Cesarani, “Disraeli”

This month, the Yale University Press will release “Disraeli: The Novel Politician,” by David Cesarani (Royal Holloway, University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

Lauded as a “great Jew,” excoriated by antisemites, and one of Britain’s most renowned prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli has been widely celebrated for his role 45eea7288533ef9fcae4ba0676f7a9c2in Jewish history. But is the perception of him as a Jewish hero accurate? In what ways did he contribute to Jewish causes? In this groundbreaking, lucid investigation of Disraeli’s life and accomplishments, David Cesarani draws a new portrait of one of Europe’s leading nineteenth-century statesmen, a complicated, driven, opportunistic man.

While acknowledging that Disraeli never denied his Jewish lineage, boasted of Jewish achievements, and argued for Jewish civil rights while serving as MP, Cesarani challenges the assumption that Disraeli truly cared about Jewish issues. Instead, his driving personal ambition required him to confront his Jewishness at the same time as he acted opportunistically. By creating a myth of aristocratic Jewish origins for himself, and by arguing that Jews were a superior race, Disraeli boosted his own career but also contributed to the consolidation of some of the most fundamental stereotypes of modern antisemitism.

Norton, “A Question of Balance”

In January, Lexington Books released “A Question of Balance: A Study of Legal Equality and State Neutrality in the United States, France, and the Netherlands,” by Brenda J. Norton (Baylor University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The politics of the hijab and burqa lie at the intersection of the political and legal149852396xspheres. Consequently, the political and legal spheres have each attempted to enforce differing versions of the concepts of equality and neutrality. A cross-cultural and cross-national survey of judicial decisions and legislative action in these countries demonstrates how each is balancing individual rights and communal bonds, and adhering to or retreating from previously accepted human rights norms for women and religious practices.

Jonker, “The Ahmadiyya Quest for Religious Progress”

In December, Brill Publishing released “The Ahmadiyya Quest for Religious Progress: Missionizing Europe 1900-1965” by Gerdien Jonker (Erlangen University).  The publisher’s description follows:

What happens when the idea of religious progress propels the shaping of modernity? In The Ahmadiyya Quest for Religious Progress. Missionizing85285 Europe 1900 – 1965 Gerdien Jonker offers an account of the mission the Ahmadiyya reform movement undertook in interwar Europe. Nowadays persecuted in the Muslim world, Ahmadis appear here as the vanguard of a modern, rational Islam that met with a considerable interest.

Ahmadiyya mission on the European continent attracted European ‘moderns’, among them Jews and Christians, theosophists and agnostics, artists and academics, liberals and Nazis. Each in their own manner, all these people strove towards modernity, and were convinced that Islam helped realizing it. Based on a wide array of sources, this book unravels the multiple layers of entanglement that arose once the missionaries and their quarry met.

Gerhard Von Rad: State Interference and Unflappable Belief in Nazi Germany

Bernard M. Levinson, Professor and Berman Family Chair of Jewish Studies & Hebrew Bible at the University of Minnesota Law School, has recently re-posted Reading the Bible in Nazi Germany: Gerhard von Rad’s Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church (read the full text here).  The article, which first appeared in Volume 62 of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology (2008), explores Gerhard von Rad’s (1901–71) staunch adherence to Old Testament studies despite the challenge of Nazi elements within his theological and intellectual milieu.  Levinson also draws a direct connection between von Rad’ s hermeneutic and the historical circumstances under which he worked, painting a powerful portrait of religious and intellectual conviction in defiance of a totalitarian state.

Levinson chronicles National Socialism’s grip on academia and—through control of university theological study—churches.  In 1934, just as von Rad took a post teaching theology at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (“NSDAP”) was taking universities and churches into its ideological grip.  This substantial transformation coincided with—or caused—the ascendance of the Deutsche Christen (“German Christians”) and the more radically nationalist German Christian Church Movement (“KDC”) (I have already written upon the opposition of the protestant, anti-Nazification Bekennende Kirche—“Confessing Church”—here).

The University of Jena was a nucleus of this shift, and its Faculty of Theology became an organ for National Socialist, German Christian ideology.  (It is worth mentioning that, in addition to the Jena Faculty of Theology’s intellectual move toward National Socialism, the Faculty of Medicine became more concretely an NSDAP body:  It used Buchenwald to train students in pathology and its medical-clinics participated in some 14,000 forced sterilizations before 1943.  [See the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage‘s account of the unimaginable atrocities at Buchenwald here.]  The appointment of S.S. Obersturmbannführer Karl Astel as Jena’s rector in 1939 completed the university’s National Socialist transformation.)

For more on Levinson’s description of the Nazification of German protestant churches and von Rad’s resistance to Nazification through his writing and teaching, please follow the jump. Continue reading

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