Last month, the Cambridge University Press released “Jews and Leftist Politics: Judaism, Israel, Antisemitism, and Gender,” by Jack Jacobs (John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York). The publisher’s description follows:
The relationships, past and present, between Jews and the political left remain of abiding interest to both the academic community and the public. Jews and Leftist Politics contains new and insightful chapters from world-renowned scholars and considers such matters as the political implications of Judaism; the relationships of leftists and Jews; the histories of Jews on the left in Europe, the United States, and Israel; contemporary anti-Zionism; the associations between specific Jews and Communist parties; and the importance of gendered perspectives. It also contains fresh studies of canonical figures, including Gershom Scholem, Gustav Landauer, and Martin Buber, and examines the affiliations of Jews to prominent institutions, calling into question previous widely held assumptions. The volume is characterized by judicious appraisals made by respected authorities, and sheds considerable light on contentious themes.
In June, the Cornell University Press will release “Where Three World Met: Sicily in the Early Medieval Mediterranean,” by Sarah Davis-Secord (University of New Mexico). The publisher’s description follows:
Sicily is a lush and culturally rich island at the center of the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout its history, the island has been conquered and colonized by successive waves of peoples from across the Mediterranean region. In the early and central Middle Ages, the island was ruled and occupied in turn by Greek Christians, Muslims, and Latin Christians.
In Where Three Worlds Met, Sarah Davis-Secord investigates Sicily’s place within the religious, diplomatic, military, commercial, and intellectual networks of the Mediterranean by tracing the patterns of travel, trade, and communication among Christians (Latin and Greek), Muslims, and Jews. By looking at the island across this long expanse of time and during the periods of transition from one dominant culture to another, Davis-Secord uncovers the patterns that defined and redefined the broader Muslim-Christian encounter in the Middle Ages.
Sicily was a nexus for cross-cultural communication not because of its geographical placement at the center of the Mediterranean but because of the specific roles the island played in a variety of travel and trade networks in the Mediterranean region. Complex combinations of political, cultural, and economic need transformed Sicily’s patterns of connection to other nearby regions—transformations that were representative of the fundamental shifts that took place in the larger Mediterranean system during the Middle Ages. The meanings and functions of Sicily’s positioning within these larger Mediterranean communications networks depended on the purposes to which the island was being put and how it functioned at the boundaries of the Greek, Latin, and Muslim worlds.
In July, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Poverty and Wealth in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” edited by Nathan R. Kollar (St. John Fisher College) and Shafiq Muhammad. The publisher’s description follows:
This book gathers scholars from the three major monotheistic religions to discuss the issue of poverty and wealth from the varied perspectives of each tradition. It provides a cadre of values inherent to the sacred texts of Jews, Christians, and Muslims and illustrates how these values may be used to deal with current economic inequalities.
Contributors use the methodologies of religious studies to provide descriptions and comparisons of perspectives from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on poverty and wealth. The book presents citations from the sacred texts of all three religions. The contributors discuss the interpretations of these texts and the necessary contexts, both past and present, for deciphering the stances found there. Poverty and Wealth in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam identifies and details a foundation of common values upon which individual and institutional decisions may be made.
In March, the Oxford University Press released “Popes and Jews, 1095-1291,” by Rebecca Rist. The publisher’s description follows:
In Popes and Jews, 1095-1291, Rebecca Rist explores the nature and scope of the relationship of the medieval papacy to the Jewish communities of western Europe. Rist analyses papal pronouncements in the context of the substantial and on-going social, political, and economic changes of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, as well the characters and preoccupations of individual pontiffs and the development of Christian theology. She breaks new ground in exploring the other side of the story – Jewish perceptions of both individual popes and the papacy as an institution – through analysis of a wide range of contemporary Hebrew and Latin documents. The author engages with the works of recent scholars in the field of Christian-Jewish relations to examine the social and legal status of Jewish communities in light of the papacy’s authorisation of crusading, prohibitions against money lending, and condemnation of the Talmud, as well as increasing charges of ritual murder and host desecration, the growth of both Christian and Jewish polemical literature, and the advent of the Mendicant Orders.
Popes and Jews, 1095-1291 is an important addition to recent work on medieval Christian-Jewish relations. Furthermore, its subject matter – religious and cultural exchange between Jews and Christians during a period crucial for our understanding of the growth of the Western world, the rise of nation states, and the development of relations between East and West – makes it extremely relevant to today’s multi-cultural and multi-faith society.
In March, the Indiana University Press will release “Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia: Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging,” by Tatjana Lichtenstein (University of Texas at Austin). The publisher’s description follows:
This book presents an unconventional history of minority nationalism in interwar Eastern Europe. Focusing on an influential group of grassroots activists, Tatjana Lichtenstein uncovers Zionist projects intended to sustain the flourishing Jewish national life in Czechoslovakia. The book shows that Zionism was not an exit strategy for Jews, but as a ticket of admission to the societies they already called home. It explores how and why Zionists envisioned minority nationalism as a way to construct Jews’ belonging and civic equality in Czechoslovakia. By giving voice to the diversity of aspirations within interwar Zionism, the book offers a fresh view of minority nationalism and state building in Eastern Europe.
This summer, the University of Notre Dame Press will release a translation of The Choice of the Jews under Vichy: Between Submission and Resistance, by the late Adam Rayski. The publisher’s description follows:
“It is France that, along with Germany, has persecuted the most Jews.” Spoken at the beginning of 1943, this phrase was not a denunciation, but an unashamed assertion by André Lavagne, the chief of Marshal Pétain’s civil cabinet. Indeed, France’s leadership stood prominently among the governments of occupied Europe in its initiative and zeal in collaborating with the Nazis. Yet nearly three-quarters of the Jews living in France at the beginning of the war survived the “Final Solution.” How was this possible?
And what considerations motivated many prominent representatives of French Jewry, at least initially, to submit to the antisemitic measures of Vichy? Adam Rayski addresses these and other important questions in The Choice of the Jews under Vichy. He writes from the joint perspective of a historian and a participant in the events he describes. An organizer of the communist faction of the Jewish resistance in France, Rayski buttresses his analysis of war-era archival materials with his own personal testimony.
Based on extensive research into previously unpublished sources, including the archives of the military, the Central Consistory of French Jewry, police prefectures, and Philippe Pétain, Rayski clearly demonstrates the Vichy government’s role as an accomplice in the Nazis’ program of genocide. He also explores the sizeable pre-war divide between French-born and immigrant Jews. This manifested itself in cultural conflicts and mutual antagonism as well as in varied initial responses to the antisemitic edicts and actions of the Vichy government. Rayski reveals how these communities eventually set aside their differences and united to resist the Vichy-supported Nazi threat.
Although some French Jews did passively submit to the moves of the Vichy regime, Rayski provides evidence that many did not. With an informed account of the formation and actions of the French Jewish resistance, Rayski combats the clichéd image of Jews as victims. He also documents and describes the efforts and the absence of efforts of French Protestant and Catholic groups on behalf of their Jewish countrymen. Written for general readers and scholars alike, this book provides compelling insight into the story of French Jews during World War II.
Next month, Stanford University Press will publish Mediterranean Enlightenment: Livornese Jews, Tuscan Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Reform, by Francesca Bregoli (CUNY Queens). The publisher’s description follows.
The Mediterranean port of Livorno was home to one of the most prominent and privileged Jewish enclaves of early modern Europe. Focusing on Livornese Jewry, this book offers an alternative perspective on Jewish acculturation during the eighteenth century, and reassesses common assumptions about the interactions of Jews with outside culture and the impact of state reforms on the corporate Jewish community. Working from a vast array of previously untapped archival and literary sources, Francesca Bregoli combines cultural analysis with a study of institutional developments to investigate Jewish responses to Enlightenment thought and politics, as well as non-Jewish perceptions of Jews, through an exploration of Jewish-Christian cultural exchange, sites of sociability, and reformist policies. Mediterranean Enlightenment shows that Livornese Jewish scholars engaged with Enlightenment ideals and aspired to contribute to society at large without weakening the boundaries of traditional Jewish life. By arguing that the privileged status of Livorno Jewry had conservative rather than liberalizing effects, it also challenges the notion that economic utility facilitates Jewish integration, nuancing received wisdom about processes of emancipation in Europe.
Next month, the University of Chicago Press will publish Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria, by Sarah Abrevaya Stein (University of California, Los Angeles). The publisher’s description follows.
The history of Algerian Jews has thus far been viewed from the perspective of communities on the northern coast, who became, to some extent, beneficiaries of colonialism. But to the south, in the Sahara, Jews faced a harsher colonial treatment. In Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria, Sarah Abrevaya Stein asks why the Jews of Algeria’s south were marginalized by French authorities, how they negotiated the sometimes brutal results, and what the reverberations have been in the postcolonial era.
Drawing on materials from thirty archives across six countries, Stein tells the story of colonial imposition on a desert community that had lived and traveled in the Sahara for centuries. She paints an intriguing historical picture—of an ancient community, trans-Saharan commerce, desert labor camps during World War II, anthropologist spies, battles over oil, and the struggle for Algerian sovereignty. Writing colonialism and decolonization into Jewish history and Jews into the French Saharan one, Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria is a fascinating exploration not of Jewish exceptionalism but of colonial power and its religious and cultural differentiations, which have indelibly shaped the modern world.
This month, Oxford published Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era, by Julia Phillips Cohen (Vanderbilt University). The publisher’s description follows.
The Ottoman-Jewish story has long been told as a romance between Jews and the empire. The prevailing view is that Ottoman Jews were protected and privileged by imperial policies and in return offered their unflagging devotion to the imperial government over many centuries. In this book, Julia Phillips Cohen offers a corrective, arguing that Jewish leaders who promoted this vision were doing so in response to a series of reforms enacted by the nineteenth-century Ottoman state: the new equality they gained came with a new set of expectations. Ottoman subjects were suddenly to become imperial citizens, to consider their neighbors as brothers and their empire as a homeland.
Becoming Ottomans is the first book to tell the story of Jewish political integration into a modern Islamic empire. It begins with the process set in motion by the imperial state reforms known as the Tanzimat, which spanned the years 1839-1876 and legally emancipated the non-Muslims of the empire. Four decades later the situation was difficult to recognize. By the close of the nineteenth century, Ottoman Muslims and Jews alike regularly referred to Jews as a model community, or millet-as a group whose leaders and members knew how to serve their state and were deeply engaged in Ottoman politics. The struggles of different Jewish individuals and groups to define the public face of their communities is underscored in their responses to a series of important historical events.
Charting the dramatic reversal of Jews in the empire over a half-century, Becoming Ottomans offers new perspectives for understanding Jewish encounters with modernity and citizenship in a centralizing, modernizing Islamic state in an imperial, multi-faith landscape.
Next month, Stanford University will publish Rhinestones, Religion, and the Republic: Fashioning Jewishness in France, by Kimberly A. Arkin (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows.
During the course of her fieldwork in Paris, anthropologist Kimberly Arkin heard what she thought was a surprising admission. A French-born, North African Jewish (Sephardi) teenage girl laughingly told Arkin she was a racist. When asked what she meant by that, the girl responded, “It means I hate Arabs.”
This girl was not unique. She and other Sephardi youth in Paris insisted, again and again, that they were not French, though born in France, and that they could not imagine their Jewish future in France. Fueled by her candid and compelling informants, Arkin’s analysis delves into the connections and disjunctures between Jews and Muslims, religion and secular Republicanism, race and national community, and identity and culture in post-colonial France. Rhinestones argues that Sephardi youth, as both “Arabs” and “Jews,” fall between categories of class, religion, and culture. Many reacted to this liminality by going beyond religion and culture to categorize their Jewishness as race, distinguishing Sephardi Jews from “Arab” Muslims, regardless of similarities they shared, while linking them to “European” Jews (Ashkenazim), regardless of their differences. But while racializing Jewishness might have made Sephardi Frenchness possible, it produced the opposite result: it re-grounded national community in religion-as-race, thereby making pluri-religious community appear threatening. Rhinestones thus sheds light on the production of race, alienation, and intolerance within marginalized French and European populations.