Lederhendler, “American Jewry”

In September, Cambridge University Press will release American Jewry: A New History by Eli Lederhendler (Hebrew University). The publisher’s description follows:American Jewry.jpg

Understanding the history of Jews in America requires a synthesis of over 350 years of documents, social data, literature and journalism, architecture, oratory, and debate, and each time that history is observed, new questions are raised and new perspectives found. This book presents a readable account of that history, with an emphasis on migration patterns, social and religious life, and political and economic affairs. It explains the long-range development of American Jewry as the product of ‘many new beginnings’ more than a direct evolution leading from early colonial experiments to latter-day social patterns. This book also shows that not all of American Jewish history has occurred on American soil, arguing that Jews, more than most other Americans, persist in assigning crucial importance to international issues. This approach provides a fresh perspective that can open up the practice of minority-history writing, so that the very concepts of minority and majority should not be taken for granted.

“What Ifs of Jewish History” (Rosenfeld, ed.)

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “What Ifs of Jewish History: From Abraham to Zionism,” edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld (Fairfield University). The publisher’s description follows:

What ifs of jewish historyWhat if the Exodus had never happened? What if the Jews of Spain had not been expelled in 1492? What if Eastern European Jews had never been confined to the Russian Pale of Settlement? What if Adolf Hitler had been assassinated in 1939? What if a Jewish state had been established in Uganda instead of Palestine? Gavriel D. Rosenfeld’s pioneering anthology examines how these and other counterfactual questions would have affected the course of Jewish history. Featuring essays by sixteen distinguished scholars in the field of Jewish Studies, What Ifs of Jewish History is the first volume to systematically apply counterfactual reasoning to the Jewish past. Written in a variety of narrative styles, ranging from the analytical to the literary, the essays cover three thousand years of dramatic events and invite readers to indulge their imaginations and explore how the course of Jewish history might have been different.

 

Gurock, “The Jews of Harlem”

In October, New York University Press will release, “The Jews of Harlem: The Rise, Decline, and Revival of a Jewish Community,” by Jeffrey S. Gurock (Yeshiva University). The publisher’s description follows:

New York Times columnist David W. Dunlap wrote a decade ago that “on the map of the Jewish Diaspora, Harlem Is Atlantis. . . . A vibrant hub of industry, artistry and wealth is all but forgotJews of Harlem.jpgten. It is as if Jewish Harlem sank 70 years ago beneath waves of memory beyond recall.” During World War I, Harlem was the home of the second largest Jewish community in America. But in the  1920s Jewish residents began to scatter to other parts of Manhattan, to the outer boroughs, and to other cities. Now nearly a century later, Jews are returning uptown to a gentrified Harlem.

The Jews of Harlem follows Jews into, out of, and back into this renowned metropolitan neighborhood over the course of a century and a half. It analyzes the complex set of forces that brought several generations of central European, East European, and Sephardic Jews to settle there. It explains the dynamics that led Jews to exit this part of Gotham as well as exploring the enduring Jewish presence uptown after it became overwhelmingly black and decidedly poor. And it looks at the beginnings of Jewish return as part of the transformation of New York City in our present era. The Jews of Harlem contributes much to our understanding of Jewish and African American history in the metropolis as it highlights the ever-changing story of America’s largest city.

With The Jews of Harlem, the beginning of Dunlap’s hoped-for resurfacing of this neighborhood’s history is underway. Its contemporary story merits telling even as the memories of what Jewish Harlem once was warrants recall.

 

Marglin, “Across Legal Lines”

In October, Yale University Press releases Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco by  Jessica M. Marglin (University of Southern California). The publisher’s description follows:The Rise of Thomas Cromwell

A previously untold story of Jewish-Muslim relations in modern Morocco, showing how law facilitated Jews’ integration into the broader Moroccan society in which they lived

Morocco went through immense upheaval in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through the experiences of a single Jewish family, Jessica Marglin charts how the law helped Jews to integrate into Muslim society—until colonial reforms abruptly curtailed their legal mobility. Drawing on a broad range of archival documents, Marglin expands our understanding of contemporary relations between Jews and Muslims and changes the way we think about Jewish history, the Middle East, and the nature of legal pluralism.

“Contemporary Israel” (Greenspahn, ed.)

“Contemporary Israel” (Greenspahn, ed.)

In August, New York University Press will release Contemporary Israel: New Insights and Scholarship edited by Frederick E. Greenspahn (Florida Atlantic University). The publisher’s description follows:Contemporary Israel

For a country smaller than Vermont, with roughly the same population as Honduras, modern Israel receives a remarkable amount of attention. For supporters, it is a unique bastion of democracy in the Middle East, while detractors view it as a racist outpost of Western colonialism. The romanticization of Israel became particularly prominent in 1967, when its military prowess shocked a Jewish world still reeling from the sense of powerlessness dramatized by the Holocaust. That imagery has grown ever more visible, with Israel’s supporters idealizing its technological achievements and its opponents attributing almost every problem in the region, if not beyond, to its imperialistic aspirations.
The contradictions and competing views of modern Israel are the subject of this book.  There is much to consider about modern Israel besides the Middle East conflict. Over the past generation, a substantial body of scholarship has explored numerous aspects of the country, including its approaches to citizenship and immigration, the arts, the women’s movement, religious fundamentalism, and language; but much of that work has to date been confined within the walls of the academy. This book does not seek not to resolve either the country’s internal debates or its struggle with the Arab world, but to present a sample of contemporary scholars’ discoveries and discussions about modern Israel in an accessible way. In each of the areas discussed, competing narratives grapple for prominence, and it is these which are highlighted in this volume.

Rebhun, “Jews and the American Religious Landscape”

Rebhun, “Jews and the American Religious Landscape”

In September, Columbia University Press will release Jews and the American Religious Landscape by Uzi Rebhun (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:Jews and the American Religious Landscape.png

Jews and the American Religious Landscape explores major complementary facets of American Judaism and Jewish life through a comprehensive analysis of contemporary demographic and sociological data. Focusing on the most important aspects of social development—geographic location, socioeconomic stratification, family dynamics, group identification, and political orientation—the volume adds empirical value to questions concerning the strengths of Jews as a religious and cultural group in America and the strategies they have developed to integrate successfully into a Christian society.

With advanced analyses of data gathered by the Pew Research Center, Jews and the American Religious Landscape shows that Jews, like other religious and ethnic minorities, strongly identify with their religion and culture. Yet their particular religiosity, along with such factors as population dispersion, professional networks, and education, have created different outcomes in various contexts. Living under the influence of a Christian majority and a liberal political system has also cultivated a distinct ethos of solidarity and egalitarianism, enabling Judaism to absorb new patterns in ways that mirror its integration into American life. Rich in information thoughtfully construed, this book presents a remarkable portrait of what it means to be an American Jew today.

 

Naar, “Jewish Salonica”

Naar, “Jewish Salonica”

In September, Stanford University Press releases Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece  by Devin E. Naar. The publisher’s description follows:Jewish Salonica

Touted as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans,” the Mediterranean port city of Salonica (Thessaloniki) was once home to the largest Sephardic Jewish community in the world. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the city’s incorporation into Greece in 1912 provoked a major upheaval that compelled Salonica’s Jews to reimagine their community and status as citizens of a nation-state. Jewish Salonica is the first book to tell the story of this tumultuous transition through the voices and perspectives of Salonican Jews as they forged a new place for themselves in Greek society.

Devin E. Naar traveled the globe, from New York to Salonica, Jerusalem, and Moscow, to excavate archives once confiscated by the Nazis. Written in Ladino, Greek, French, and Hebrew, these archives, combined with local newspapers, reveal how Salonica’s Jews fashioned a new hybrid identity as Hellenic Jews during a period marked by rising nationalism and economic crisis as well as unprecedented Jewish cultural and political vibrancy. Salonica’s Jews—Zionists, assimilationists, and socialists—reinvigorated their connection to the city and claimed it as their own until the Holocaust. Through the case of Salonica’s Jews, Naar recovers the diverse experiences of a lost religious, linguistic, and national minority at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East.

Dispatches from Kabul: An Interlude in the Holy Land

Church domes Old CIty
Former CLR Fellow Jessica Wright ’14 is currently working as an attorney in Kabul, Afghanistan. This post is part of a series of reflections on her experiences there.

Somewhere near Ramallah, we looked up from our newspapers and noticed the high walls topped with razor wire to our left and right, a telltale sign that we were driving through the West Bank section of Route 443, a 16-kilometer stretch of road linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Situated to the east of the security barrier and once ruled off-limits to Israeli government ministers because of a flare-up of violence – namely, Molotov cocktail attacks on vehicles – it appears as any stretch of highway does, grey and a little desolate. Perceiving our awareness, the driver looked at us anxiously through the rearview mirror. “We avoid traffic by taking this road today. To our left is Ramallah and to the right is Hebron,” he said in an official tone, hoping, I think, that we weren’t familiar with the villages of the Palestinian territories. “This one wants to go to Ramallah to see a brewery,” said my friend, Alec. The driver shot me an incredulous look. “Okay, yes, go,” he said. “That is, if you want to risk your life for a beer.” I laughed and Alec explained that my perspective is slightly different because I currently live and work in Kabul. “I just want to feel at home,” I said sarcastically. “This stretch of highway is really doing it for me right now.” He ignored me and started on a lengthy and rather partisan history of the First and Second Intifadas that lasted all the way to the Mamilla neighborhood of Jerusalem where we were staying.

Jaffentrance
Alec and I met on the first day of law school and spent the subsequent three years poring over legal texts and treatises together, a humbling experience that challenged us intellectually and emotionally. It was in the midst of this rational endeavor that we occasionally discussed politics and religion, our conversations about the former often ending with a fiery exchange of epithets and accusations; democratic progressives and classical liberals don’t often see eye-to-eye. But the one subject we could discuss without theatrics was religion, and perhaps more importantly, it was religious ritual that often brought us together with our friends in one place: a Shabbos table in Crown Heights. We spent innumerable evenings there sharing a meal, listening to the Hebrew prayers, and discussing ideas, the law, and our lives. And so it seemed quite natural that we should travel from opposite sides of the world – New York and Kabul – to meet again in the Holy Land, a place that is intensely foreign but intimately familiar to both of us as Americans raised in the Jewish and Roman Catholic traditions.

Holy Sepulchre
The streets of the Old City were nearly empty in the late afternoon on Easter Monday, and as we wandered inadvertently from the Christian Quarter, with its well-lit shops and gregarious shopkeepers, and into the less commercial Muslim Quarter, an eerie silence settled over us. Some idling inhabitants ventured a greeting – A-salaam alaikum – and beckoned us in for tea, but we declined politely and kept walking, feeling that perhaps we had wandered too far off the beaten path. I recalled a friend’s warning: “Don’t go near the Damascus Gate,” and thought about the “No knifing” stickers plastered on utility poles up and down Jaffa Road that we had seen earlier in the day. I wasn’t afraid – a kid with a kitchen knife is less intimidating than a Talib with a Kalashnikov – but the aura of the Old Continue reading

Cohen, “The Unique Judicial Vision of Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk”

In May, Academic Stuies Press will release “The Unique Judicial Vision of Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk: Selected Discourses in Meshekh Hokhmah and Or Sameah” by Yitshak Cohen (Ono Academic College Faculty of Law). The publisher’s description follows:

This book analyzes the exceptional normative impact of R. Meir Simcha Hacohen’s Biblical commentary, Meshekh Hokhmah, and his halakhic commentary, Or Sameah. It examines the reliance of the poskim on R. Meir Simcha’s innovations and hermeneutic methods as well as their view of his interpretations that broadened or narrowed the scope of Maimonides’ rulings. The book explores the broad-based judicial principles underlying R. Meir Simcha’s legal decisions and approach to Jewish law. It further examines how his legal creativity was impacted by metahalakhic principles that guided him in addressing changing historical and social realities. The book also considers R. Meir Simcha’s unique attitudes toward gentiles. His approach attests to his innovativeness and his halakhic moderation, as he tried to rule as leniently as possible on matters concerning non-Jews. In this book, R. Meir Simcha is shown to be a truly influential rabbi whose contributions will long be a source of study and discussion.

Morgan, “Levinas’s Ethical Politics”

In May, Indiana University Press will release “Levinas’s Ethical Politics” by Michael L. Morgan (Indiana University, Bloomington). The publisher’s description follows:

Emmanuel Levinas conceives of our lives as fundamentally interpersonal and ethical, claiming that our responsibilities to one another should shape all of our actions. While many scholars believe that Levinas failed to develop a robust view of political ethics, Michael L. Morgan argues against understandings of Levinas’s thought that find him politically wanting or even antipolitical. Morgan examines Levinas’s ethical critique of the political as well as his Jewish writings—including those on Zionism and the founding of the Jewish state—which are controversial reflections of Levinas’s political expression. Unlike others who dismiss Levinas as irrelevant or anarchical, Morgan is the first to give extensive treatment to Levinas as a serious social political thinker whose ethics must be understood in terms of its political implications. Morgan reveals Levinas’s political commitments to liberalism and democracy as well as his revolutionary conception of human life as deeply interconnected on philosophical, political, and religious grounds.

 

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