Horowitz, “The Russian-Jewish Tradition”

This month, Academic Studies Press releases The Russian-Jewish Tradition: Intellectuals, Historians, Revolutionaries by Brian Horowitz (Tulane University). The publisher’s description follows:

the-russian-jewish-traditionThis book argues that Jews were not a people apart but were culturally integrated in Russian society. In their diasporic cultural creations Russia’s Jews employed the general themes of artists under tsars and Soviets, but they modified these themes to fit their own needs. The result was a hybrid, Russian-Jewish culture, unique and dynamic. Few today consider that Jewish Eastern Europe, the “old world”, was in fact a power incubator of modern Jewish consciousness. Brian Horowitz, a well-known scholar of Russian Jewry, presents essays on Jewish education (the heder), historiography, literature and Jewish philosophy that intersect with contemporary interests on the big questions of Jewish life. The book lets us grasp the meaning of secular Judaism and gives models from the past in order to stimulate ideas for the present.

Laor, “The Myths of Liberal Zionism”

This month, Penguin Random House released the paperback edition of The Myths of Liberal Zionism by Yitzhak Laor. The publisher’s description follows:

myths-of-liberal-zionismYitzhak Laor is one of Israel’s most prominent dissidents and poets, a latter-day Spinoza who helps keep alive the critical tradition within Jewish culture. In this work he fearlessly dissects the complex attitudes of Western European liberal Left intellectuals toward Israel, Zionism and the Israeli peace camp. He argues that through a prism of famous writers like Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, the peace camp has now adopted the European vision of “new Zionism” promoting the fierce Israeli desire to be accepted as part of the West and taking advantage of growing Islamophobia across Europe. The backdrop to this uneasy relationship is the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust. Laor is merciless as he strips bare the hypocrisies and unarticulated fantasies that lie beneath the love-affair between liberal Zionists and their European supporters.

Panel Discussion: “Religious Freedom and Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Europe” (Feb. 9)

On Thursday February 9, The King’s College and Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions is sponsoring a panel discussion titled “Religious Freedom and Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Europe” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. A description of the event follows:

Religious Freedom and Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Europe.pngFollowing the Second World War, the world said “never again” to the hatred that produced the Holocaust, but Anti-Semitism, which was never fully eradicated in Europe, has returned with a vengeance. According to the French Interior Ministry, over 50 percent of France’s bias motivated crimes in 2014 targeted Jews, even though French Jewry makes up less than one percent of the population. The currents driving this tragedy across Europe are several: the scapegoating of Jews for social decline by right-wing nationalists; the radicalization of Muslim immigrants by certain extremist Imams goading them to violence; and the “open-mindedness” of secularized Europe, which refuses to acknowledge Islamist violence and combat it. This toxic environment has led some to ask whether the Jews living in Europe today may soon leave the continent altogether.

Please join us on Thursday evening, February 9th for a panel discussion at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. Co-sponsored by The King’s College and Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, the panel will explore the sources of and possible responses to the revival of Anti-Semitism in Europe.

Panelists
Rabbi Dr. David G. Dalin, Author and Professor Emeritus of History and Politics at Ave Maria University
Professor Mary Ann Glendon
, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School
Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik, Rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel

Moderator
Professor Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University

More information on the event can be found here.

 

Holtz, “Rabbi Akiva”

In March, Yale University Press will release Rabbi Akiva: Sage of the Talmud by Barry W. Holtz (Jewish Theological Seminary of America). The publisher’s description follows:

rabbi-akivaA compelling and lucid account of the life and teachings of a founder of rabbinic Judaism and one of the most beloved heroes of Jewish history

Born in the Land of Israel around the year 50 C.E., Rabbi Akiva was the greatest rabbi of his time and one of the most important influences on Judaism as we know it today. Traditional sources tell how he was raised in poverty and unschooled in religious tradition but began to learn the Torah as an adult. In the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., he helped shape a new direction for Judaism through his brilliance and his character. Mystic, legalist, theologian, and interpreter, he disputed with his colleagues in dramatic fashion yet was admired and beloved by his peers. Executed by Roman authorities for his insistence on teaching Torah in public, he became the exemplar of Jewish martyrdom.

Drawing on the latest historical and literary scholarship, this book goes beyond older biographies, untangling a complex assortment of ancient sources to present a clear and nuanced portrait of Talmudic hero Rabbi Akiva.

Novak, “Jewish Justice”

In March, Baylor University Press will release “Jewish Justice: The Contested Limits of Nature, Law, and Covenant,” by David Novak (University of Toronto).  The publisher’s description follows:

In Jewish Justice David Novak explores the continuing role of Judaism for crafting ethics, politics, and theology. Drawing on sources as diverse as the Bible, the screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-1-00-19-amTalmud, and ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy, Novak asserts Judaism’s integral place in communal discourse of the public square.

According to Novak, biblical revelation has universal implications—that it is ultimately God’s law to humanity because humans made in God’s image are capable of making intelligent moral choices. The universality of this claim, however, stands in tension with the particularities of Jewish monotheism (one God, one people, one law). Novak’s challenge is for Judaism to capitalize on the way God’s law transcends particularity without destroying difference. Thus it is as Jews that Jews are called to join communities across the faithful denominations, as well as secular ones, to engage in debates about the common good.

Jewish Justice follows a logical progression from grounded ethical quandaries to larger philosophical debates. Novak begins by considering the practical issues of capital punishment, mutilation and torture, corporate crime, the landed status of communities and nations, civil marriage, and religious marriage. He next moves to a consideration of theoretical concerns: God’s universal justice, the universal aim of particular Jewish ethics, human rights and the image of God, the relation of post-Enlightenment social contract theory to the recently enfranchised Jewish community, and the voices of Jewish citizens in secular politics and the public sphere. Novak also explores the intersection of universality and particularity by examining the practice of interfaith dialogue among Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Shternshis, “When Sonia Met Boris”

In February, Oxford University Press will release When Sonia Met Boris: An Oral History of Jewish Life under Stalin by Anna Shternshis (University of Toronto). The publisher’s description follows:

when-sonia-met-borisSoviet Jews lived through a record number of traumatic events: the Great Terror, World War II, the Holocaust, the Famine of 1947, the Doctors’ Plot, the antisemitic policies of the postwar period, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. But like millions of other Soviet citizens, they married, raised children, and built careers, pursuing life as best as they could in a profoundly hostile environment. One of the first scholars to record and analyze oral testimonies of Soviet Jews, Anna Shternshis unearths their everyday life and the difficult choices that they were forced to make as a repressed minority living in a totalitarian regime.

Drawing on nearly 500 interviews with Soviet citizens who were adults by the 1940s, When Sonia Met Boris describes both indirect Soviet control mechanisms?such as housing policies and unwritten quotas in educational institutions?and personal strategies to overcome, ignore, or even take advantage of those limitations. The interviews reveal how ethnicity was rapidly transformed into a negative characteristic, almost a disability, for Soviet Jewry in the postwar period. Ultimately, Shternshis shows, after decades living in a repressive, nominally atheistic state, these Jews did manage to retain a complex sense of Jewish identity, but one that fully disassociates Jewishness from Judaism and instead associates it with secular society, prioritizing chess over Talmud, classical music over Hasidic tunes. Gracefully weaving together poignant stories, intimate reflections, and witty anecdotes, When Sonia Met Boris traces the unusual contours of contemporary Russian Jewish identity back to its roots.

Rosenblum, “The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World”

This month, Cambridge University Press will release “The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World,” by Jordan Rosenblum (University of Wisconsin).  The publisher’s description follows:

In The Jewish Dietary Laws in the Ancient World Jordan D. Rosenblum explores how cultures critique and defend their religious food practices. In particular he focuses on 9781107090347how ancient Jews defended the kosher laws, or kashrut, and how ancient Greeks, Romans, and early Christians critiqued these practices. As the kosher laws are first encountered in the Hebrew Bible, this study is rooted in ancient biblical interpretation. It explores how commentators in antiquity understood, applied, altered, innovated upon, and contemporized biblical dietary regulations. He shows that these differing interpretations do not exist within a vacuum; rather, they are informed by a variety of motives, including theological, moral, political, social, and financial considerations. In analyzing these ancient conversations about culture and cuisine, he dissects three rhetorical strategies deployed when justifying various interpretations of ancient Jewish dietary regulations: reason, revelation, and allegory. Finally, Rosenblum reflects upon wider, contemporary debates about food ethics.

Levy, “The Genius of Judaism”

Next month, Penguin Random House will release a new book by philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, The Genius of Judaism. The book discusses contemporary anti-Semitism and argues that Western democratic ideals have Jewish roots. Here’s the publisher’s description:

9780812992724For more than four decades, Bernard-Henri Lévy has been a singular figure on the world stage—one of the great moral voices of our time. Now Europe’s foremost philosopher and activist confronts his spiritual roots and the religion that has always inspired and shaped him—but that he has never fully reckoned with.

The Genius of Judaism is a breathtaking new vision and understanding of what it means to be a Jew, a vision quite different from the one we’re used to. It is rooted in the Talmudic traditions of argument and conflict, rather than biblical commandments, borne out in struggle and study, not in blind observance. At the very heart of the matter is an obligation to the other, to the dispossessed, and to the forgotten, an obligation that, as Lévy vividly recounts, he has sought to embody over decades of championing “lost causes,” from Bosnia to Africa’s forgotten wars, from Libya to the Kurdish Peshmerga’s desperate fight against the Islamic State, a battle raging as we speak. Lévy offers a fresh, surprising critique of a new and stealthy form of anti-Semitism on the rise as well as a provocative defense of Israel from the left. He reveals the overlooked Jewish roots of Western democratic ideals and confronts the current Islamist threat while intellectually dismantling it. Jews are not a “chosen people,” Lévy explains, but a “treasure” whose spirit must continue to inform moral thinking and courage today.

Lévy’s most passionate book, and in many ways his most personal, The Genius of Judaism is a great, profound, and hypnotic intellectual reckoning—indeed a call to arms—by one of the keenest and most insightful writers in the world.

 

Todd, “Sinai and the Saints”

Coming soon from InterVarsity Press, Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community, by James M. Todd III (College of the Ozarks). The publisher’s description follows:

9780830851621What should Christians do with all the laws in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament tells the story of the beginnings of God’s salvation history, and it is part of the authoritative canon of Scripture affirmed by the church. But what role should the laws of the old covenant play in the lives of those living under the new covenant?

Can Christians embrace the commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” but ignore the laws regarding clean and unclean food? Some have suggested that Christians remain under the moral laws of the old covenant, while others have argued that some of the Old Testament laws—for example, the Ten Commandments—still apply to Christians.

James Todd makes a bold claim by contending that as followers of Jesus Christ who stand under a new covenant, Christians are no longer subject to any of the Old Testament laws. Focusing on the laws of the Pentateuch, he then addresses the proper role and benefits of the Old Testament laws in the Christian life. With wit and insight, Todd helps Christians to understand how the laws given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai should be read by those called to live as saints.

“The Jew as Legitimation” (Wertheim, ed.)

Next month, Palgrave Macmillan will release The Jew as Legitimation: Jewish-Gentile Relations Beyond Antisemitism and Philosemitism edited by David J. Wertheim (Director of the Menasseh ben Israel Institute for Jewish Cultural and Social studies, Amsterdam). The publisher’s description follows:

Palgrave.jpgThis book traces the historical phenomenon of “the Jew as Legitimation.” Contributors discuss how Jews have been used, through time, to validate non-Jewish beliefs. The volume dissects the dilemmas and challenges this pattern has presented to Jews. Throughout history, Jews and Judaism have served to legitimize the beliefs of Gentiles. Jews functioned as Augustine’s witnesses to the truth of Christianity, as Christian Kabbalist’s source for Protestant truths, as an argument for the enlightened claim for tolerance, as the focus of modern Christian Zionist reverence, and as a weapon of contemporary right wing populism against fears of Islamization.

This volume challenges understandings of Jewish-Gentile relations, offering a counter-perspective to discourses of antisemitism and philosemitism

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