Heller, “Jabotinsky’s Children”

From Princeton University Press, a new book on a lesser-known aspect of Jewish history, “right-wing Zionism” in pre-war Poland. The book, Jabotinsky’s Children: Polish Jews and the Rise of Right-Wing Zionism, is by McGill University professor Daniel Kupfert Heller. Here’s a description of the book from the Princeton website:

k11134By the late 1930s, as many as fifty thousand Polish Jews belonged to Betar, a youth movement known for its support of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of right-wing Zionism. Poland was not only home to Jabotinsky’s largest following. The country also served as an inspiration and incubator for the development of right-wing Zionist ideas. Jabotinsky’s Children draws on a wealth of rare archival material to uncover how the young people in Betar were instrumental in shaping right-wing Zionist attitudes about the roles that authoritarianism and military force could play in the quest to build and maintain a Jewish state.

Recovering the voices of ordinary Betar members through their letters, diaries, and autobiographies, Jabotinsky’s Children paints a vivid portrait of young Polish Jews and their turbulent lives on the eve of the Holocaust. Rather than define Jabotinsky as a firebrand fascist or steadfast democrat, the book instead reveals how he deliberately delivered multiple and contradictory messages to his young followers, leaving it to them to interpret him as they saw fit. Tracing Betar’s surprising relationship with interwar Poland’s authoritarian government, Jabotinsky’s Children overturns popular misconceptions about Polish-Jewish relations between the two world wars and captures the fervent efforts of Poland’s Jewish youth to determine, on their own terms, who they were, where they belonged, and what their future held in store.

Shedding critical light on a vital yet neglected chapter in the history of Zionism, Jabotinsky’s Children provides invaluable perspective on the origins of right-wing Zionist beliefs and their enduring allure in Israel today.

 

Goldberg, “Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought”

In June, the University of Chicago Press will release Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought by Chad Alan Goldberg (University of Wisconsin-Madison). The publisher’s description follows:

Modernity and the JewsIn the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prominent social thinkers in France, Germany, and the United States sought to understand the modern world taking shape around them. Although they worked in different national traditions and emphasized different features of modern society, they repeatedly invoked Jews as a touchstone for defining modernity and national identity in a context of rapid social change.

In Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought, Chad Alan Goldberg brings us a major new study of Western social thought through the lens of Jews and Judaism. In France, where antisemites decried the French Revolution as the “Jewish Revolution,” Émile Durkheim challenged depictions of Jews as agents of revolutionary subversion or counterrevolutionary reaction. When German thinkers such as Karl Marx, Georg Simmel, Werner Sombart, and Max Weber debated the relationship of the Jews to modern industrial capitalism, they reproduced, in secularized form, cultural assumptions derived from Christian theology. In the United States, William Thomas, Robert Park, and their students conceived the modern city and its new modes of social organization in part by reference to the Jewish immigrants concentrating there. In all three countries, social thinkers invoked real or purported differences between Jews and gentiles to elucidate key dualisms of modern social thought. The Jews thus became an intermediary through which social thinkers discerned in a roundabout fashion the nature, problems, and trajectory of their own wider societies. Goldberg rounds out his fascinating study by proposing a novel explanation for why Jews were such an important cultural reference point. He suggests a rethinking of previous scholarship on Orientalism, Occidentalism, and European perceptions of America, arguing that history extends into the present, with the Jews—and now the Jewish state—continuing to serve as an intermediary for self-reflection in the twenty-first century.

“Religious Interactions in Europe and the Mediterranean World” (Fukasawa et al, eds.)

In June, Routledge will release “Religious Interactions in Europe and the Mediterranean World: Coexistence and Dialogue from the 12th to the 20th Centuries,” edited by Katsumi Fukasawa (Kyoto-Sangyo University), Benjamin J. Kaplan (University College London), and Pierre-Yves Beaurepaire (University of Nice Sophia Antipolis).  The publisher’s description follows:

 The religious histories of Christian and Muslim countries in Europe and Western Asia are often treated in isolation from one another. This can lead to a limited and 9781138743205simplistic understanding of the international and interreligious interactions currently taking place. This edited collection brings these national and religious narratives into conversation with each other, helping readers to formulate a more sophisticated comprehension of the social and cultural factors involved in the tolerance and intolerance that has taken place in these areas, and continues today.

Part One of this volume examines the history of relations between people of different Christian confessions in western and central Europe. Part Two then looks at the relations between Western and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the vast area that extends around the Mediterranean from the Iberian Peninsula to western Asia. Each Part ends with a Conclusion that considers the wider implications of the preceding essays and points the way toward future research.

Bringing together scholars from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and America this volume embodies an international collaboration of unusual range. Its comparative approach will be of interest to scholars of Religion and History, particularly those with an emphasis on interreligious relations and religious tolerance.

Myers, “Jewish History”

In May, Oxford University Press will release Jewish History: A Very Short Introduction by David N. Myers (UCLA). The publisher’s description follows:

Jewish HistoryHow have the Jews survived? For millennia, they have defied odds by overcoming the travails of exile, persecution, and recurring plans for their annihilation. Many have attempted to explain this singular success as a result of divine intervention. In this engaging book, David N. Myers charts the long journey of the Jews through history. At the same time, it points to two unlikely-and decidedly this-worldly–factors to explain the survival of the Jews: antisemitism and assimilation. Usually regarded as grave dangers, these two factors have continually interacted with one other to enable the persistence of the Jews. At every turn in their history, not just in the modern age, Jews have adapted to new environments, cultures, languages, and social norms. These bountiful encounters with host societies have exercised the cultural muscle of the Jews, preventing the atrophy that would have occurred if they had not interacted so extensively with the non-Jewish world. It is through these encounters–indeed, through a process of assimilation–that Jews came to develop distinct local customs, speak many different languages, and cultivate diverse musical, culinary, and intellectual traditions.

Left unchecked, the Jews’ well-honed ability to absorb from surrounding cultures might have led to their disappearance. And yet, the route toward full and unbridled assimilation was checked by the nearly constant presence of hatred toward the Jew. Anti-Jewish expression and actions have regularly accompanied Jews throughout history. Part of the ironic success of antisemitism is its malleability, its talent in assuming new forms and portraying the Jew in diverse and often contradictory images–for example, at once the arch-capitalist and revolutionary Communist. Antisemitism not only served to blunt further assimilation, but, in a paradoxical twist, affirmed the Jew’s sense of difference from the host society. And thus together assimilation and antisemitism (at least up to a certain limit) contribute to the survival of the Jews as a highly adaptable and yet distinct group.

 

“Synagogues in the Islamic World” (Gharipour, ed.)

In May, Edinburgh University Press will release Synagogues in the Islamic World:
Architecture, Design and Identity edited by Mohammad Gharipour (Morgan State University). The publisher’s description follows:

Synagogues in the Islamic WorldThis beautifully illustrated volume looks at the spaces created by and for Jews in areas under the political or religious control of Muslims. Covering regions as diverse as Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, it asks how the architecture of synagogues responded to contextual issues and traditions, and how these contexts influenced the design and evolution of synagogues. As well as revealing how synagogues reflect the culture of the Jewish minority at macro and micro scales, from the city to the interior, the book also considers patterns of the development of synagogues in urban contexts and in connection with urban elements and monuments.

Key Features:

  • Uniquely explores the elements and concepts applied in the design of synagogues in the Islamic world
  • Shows connections between Jewish and Islamic architecture and the collaboration among Muslims and Jews in the design and construction of synagogues
  • Takes an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach, providing a new setting for the analysis of Islamic architecture
  • Addresses historical, social, urban, and architectural aspects of synagogues throughout the Muslim world including Iraq, Afghanistan, Morocco, Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Tunisia, Iran, and India

Imhoff, “Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism”

This month, Indiana University Press releases Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism by Sarah Imhoff (Indiana University). The publisher’s description follows:

MasculinityHow did American Jewish men experience manhood, and how did they present their masculinity to others? In this distinctive book, Sarah Imhoff shows that the project of shaping American Jewish manhood was not just one of assimilation or exclusion. Jewish manhood was neither a mirror of normative American manhood nor its negative, effeminate opposite. Imhoff demonstrates how early 20th-century Jews constructed a gentler, less aggressive manhood, drawn partly from the American pioneer spirit and immigration experience, but also from Hollywood and the YMCA, which required intense cultivation of a muscled male physique. She contends that these models helped Jews articulate the value of an acculturated American Judaism. Tapping into a rich historical literature to reveal how Jews looked at masculinity differently than Protestants or other religious groups, Imhoff illuminates the particular experience of American Jewish men.

Cohen, “Maimonides and the Merchants”

In May, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release Maimonides and the Merchants:
Jewish Law and Society in the Medieval Islamic World by Mark R. Cohen (Princeton University). The publisher’s description follows:

maimondiesThe advent of Islam in the seventh century brought profound economic changes to the Jews living in the Middle East, and Talmudic law, compiled in and for an agrarian society, was ill equipped to address an increasingly mercantile world. In response, and over the course of the seventh through eleventh centuries, the heads of the Jewish yeshivot of Iraq sought precedence in custom to adapt Jewish law to the new economic and social reality.

In Maimonides and the Merchants, Mark R. Cohen reveals the extent of even further pragmatic revisions to the halakha, or body of Jewish law, introduced by Moses Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah, the comprehensive legal code he compiled in the late twelfth century. While Maimonides insisted that he was merely restating already established legal practice, Cohen uncovers the extensive reformulations that further inscribed commerce into Jewish law. Maimonides revised Talmudic partnership regulations, created a judicial method to enable Jewish courts to enforce forms of commercial agency unknown in the Talmud, and even modified the halakha to accommodate the new use of paper for writing business contracts. Over and again, Cohen demonstrates, the language of Talmudic rulings was altered to provide Jewish merchants arranging commercial collaborations or litigating disputes with alternatives to Islamic law and the Islamic judicial system.

Thanks to the business letters, legal documents, and accounts found in the manuscript stockpile known as the Cairo Geniza, we are able to reconstruct in fine detail Jewish involvement in the marketplace practices that contemporaries called “the custom of the merchants.” In Maimonides and the Merchants, Cohen has written a stunning reappraisal of how these same customs inflected Jewish law as it had been passed down through the centuries.

“The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law” (Hayes, ed.)

This month, the Cambridge University Press will release “The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law,” by Christine Hayes (Yale University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law explores the Jewish conception of law as an essential component of the divine-human relationship from biblical to modern9781107644946.jpgtimes, as well as resistance to this conceptualization. It also traces the political, social, intellectual, and cultural circumstances that spawned competing Jewish approaches to its own ‘divine’ law and the ‘non-divine’ law of others, including that of the modern, secular state of Israel. Part I focuses on the emergence and development of law as an essential element of religious expression in biblical Israel and classical Judaism through the medieval period. Part II considers the ramifications for the law arising from political emancipation and the invention of Judaism as a ‘religion’ in the modern period. Finally, Part III traces the historical and ideological processes leading to the current configuration of religion and state in modern Israel, analysing specific conflicts between religious law and state law.

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.

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