the dilemma of infertility, and women among women and as individuals, she shows that rabbinic Judaism, a tradition formed by men for a male community, deeply valued the essential contributions of wives and mothers while also consciously constructing women as other and lesser than men. Recent feminist scholarship has illuminated many aspects of the significance of gender in biblical and halakhic texts but there has been little previous study of how aggadic literature portrays females and the feminine. Such representations, Baskin argues, often offer a more nuanced and complex view of women and their actual lives than the rigorous proscriptions of legal discourse.
“Modern Jewish thought” is often defined as a German affair, with interventions from Eastern European, American, and Israeli philosophers. The story of France’s development of its own schools of thought has not been substantially treated outside the French milieu. This anthology of modern French Jewish writing offers the first look at how this significant and diverse body of work developed within the historical and intellectual contexts of France and Europe. Translated into English, these documents speak to two critical axes—the first between Jewish universalism and particularism, and the second between the identification and disidentification of French Jews with France as a nation. Offering key works from Simone Weil, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Emmanuel Levinas, Albert Memmi, Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida, and many others, this volume is organized in roughly chronological order, to highlight the connections linking religion, politics, and history, as they coalesce around a Judaism that is unique to France.
This volume opens the canon of modern Jewish thought to the all too often overlooked writings of Jews from the Arab East, from the close of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. Whether they identified as Sephardim, Mizrahim, anticolonialists, or Zionists, these thinkers engaged the challenges and transformations of Middle Eastern Jewry in this decisive period. Moshe Behar and Zvi Ben-Dor Benite present Jewish culture and politics situated within overlapping Arabic, Islamic, and colonial contexts. The editors invite the reader to reconsider contemporary evocations of Levantine, Mizrahi, and Arab Jewish identities against the backdrop of writings by earlier Middle Eastern Jewish intellectuals who critically assessed or contested the implications of Western presence and Western Jewish presence in the Middle East; religion and secularization; and the rise of nationalism, communism, and Zionism, as well as the State of Israel.
Berlin is home to Europe’s largest Palestinian diaspora community and one of the world’s largest Israeli diaspora communities. Germany’s guilt about the Nazi Holocaust has led to a public disavowal of anti-Semitism and strong support for the Israeli state. Meanwhile, Palestinians in Berlin report experiencing increasing levels of racism and Islamophobia. In The Moral Triangle Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor draw on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with Israelis, Palestinians, and Germans in Berlin to explore these asymmetric relationships in the context of official German policies, public discourse, and the private sphere. They show how these relationships stem from narratives surrounding moral responsibility, the Holocaust, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and Germany’s recent welcoming of Middle Eastern refugees. They also point to spaces for activism and solidarity among Germans, Israelis, and Palestinians in Berlin that can help foster restorative justice and account for multiple forms of trauma. Highlighting their interlocutors’ experiences, memories, and hopes, Atshan and Galor demonstrate the myriad ways in which migration, trauma, and contemporary state politics are inextricably linked.
German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) is best known in the English-speaking world for his Jerusalem (1783), the first attempt to present Judaism as a religion compatible with the ideas of the Enlightenment. While incorporating much of Jerusalem, Michah Gottlieb’s volume seeks to expand knowledge of Mendelssohn’s thought by presenting translations of many of his other seminal writings from the German or Hebrew originals. These writings include essays, commentaries, unpublished reflections, and personal letters. Part One includes selections from the three major controversies of Mendelssohn’s life, all of which involved polemical encounters with Christian thinkers. Part Two presents selections from Mendelssohn’s writings on the Bible. Part Three offers texts that illuminate Mendelssohn’s thoughts on a diverse range of religious topics, including God’s existence, the immortality of the soul, and miracles. Designed for class adoption, the volume contains annotations and an introduction by the editor.
The Mother Knot
Jane Lazarre Duke University Press, 1997 Library of Congress HQ759.L38 1997 | Dewey Decimal 306.8743
In this compelling memoir by a writer, mother, and feminist, Jane Lazarre confronts the myth of the "good mother" with her fiercely honest and intimate portrait of early motherhood as a time of profound ambivalence and upheaval, filled with desperation as well as joy, the struggle to reclaim a sense of self, and sheer physical exhaustion. Originally published in 1976, The Mother Knot is a feminist classic, as relevant today as it was twenty years ago.
Movie-Made Jews focuses on a rich, usable American Jewish cinematic tradition. This tradition includes fiction and documentary films that make Jews through antisemitism, Holocaust indirection, and discontent with assimilation. It prominently features the unapologetic assertion of Jewishness, queerness, and alliances across race and religion. Author Helene Meyers shows that as we go to our local theater, attend a Jewish film festival, play a DVD, watch streaming videos, Jewishness becomes part of the multicultural mosaic rather than collapsing into a generic whiteness or being represented as a life apart. This engagingly-written book demonstrates that a Jewish movie is neither just a movie nor for Jews only.
With incisive analysis, Movie-Made Jews challenges the assumption that American Jewish cinema is a cinema of impoverishment and assimilation. While it’s a truism that Jews make movies, this book brings into focus the diverse ways movies make Jews.
My Fathers Testament
Edward Gastfriend Temple University Press, 1999 Library of Congress DS135.P62S65693 2000 | Dewey Decimal 940.5318092
This first-person account, by the youngest of eight children of a pious Jewish family from Sosnoviec in Poland, is remarkable for the faith shown by a teenager faced with the horrifying realities of the Holocaust. Edward Gastfriend, known as Lolek as a boy, remembers in heart-wrenching detail the seven years he survived in German-occupied Poland.
The accelerating Nazi assault on the Jews abruptly shattered Lolek's life. Jews were randomly beaten and arrested, forced out of their homes, deported to slave labor camps, and shot on the streets. During this time, Lolek lost his family, friends, and neighbors, the whole while struggling to hold onto a promise he made to his father before his father was deported. Lolek pledged never to denounce God and to maintain his faith. This covenant proved to be the key to his remarkable survival in several slave labor camps including Auschwitz and several satellite camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
My Father's Testament is an intimate portrayal of a teenage boy trying to stay alive without losing his humanity - in hiding, in the camps, and during the death marches at the end of the war.
Embedded in this unique memoir are two other stories of fathers and sons. One lies in the moving Foreword by David R. Gastfriend, Ed's son, now a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. The other lies in Bjorn Krondorfer's Afterword. Years after he met Edward Gastfriend, Krondorfer was startled to hear his father mention Blechhammer as one of the places where he was stationed as a young German soldier. Blechhammer was where Lolek was held in a slave labor camp. The coincidence led this German father and son to travel back to the site to confront the Holocaust.
My Father's Testament will engage readers interested in history, the Holocaust, and religion.