Helman, “Becoming Israeli: National Ideals and Everyday Life in the 1950s”

In July, Brandeis University Press released “Becoming Israeli: National Ideals and Everyday Life in the 1950s” by Anat Helman (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:

With a light touch and many wonderful illustrations, historian Anat Helman investigates “life on the ground” in Israel during the first years of statehood. She looks at how citizens–natives of the land, longtime immigrants, and newcomers–coped with the state’s efforts to turn an incredibly diverse group of people into a homogenous whole. She investigates the efforts to make Hebrew the lingua franca of Israel, the uses of humor, and the effects of a constant military presence, along with such familiar aspects of daily life as communal dining on the kibbutz, the nightmare of trying to board a bus, and moviegoing as a form of escapism. In the process Helman shows how ordinary people adapted to the standards and rules of the political and cultural elites and negotiated the chaos of early statehood.

Vidas, “Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud”

Here’s a new one from Princeton University Press, Tradition and the Formation Tradition and the Formation of the Talmudof the Talmud by Moulie Vidas (Princeton University). Interesting thesis with respect to the nature and history of tradition and tradition-mindedness in Judaism. The abstract follows.

Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud offers a new perspective on perhaps the most important religious text of the Jewish tradition. It is widely recognized that the creators of the Talmud innovatively interpreted and changed the older traditions on which they drew. Nevertheless, it has been assumed that the ancient rabbis were committed to maintaining continuity with the past. Moulie Vidas argues on the contrary that structural features of the Talmud were designed to produce a discontinuity with tradition, and that this discontinuity was part and parcel of the rabbis’ self-conception. Both this self-conception and these structural features were part of a debate within and beyond the Jewish community about the transmission of tradition.

Focusing on the Babylonian Talmud, produced in the rabbinic academies of late ancient Mesopotamia, Vidas analyzes key passages to show how the Talmud’s creators contrasted their own voice with that of their predecessors. He also examines Zoroastrian, Christian, and mystical Jewish sources to reconstruct the debates and wide-ranging conversations that shaped the Talmud’s literary and intellectual character.

Ray, “After Expulsion”

Here’s an interesting looking book about the construction of Sephardic Jewish After Expulsionidentity in the centuries following the edict of Ferdinand and Isabella expelling hundreds of thousands of Jews from Spain: After Expulsion: 1492 and the Making of Sephardic Jewry (NYU Press 2013) by Jonathan Ray (Georgetown). The publisher’s description follows.

On August 3, 1492, the same day that Columbus set sail from Spain, the long and glorious history of that nation’s Jewish community officially came to a close. The expulsion of Europe’s last major Jewish community ended more than a thousand years of unparalleled prosperity, cultural vitality and intellectual productivity. Yet, the crisis of 1492 also gave rise to a dynamic and resilient diaspora society spanning East and West.

After Expulsion traces the various paths of migration and resettlement of Sephardic Jews and Conversos over the course of the tumultuous sixteenth century. Pivotally, the volume argues that the exiles did not become “Sephardic Jews” overnight. Only in the second and third generation did these disparate groups coalesce and adopt a “Sephardic Jewish” identity.

After Expulsion presents a new and fascinating portrait of Jewish society in transition from the medieval to the early modern period, a portrait that challenges many longstanding assumptions about the differences between Europe and the Middle East.

Hashmi (ed.), “Just Wars, Holy Wars, & Jihads”

Here is a very interesting collection of essays on religious perspectives on military engagements of various kinds: Just Wars, Holy Wars, & Jihads: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Encounters and Exchanges (OUP 2012), edited by Sohail H. Hashmi (Mount Holyoke).  The publisher’s description follows.

Just Wars, Holy Wars, and Jihads explores the development of ideas of morally justified or legitimate war in Western and Islamic civilizations. Historically, these ideas have been grouped under three labels: just war, holy war, and jihad. A large body of literature exists exploring the development of just war and holy war concepts in the West and of jihad in Islam. Yet, to date, no book has investigated in depth the historical interaction between Western notions of just or holy war and Muslim definitions of jihad. This book is a major contribution to the comparative study of the ethics of war and peace in the West and Islam. Its twenty chapters explore two broad questions:

1. What historical evidence exists that Christian and Jewish writers on just war and holy war and Muslim writers on jihad knew of the other tradition?

2. What is the evidence in treatises, chronicles, speeches, ballads, and other historical records, or in practice, that either tradition influenced the other?

The book surveys the period from the rise of Islam in the early seventh century to the present day. Part One surveys the impact of the early Islamic conquests upon Byzantine, Syriac, and Muslim thinking on justified war. Part Two probes developments during the Crusades. Part Three focuses on the early modern period in Europe and the Ottoman Empire, followed by analysis of the era of European imperialism in Part Four. Part Five brings the discussion into the present period, with chapters analyzing the impact of international law and terrorism on conceptions of just war and jihad.

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