The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, by William Foxwell Albright. 2nd ed. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009. 246 pp. $99.00. ISBN 978-1-59333-665-3.
One of the perennial touchstones in the field of archaeology in the ancient Near East, this work has been endlessly utilized and has laid the groundwork for countless future studies. In three lectures Albright describes how ancient Palestine was discovered, his famous excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim, and the relevance of archaeology for understanding the Bible. This work is part of the Gorgias Classic Archaeological Reprints.
Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism, by Lawrence H. Schiffman. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. 483 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-8026-4976-2.
With the full publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls come major changes in our understanding of these texts and their significance for the study of the history of Judaism and Christianity. One of the changes, that one cannot study Qumran without Jerusalem nor Jerusalem without Qumran, is explored in this volume. Although the Scrolls preserve the peculiar ideology of the Qumran sect, much of the material also represents the common beliefs and practices of the Judaism of the time. Here Lawrence Schiffman argues that this material must be considered in the reconstruction of the history of Judaism.
Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah, edited by Francesca Stavrako-poulou and John Barton. London: T&T Clark, 2010. 207 pp. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-567-03216-4.
Understanding of the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Israelites has changed considerably in recent years. It is now increasingly accepted that the biblical presentation of Israelite religion is often at odds with the historical realities of ancient Israe's religious climate. As such, the diversity inherent to ancient Israelite religion is often overlooked.This textbook explains, illustrates, and analyzes this religious diversity. Underpinning each essay in this volume is a shared concern to: (1) explore the ways in which worshippers' socio-cultural contexts shape and color their religious beliefs and practices; and (2) assess the role, benefits, and limitations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in reconstructing ancient Israelite religion.
Art and Music
The Human Figure and Jewish Culture, by Eliane Strosberg. New York: Abbeville Press Publisher, 2009-212 pp. $45.00. ISBN 978-0-7892-1043-8.
In the twentieth century, the avant-garde movements promoted abstraction and formal experimentation in the visual arts, often dispensing with the human form altogether. Yet many artists of Jewish descent resisted this trend and continued to depict the human figure with sympathy and understanding. Few of them portrayed overtly Jewish themes, but--as Eliane Strosberg argues--their persistent devotion to the human figure was itself a reflection of their Jewishness. Though their individual styles were diverse, they all used the human figure as a means of communicating, in secular terms, aspects of their Jewish intellectual heritage. Strosberg begins with an overview of Jewish tradition that illuminates the mindset of many Jewish artists. She also provides a concise history of Jewish art from Genesis to the Enlightenment, in which she demonstrates that figurative art has actually had a place in Judaism for thousands of years, despite the Second Commandment's prohibition of graven images. Her scope is broad, ranging from Camille Pissarro to George Segal, but she pays particular attention to the immigrant painters of the Ecole de Paris, like Sou-tine and Modigliani; the American social realists, like Ben Shahn and Raphael Soyer; and the masters of the postwar School of London, like Lucian Freud and R. B. Kitaj. The book is illustrated with more than one hundred full-color reproductions of works by the artists under discussion.
Biblical and Rabbinic Literature
And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning, by Joel M. Hoffman. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2010. 256 pp. $25.99. ISBN 978-0-312-56558-9.
And God Said uncovers the often inaccurate or misleading English translations of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that quotes from it. Sometimes the familiar English is just misleading. Other times the mistakes are more substantial. But the errors are widespread. This book tack-les such issues as what's wrong with the Ten Commandments (starting with the word "commandments"), the correct description of the "virgin" birth, and the surprisingly modern message in the Song of Solomon, as well as many other unexpected but thought-provoking revelations.
The Captivity of Innocence: Babel and the Yahwist, by Andre LaCocque. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010. 190 pp. $23.00. ISBN 978-1-60899-353-6.
In this study--the third panel of a trilogy on J s tales about evil and innocence in the primeval era--the author turns to Genesis 11:1--9, a parable of society as a way of keeping innocence behind bars, contending that innocence never fails to offend, never fails to stir envy and hate. Here, evil is not wrought by an individual like Cain or Lamech, but by "all the earth," so that the summit of evil is now reached before Abraham's breakthrough in Genesis' following chapter. The present analysis uses a variety of techniques to interpret the biblical text, including historical-critical, literary, sociopolitical, psychoanalytic, and deconstructive approaches. The conclusion is that "Babel" is the "Kafkaesque" image of our world and is a powerful paradigm of our hubristic contrivances and constructions.
The Cultic Motif in the Book of Daniel, by Winfried Vogel. New York: Peter Lang, 2010. 272 pp. $78.95. ISBN 9798-1-4331-0703-0.
This study of the theology of the book of Daniel examines the cultic motif within the book as it relates to space and time. Numerous references and allusions to cult are investigated with linguistic, literary, and contextual analyses. The findings are then related to the main theological themes of the book such as judgment, eschatology, kingdom, and worship. It is evident that the idea of cult plays a dominant role in Daniel, and that it demonstrates the intention of the author to present the issue of conflict of two opposing systems of cult and worship.
Jewish Reception of Greek Bible Versions, edited by Nicholas de Lange, Julia G. Krivoruchko, and Cameron Boyd-Taylor. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009. 338 pp. [euro]99.00. ISBN 978-3-16-149779-7.
The authors of the essays collected in this volume are all concerned with the Jewish transmission and use of Greek translations of the biblical books from Late Antiquity to the early modern period. It is only in recent years that the idea of such a Jewish transmission has gained acceptance, and the present volume brings together contributions from specialists in a number of areas, including not only biblical and Jewish studies but also such disciplines as epigraphy and Byzantine history and literature, to investigate a wide range of aspects of the subject. The authors not only explore some of the ways in which Greek-speaking Jews kept alive a tradition of Greek biblical scholarship going back to ancient times, but also how this tradition impinged on Christian Bible study.
Joshua in 3-D: A Commentary on Biblical Conquest and Manifest Destiny, by L. Daniel Hawk. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010. 283 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-1-60608-819-7.
This commentary generates a conversation between the biblical narrative of conquest, related biblical themes, and the American master narrative of Manifest Destiny. Hawk offers an exegesis of the biblical text with special emphasis on the ways the narrative of conquest shaped ancient Israel's identity as a people. A second level of commentary lifts key themes from the text (e.g., the land as divine gift and promise, mass killing, Israel's distinctive attributes, the construction of the Indigenous Other) and sets them within their broader biblical context. A third dimension reflects on corresponding elements in America's narrative of "westward expansion." This book offers Joshua as a biblical resource for reading the American experience.
In Scripture: The First Stories of Jewish Sexual Identities, by Lori Hope Lefko-vitz. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010. 191 pp. $49.95. ISBN 978-0-7425-4704-9.
Applying psychoanalytic and gender theory to selected biblical narratives from Genesis to the Book of Ruth, Lefkovitz interprets the Bible's stories as foundation texts in the development of sexual identities. In Scripture is an exploration of the Biblical origins of a series of unstable ideas about the sexes, human sexuality, family roles, and Jewish sexual identities, in particular, and by extension, changing attitudes towards Jewish men and women.
The Many Voices of Job, by Loren R, Fisher. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009. 112 pp. $16.00. ISBN 978-1-60608-656-8.
Fisher highlights the four main sections of Job that have truly different perspectives: the folktale, the poetic dialogue, the poem on wisdom, and Elihu's speeches. As he says in the Preface, "the poem and its author were framed in both meanings of that word. The Ancient Folktale of Job formed a frame that was ancient and ornate, and it ruined the inserted poem or dialogue. It caused both books to be misunderstood." Anyone Interested in a fresh translation and analysis of Job will want to read this volume.
The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary, by Robert Alter. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. 394 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-393-06812-2.
A new volume in Robert Alter's translation of and commentary on the Hebrew Bible. Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiates convey and undermine the universal wisdom that the righteous thrive and the wicked suffer in a rational moral order; together they are essential to the ancient canon that is the Hebrew Bible. In Alter's translation they regain the energy and force of the original.
Biography, Autobiography, Memoirs, Diaries
Drei Namen ein Leben: Die neunzig Jahre des Juden Rudi, Ralph und Reuven: Biografie, by Klaus Grammel and Evelyn Siebert. Alfeld (Leine), Germany: Hottenstein Buchverlag, 2010. 169 pp. [euro]12.90. ISBN 978-3-935928-34-2.
This biography is based on conversations with the 90-year-old Rudi Sanders in his three incarnations. Born Rudi Sender in Germany, he fled to England and became Sergeant Ralph Sheldon and ended up as Reuven Sanders in Israel. In this informal account the focus is upon the multiple identities and their impact on Sanders.
The Jewish World of Sigmund Freud: Essays on Cultural Roots and the Problem of Religious Identity, edited by Arnold D. Richards. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. 196 pp. $45.00. ISBN 978-0-7864-4424-3.
Though Freud is one of the towering intellectual figures of the twentieth century, too little attention has been paid to the influence of his Jewish identity upon his life and work, particularly the impact of growing up a Jew in turn-of-the-century Vienna. The fourteen essays in this volume explore the ways in which Freud and his followers were embedded in the cultural matrix of Jewish Central and Eastern Europe. Topics include general, sociological, historical, and cultural issues and then turn to the personal: Freud's education, his Jewish identity, and his thoughts about Judaism. Though a secular and ambivalent Jew, Freud's emphasis on intellectualism and morality reveal the deep and abiding influence of European Jewish tradition upon his work.
Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood, by Martin Lemelman. New York: Bloomsbury,2010.314pp. $26.00. ISBN 978-1-60819-004-1.
Martin Lemelman's graphic memoir Two Cents Plain collects the memories and artifacts of the author's childhood in Brooklyn. The son of Holocaust survivors, Lemelman grew up in the back of his family's candy store in Brownsville during the 1950s and 60s, as the neighborhood, and much of the city, moved into a period of deep decline. In Two Cents Plain, Lemelman pieces together the fragments of his past in an effort to come to terms with a childhood that was marked by struggle both in and outside of the home.
History and Politics
Byzantine Jewry in the Mediterranean Economy, by Joshua Holo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 285 pp. $99.00. ISBN 978-0-521-85633-1.
Using primary sources, Joshua Holo uncovers the day-to-day workings of the Byzantine-Jewish economy in the middle Byzantine period. Paradoxically, the two distinct economic orientations, inward and outward, simultaneously advanced both the integration of the Jews into the larger Byzantine economy and their segregation as a self-contained body economic. Dr. Holo finds that the Jews routinely leveraged their internal, even exclusive, systems of law and culture to break into Byzantine markets. In doing so, they challenge our concept of Diaspora life as a balance between the two competing impulses of integration and segregation. The success of this enterprise, furthermore, qualifies the prevailing claim of Jewish economic decline during the Commercial Revolution.
Jews and the Civil War: A Reader, edited by Jonathan D. Sarna and Adam Mendelsohn. New York: New York University Press, 2010. 434 pp. $45.00. ISBN 978-0-8147-4091-0.
At least 8,000 Jewish soldiers fought for the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. A few served together in Jewish companies while most fought alongside Christian comrades. The essays in this volume are grouped into seven thematic sections--Jews and Slavery, Jews and Abolition, Rabbis and the March to War, Jewish Soldiers during the Civil War, The Home Front, Jews as a Class, and Aftermath--each with an introduction by the editors. Together they reappraise the impact of the war on Jews in the North and the South, offering a portrait of the experience of Jewish soldiers and civilians from the home front to the battle front.
The Holocaust: Essays and Documents, edited by Randolph L. Braham. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. 352 pp. $60.00, ISBN 978-0-88033-657-4.
This volume is the twenty-sixth in the Holocaust Studies Series sponsored by the Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, It contains ten seminal studies of the catastrophe that befell the Jews of Europe during the Nazi era, along with reprints of two historically crucial documents relating to the so-called Hungarian Gold Train, a freight train that, in 1944, carried stolen or confiscated Jewish valuables from Hungary. Essays recount the unfolding of the Holocaust in Hungary and the history of the Jews in Europe. They detail the elimination of Jews in Greece, particularly from the large Sephardic community of Salonika, and describe the rescue of Jews in Albania. Nonhistorical essays concern autobiographical narratives in which survivors and their descendents reflect on the return to former shtetls in East Central Europe and the attitudes of victims toward the perpetrators of Holocaust crimes. Taken altogether, this volume formulates a more complete understanding of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe.
Refugees from Nazi Germany and the Liberal European States, edited by Frank Caestecker and Bob Moore. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010. 346 pp. $110.00, ISBN 978-1-84545-587-3.
The exodus of refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s has received attention from historians, social scientists, and demographers. However, the issues surrounding the flight of people from Nazi Germany prior to 1939 have been seen as Vorgeschichte (pre-history), implicating the Western European democracies and the United States as bystanders only in the impending tragedy. This volume deals with the challenges that the pre-1939 movement of refugees from Germany and Austria posed to the immigration controls in the countries of interwar Europe and beyond to the Middle East, Asia, and America, This global perspective outlines the constraints under which policy makers (and the refugees) had to make decisions. By also considering the social implications of policies that became increasingly protectionist and nationalistic, and bringing into focus the similarities and differences between European liberal states in admitting the refugees, it offers an important contribution to the wider field of research on political and administrative practices.
Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp, by Christopher Browning. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. 375 pp. $27,95. ISBN 978-0-393-07019-4.
Employing the testimony of almost three hundred survivors of the slave-labor camps of Starachowice, Poland, Christopher R. Browning draws the experiences of the Jewish prisoners, the Nazi authorities, and the neighboring Poles together into a chilling history of a little-known dimension of the Holocaust. Brutal and deadly in their living and work conditions, these camps represented the only chance of survival for local Jews after the ghetto liquidations of 1942. There they produced munitions for the German war effort while scrambling to survive murderous and corrupt camp regimes and desperately trying to protect children, spouses, parents, and neighbors. When the labor camps closed in the summer of 1944, the surviving Starachowice Jews still had to confront Auschwitz and then the reprisals of antisemitic Polish neighbors.
The Train Journey: Transit, Captivity, and Witnessing in the Holocaust, by Sim-one Gigliotti. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009. 244 pp. $70.00. ISBN 978-1-57181-268-1.
Deportations by train were critical in the Nazis' genocidal vision of the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question." Historians have estimated that between 1941 and 1944 up to three million Jews were transported to their deaths in concentration and extermination camps. This book analyzes the victims' experiences at each stage of forced relocation: the round-ups and departures from the ghettos, the captivity in trains, and finally, the arrival at the camps. Utilizing a variety of published memoirs and unpublished testimonies, the book argues that victims experienced the train journeys as mobile chambers, comparable in importance to the more studied, fixed locations of persecution, such as ghettos and camps.
The Warsaw Ghetto Oyneg Shabes-Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide, edited by Robert Moses Shapiro and Tadeusz Epstein. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. 568 pp. $89.95. ISBN 978-0-253-35327-6.
Retrieved after World War II from metal boxes and milk cans buried beneath the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Oyneg Shabes-Ringelblum Archive was clandestinely compiled between 1940 and 1942 under the leadership of historian Emanuel Ringelblum. Members of the secret Oyneg Shabes organization gathered thousands of testimonies from natives of Warsaw and refugees from hundreds of other localities, creating a documentary record of the wartime fate of Polish Jewry. Now housed in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the archive comprises some 35,000 pages, including documents, materials from the underground press, photographs, memoirs, belles lettres, and much more. This description of its contents is meticulously indexed to facilitate location of documents and information.
The Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos during the Holocaust, Guy Miron, editor in chief; Shlomit Shohani, co-editor. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009. 2 vols., 1166 pp., 250 photographs, 62 maps. $199.00. ISBN 978-965-308-345-5.
This encyclopedia offers detailed entries on the various ghettos into which the Jews of Eastern Europe were confined during the Holocaust. Entries on each ghetto are written by scholars and specialists on their topic and include location, wartime name, and geographical coordinates, and, for the larger ghettos, information on life before World War II and during the Soviet occupation era, German (Nazi) occupation, ghetto structure, institutional life and leadership, terror and killing operations, underground resistance, and the number of survivors at liberation. They also describe the differences between each ghetto and examine the difficulties of daily life in the ghetto, coping strategies, and different forms of resistance.
The Arab Public Sphere in Israel: Media Space and Cultural Resistance, by Amal Jamal. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. 182 pp. $24.95. ISBN 978-0-253-22141-4.
In this study, Amal Jamal analyzes the consumption of media by Arab citizens of Israel as a type of communicative behavior and a form of political action. Drawing on public opinion survey data, he describes perceptions and use of media ranging from Arabic Israeli newspapers to satellite television broadcasts from throughout the Middle East. By participating in this semi-autonomous Arab public sphere, the average Arab citizen can connect with a wider Arab world beyond the boundaries of the Israeli state. Jamal shows how media aid the community's ability to resist the state's domination, protect its Palestinian national identity, and promote its civic status.
The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, by Jonathan Schneer. New York: Random House, 2010. 432 pp. $28.00. ISBN 1-4000-6532-5.
Issued in London in 1917, the Balfour Declaration committed Britain to supporting the establishment in Palestine of "a National Home for the Jewish people" Jonathan Schneer recounts how Arab nationalists, backed by Britain, fought for their future as Zionists in England battled diplomatically for influence. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to either side or even to most members of the British government, Prime Minister David Lloyd George was telling Turkey that she could keep the disputed territory if she would agree to a separate peace. The key players are described: Sharif Hussein, the Arab leader who secretly sought British support; Chaim Weizmann, Zionist hero, the folksmensch who charmed British high society; T. E, Lawrence, the legendary "super cerebral" British officer who "set the desert on fire" for the Arabs; Basil Zaharoff, the infamous arms dealer who was Britain's most important back channel to the Turks.
Israel and the Family of Nations: The Jewish Nation-state and Human Rights, by Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein, New York: Routledge, 2010. 246 pp. $39,95. ISBN 978-0-415-78137-4.
Can Israel be both Jewish and truly democratic? Two Israeli scholars, a professor of constitutional law and a historian, Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein treat Zionism and Israeli experience in light of other states' experiences and in particular of newly established states that have undergone constitutional changes and wrestled with issues of minorities. Citing various European constitutions and laws, the authors explore the concept of a Jewish state and its various meanings in the light of international law and the current norms of human rights as applied to other liberal democratic societies, and conclude that international reality does not accord with the concept that regards a modern, liberal democracy as culturally "neutral" and a nationally colorless entity.
Major Farran's Hat: The Untold Story of the Struggle to Establsih the Jewish State, by David Cesarani. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2009. 290 pp. $26.00, ISBN 978-0-306-81845-5.
In May 1947 a sixteen-year-old Jewish activist named Alexander Rubowitz was abducted in broad daylight from the streets of Jerusalem. At the abduction scene, a gray hat was found, purportedly belonging to Major Roy Farran, a decorated World War II officer who was in charge of British counterterrorism in Palestine. As evidence mounted against Farran, the Zionist underground swore vengeance. The episode precipitated a series of nail-biting twists and turns that had far-reaching consequences. Major Farrans Hat investigates shady violence, scandalous cover-ups, and political expediency. It also explores why Britain lost Palestine, as well as how its counterinsurgency and diplomatic strategies collided so disastrously. By exposing Britain's legacy in the Middle East, this story echoes today's war on terror and illustrates the circumstances surrounding the birth of the State of Israel.
Partitioning Palestine: Legal Fundamentalism in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, by John Strawson. London and New York: Pluto Books, 2010. 253 pp. $35.00 ISBN 978-0-7453-2323-7.
Law lies at the roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Jews sought a national home by "Public Law" while Palestinians reject the project as illegal. After the 1967 war, Israel organized an occupation with excessive legalism that most of the world viewed, in fact, as illegal. Partitioning Palestine focuses on three key moments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the League of Nations Mandate, the United Nations partition plan, and the Oslo agreements. None of these documents is neutral but, rather, each encodes a variety of meanings. The book traces the way in which these legal narratives have both shaped national identity and sharpened the conflict. John Strawson argues that a committed attachment to the belief in legal justice has hampered the search for a settlement. Law, far from offering conflict resolution, has reinforced the trenches from which Palestinians and Israelis confront one another.
The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, by Sasha Polakow-Suransky. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 324 pp. $27.95. ISBN 978-0-375-42546-2.
The author shows how Israel's booming arms industry and apartheid South Africa's international isolation led to a secretive military partnership. Prior to the Six-Day War, Israel opposed apartheid and built alliances with black leaders in newly independent African nations. South Africa, for its part, was controlled by a regime of Afrikaner nationalists who had enthusiastically supported Hitler during World War II. But after Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, the country found itself estranged from former allies and threatened by old enemies. As both states became international pariahs, their covert military relationship blossomed: they exchanged billions of dollars' worth of extremely sensitive material, including nuclear technology, boosting Israel's sagging economy and strengthening the beleaguered apartheid regime. Sasha Polakow-Suransky reveals the previously classified details of arms deals conducted behind the backs of Israel's own diplomatic corps and in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. Based on archival research and interviews with former generals and high-level government officials in both countries, The Unspoken Alliance tells a troubling story of Cold War paranoia, moral compromises, and Israel's estrangement from the left.
Brother Keepers: New Perspectives on Jewish Masculinity, edited by Harry Brod and Shawn Israel Zevit. Harriman, TN: Men's Studies Press, 2010. 303 pp. $25-00. ISBN 978-1-931342-25-4.
This book is an international collection of essays on Jewish men by academics and activists, rabbis and secularists, men and women, on personal experience and congregational life, gendered bodies and Jewish minds, poetry and prayer, literature and film, and more. Simultaneously particular and universal, all illuminate how masculinities and Judaisms engage each other in gendered Jewishness.
The Figural Jew: Politics and Identity in Postwar French Thought, by Sarah Ham-merschlag. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. 298 pp. $25.00. ISBN 978-0-226-31512-6.
Sarah Hammerschlag explores the figure of the rootless Jew, wandering disconnected from history, homeland, and nature, from its prewar usage to its resuscitation by Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, and Jacques Derrida. Sartre and Levinas idealized the Jew's rootlessness in order to rethink the foundations of political identity. Blan-chot and Derrida, in turn, used the figure of the Jew to call into question the very nature of group identification. By chronicling this evolution in thinking, Hammerschlag reveals how the figural Jew can function as a critical mechanism that exposes the political dangers of mythic allegiance, whether couched in universalizing or particularizing terms.
Suffering as Identity: The Jewish Paradigm, by Esther Benbassa. London: Verso, 20W2010. 207 pp. $24.95, ISBN 978-1-84467-404-6.
Reaching from biblical times to the present day, Esther Benbassa's exploration of Jewish identity shows how in the Jewish world the representation and ritualization of suffering has shaped the history of both the people and the religion. Benbassa argues that the nineteenth century gave rise to a Jewish "lachrymose" historiography, and that Jewish history was increasingly seen to be a "valley of tears" -- a development that has become even more dominant since the Holocaust. The treatment of the Holocaust in the State of Israel now has the form of a civil religion. In principle within reach of everyone, the "duty of memory" and the uniqueness of the genocide have mitigated for many Jews the loss of other traditions. Every time Israel perceives a threat to its existence, the memory of the Holocaust is invoked--which ensures that suffering continues to be a central part of Jewish identity, and also positions the State of Israel as a redemptive force.
Jewish Life Elsewhere
At Home in Many Worlds: Reading, Writing and Translating from Chinese and Jewish Cultures. Essays in Honour of Irene Eber, edited by Raoul David Findeisen, Gad C. Isay, Amira Katz-Goehr, Yuri Pines, and Lihi Yariv-Laor. Wiesbaden; Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009. 332 pp. $102.00. ISBN 978-3-447-06135-3.
This volume is dedicated to one of the founding figures of Israeli Chinese studies, Professor Irene Eber of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It assembles more than two dozen essays that reflect not only the wide range of her scholarly interests, but above all the fields of research which would not have been established without her and where her contributions will remain. Sections discuss "Philosophy in China and Intellectual History," "Chinese Literature," and "Translating the Bible in China," a topic on which her numerous studies have proved seminal and that deals with Chinese perceptions. As its complement, perceptions of China in systematic and historical perspective are at the core of the section devoted to "Jewish Life and Letters in the World."
The Jews in Poland and Russia, 1881 to 1914, vol II, by Antony Polonsky. Oxford and Portland: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2010. 492 pp. $59.50. ISBN 978-1-904113-83-6.
The history of the Jewish communities of these lands--where most of the Jews of Europe and America originated--is often the subject of woolly thinking and stereotypes. Antony Polonsky recreates this lost world in a way that avoids both sentimentalism and the simplification of the east European Jewish experience into a story of persecution and martyrdom.
Mizrekh: Jewish Studies in the Far East, edited by Ber Boris Kotlerman. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009. 282 pp. $72.95. ISBN 978-3-631-59306-6.
This collection of academic articles in three languages, English, Russian, and Yiddish, covers the history and culture of the Jewish societies in the Far East, geographically close, yet existing in very different political systems. The collection also analyzes the mechanisms they developed for self-preservation, as well as the "Jewish question" in the Far-Eastern perspective, which, during the twentieth century, linked together the history of Russia, China, Japan, Poland, Germany, and other countries.
Jews and Non-Jews
Embodying Culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel, by Tsipy Ivry. New Bruns-wick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010. 298 pp. $28.95. ISBN 978-0-81354636-0.
Embodying Culture is an ethnographically grounded exploration of pregnancy in two different cultures--Japan and Israel--both of which medicalize pregnancy. Tsipy Ivry focuses on "low-risk" or "normal" pregnancies, using cultural comparison to explore the complex relations among ethnic ideas about procreation, local reproductive politics, medical models of pregnancy care, and local modes of maternal agency. The ethnography pieces together the voices of pregnant Japanese and Israeli women, their doctors, their partners, and the literature they read, and depicts various clinical encounters such as ultrasound scans, explanatory classes for amniocentesis, birthing classes, and special pregnancy events. The emergent pictures suggest that the sense of biomedical technologies not only lies in the technologies themselves but is assigned by those who practice and experience them.
Transforming Relations: Essays on Jews and Christians Throughout History in Honor of Michael A. Signer, edited by Franklin T. Harkins. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. 476 pp. $50.00. ISBN 978-0-268-03090-2.
Transforming Relations is a collection of original essays on the history of Jews and Christians in antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the modern era that honors the influential work of Michael A. Signer (1945-2009). Reflecting the breadth of Signer's research and pedagogical interests, the essays treat various aspects of the Jewish-Christian relationship through the centuries, from the divine law in antiquity to philosemitism in contemporary Christianity, from scriptural interpretation in the twelfth century to Christian Hebraism in the fifteenth, and from the presentation of Christianity in the Talmud and Midrashim to modern Christian understandings of Judaism.
Judaism: Jewish Thought and Philosophy
Chapters in the Formative History of Judaism: Some Current Essays on the History, Literature, and Theology of Judaism, by Jacob Neusner. Fifth Series. Lan-ham, MD: University Press of America, 2010. 122 pp. $23.00. ISBN 978-0-7618-5239-1.
Neusner takes up three problems in the history of religions, four essays on fundamental issues in form-history and the documentary hypothesis of the Rabbinic canon, and one theological essay. The reason Neusner periodically collects and publishes essays and reviews is to give them a second life, after they have served as lectures or as summaries of monographs or as free-standing articles or as expositions of Judaism in collections of comparative religions. This re-presentation serves a readership to whom the initial presentation in lectures or specialized journals or short-run monographs is inaccessible. Some of the essays furthermore provide a precis, for colleagues in kindred fields, of fully worked out monographs, the comparative Midrash exercise, for example.
Sefer Ko'ah Ha-avanim (On the Virtue of the Stones), by Berakhyah Ben Natronai ha-Nakdan. Hebrew Text and English Translation, with a Lexicological Analysis of the Romance Terminology and Source Study by Gerrit Bos and Julia Zwink. Leiden: Brill, 2010. 170 pp. $131.00. ISBN 978-90-04-18310-0.
The lore of the supposed magic and medical virtue of stones goes back to the Babylonians and peaks out in the lapidary literature of the Middle Ages. The famous work of Marbode of Rennes, which made lapidaries a very popular type of medieval scientific literature, was translated into numerous vernacular languages. The Jewish tradition, missing a particular lapidary literature of its own, absorbed non-Jewish works like that of Marbode. Several Anglo-Norman Marbode translations could be identified as the main source of the present edited Hebrew lapidary Ko'ah ha-Avanim, written by Berakhyah Ben Natronai ha-Nakdan around 1300. The edition is accompanied by an English translation, a source study, and a linguistic analysis of the Romance, mostly Anglo-Norman, terms featuring within the text in Hebrew spelling.
From Spinoza to Levinas: Hermeneutical Ethical, and Political Issues in Modern and Contemporary Jewish Philosophy, by Zgev Levy. New York: Peter Lang, 2009. 181pp. $69.95. ISBN 978-1-4331-0697-2.
In From Spinoza to Levinas, Zgev Levy discusses the pivotal ideas of the most influential Jewish thinkers in modern times including Spinoza, Mendelssohn, and Levinas. Levy accounts for the political foundation of the philosophies of Spinoza and Mendelssohn and the role of hermeneutics in the writings of Spinoza and Maimonides. He traces the history of modern philosophical and biblical hermeneutics and considers issues pertaining to death and dying in light of traditional Jewish and contemporary concepts of the body and soul. Finally, Levy focuses on the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, arguably one of the most important Jewish philosophers in the second half of the twentieth century.
Judaism Today, by Dan Cohn-Sherbok. New York and London: Continuum, 2010. 191pp. $22.95. ISBN 978-0-8264-2231-6.
For nearly four millennia Judaism was essentially a unified religious system based on shared traditions. Despite the emergence of various subgroups through the centuries such as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Karaites, Shabbateans, and Hasadim, Jewry was united in the belief in a providential God who had chosen the Jews as his special people and given them a code of law. In the modern period, however, the Jewish religion has fragmented into a series of separate denominations with competing ideologies and theological views. Despite the creation of the State of Israel, the Jewish people are deeply divided concerning the most fundamental issues of belief and practice. Judaism Today gives an account of the nature of traditional Judaism, provides an introduction to the various divisions that currently exist in the Jewish world, and identifies and discusses contemporary issues with which the Jewish faith engages in the twenty-first century. This refreshing new approach focuses on how Judaism is actually perceived and practised by Jews themselves and the problems currently facing Jews worldwide.
The Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith, by Yehudah Halevi. Translated and annotated by N. Daniel Korobkin. Jerusalem: Feldheim, 2009. 723 pp. $39.99. ISBN 978-11-58330-842-4.
It took the esteemed twelfth-century sage, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, twenty years to complete this work. In its unique question-and-answer format it records an ongoing dialogue between the eighth-century king of the Khazars and a rabbi. Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi as "the rabbi" in the debate repudiates the arguments of Judaism's detractors and demonstrates the superiority of Torah over any other religion or belief system. This new edition includes an improved English translation and commentary along with a vowelized Ibn Tibbon Hebrew translation of the original Arabic.
Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives, by Daniel Sperber, Mendel Shapiro, Eliav Shochetman, and Shlomo Riskin. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV,2010. 418 pp. $24.95- ISBN 978-1-60280-152-3.
While everyone agrees that halakhah has to guide all changes in synagogue practice, women's changing self-perception and religious sentiment must be central to any discussion of synagogue life. Rabbi Daniel Sper-ber presents a halakhic justification for expanding the role of women in communal prayer services. Building on work by Rabbi Mendel Shapiro (included in the volume) in which the legal sources are examined and interpreted to permit women to lead parts of the service and participate in Torah reading, Rabbi Sperber highlights the pivotal importance of kevod ha-beri'ot (human dignity) in encouraging fuller participation of women in communal prayer. Two articles that express opposition to Rabbi Sperber's position are included--one by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and one by Professor Eliav Shochetman. This anthology highlights the dynamic nature of the halakhic process.
The Vanishing Hebrew Harlot: The Adventures of the Hebrew Stem ZNH, by Irene E, Riegner. New York: Peter Lang, 2009. 239 pp. $74.95. ISBN 978-0-8204-7276-8.
The Vanishing Hebrew Harlot is written with two objectives: First, to recover the core meaning of the Hebrew stem ZNH as a complex of non-Yahwist rituals, deities, institutions, and beliefs prevalent in ancient Israel and Judah. With this understanding, the author assigns the translation value "participate in non-Yahwist religious praxis" to ZNH. The second objective is to understand how this core meaning came to be encrusted with promiscuity, prostitution, and detestable things, and, above all, with adultery, a capital offense, as well as with religious contamination and its destructive consequences. The stem ZNH is examined in its Ancient Near Eastern environment, but the thrust of this research is the analysis of ZNH in its Hebrew textual environment using concepts from cognitive linguistics: network of associations, associated commonplaces, and blending
Re-examining the Holocaust Through Literature, edited by Aukje Kluge, and Benn E. Williams. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009. 396 pp. $89.99. ISBN 1-4438-0176-3.
In the late 1980s, Holocaust literature emerged as a provocative, but poorly defined, scholarly field. The essays in this volume reflect the increasingly international and pluridisciplinary nature of this scholarship and the widening of the definition of Holocaust literature to include comic books, fiction, film, and poetry, as well as the more traditional diaries, memoirs, and journals. Ten contributors from four countries engage issues of authenticity, evangelicalism, morality, representation, personal experience, and wish-fulfillment in Holocaust literature, which have been the subject of controversies in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.
Literature: Fiction, Drama, Poetry
Stations West: A Novel, by Allison Amend. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010. 250 pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-0-8071-3617-1.
Oklahoma is a forgotten territory of "Indians, outlaws, and immigrants" when its first Jewish settler, Boggy Haurowitz, arrives in 1859. Full of expectations, he finds the untamed region a formidable foe, its landscape rugged, its resources strained. In Stations West, four generations of Hau-rowitzes, intertwined with a family of Swedish immigrants, struggle against the Territory's "insatiable appetite" This novel, steeped in the history and lore of the Oklahoma Territory, tells a multigenerational--and very American--story of Jewish pioneers, their adopted family, and the challenges they face. Amid the founding of the West, Stations West's generations struggle to forge and maintain their identities as Jews, as immigrants, and as Americans.
War & Love, Love & War: New and Selected Poems, by Aharon Shabtai. NewYork: New Directions Books, 2010. 175 pp. $15.95. ISBN 978-0-8112-1890-0.
War & Love, Love & War presents a poetic biography of one of Israel's living literary masters. The book moves from political poems to love lyrics; from inventories of kibbutz life to a midrash on (and paean to) the career and character of the Israeli right-wing leader Menachem Begin; from passion for justice to passion for a deeply mourned wife. At the end of it all is a prose ars poetica in which Shabtai discusses the method behind his madness. Peter Cole's translation displays the range of Aharon Shabtai's oeuvre in a single volume for the first time in English.
Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean, by Basem L, Ra'ad. New York: Pluto Press, 2010, 272 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-7453-2831-7.
For thousands of years, the region of Palestine and the East Mediterranean has been denied an indigenous voice for an inclusive history, Three religions ascribe their origins to this part of the world, appropriating and re-appropriating the "Holy Land" time and again. Hidden Histories offers a corrective to common understandings. It emphasizes Palestine's long history and dispels many old and new myths--covering issues of reli-gious origins and sacred sites, identity and self-colonization, and the retrieval of ancient heritage.
Encyclopedia of American Immigration, edited by Carl L, Bankston, III. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2010. 3 vols. 1232 pp. $395.00. ISBN 978-1-58765-599-9.
Designed and written to be understood by high school students and college undergraduates, the Encyclopedia of American Immigration offers an approach to immigration history that can also be used by advanced students and scholars. The goal of the set is to address questions about immigration that students might ask; Where immigrants have come from and why; how they have adapted to their new homeland; how they have contributed to American culture and society; how government policies toward them have changed; and how American immigration history has fit into worldwide migration patterns. One-third of the essays are overviews covering broad issues ranging from accent discrimination, AIDS, world migration patterns, and xenophobia. Then follow 70 articles on specific ethnic and national immigrant groups. Each of these essays outlines its group's immigration history, emphasizing what has made each group unique. Other important essays cover events, laws and treaties, organizations and institutions, and Supreme Court rulings on immigration. In addition, every state in the union has its own essay, averaging nearly 1,000 words in length, and sidebar table summarizing demographic data. Ten cities with particularly large immigrant populations are also subjects of essays. Lastly, the set has articles on 45 individual persons, most of whom were post-independence era immigrants who had a significant impact on the United States. These range from U.S. secretary of state Madeline Albright and the Dominican-born writer Julia Alvarez to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. All these essays and focus on the experiences of their subjects as immigrants.
The Good and Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized, by James H Charlesworth. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010, 719 pp. $45-00. ISBN 978-0-300-14082-8.
In a passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is likened to a snake. Attempting to understand this surprising analogy, James H. Charlesworth has spent nearly a decade combing through the vast array of references to serpents in the ancient world--from the Bible and other religious texts to ancient statuary and jewelry. Charlesworth has concluded that not only was the serpent a widespread symbol throughout the world, but its meanings were both subtle and varied. In fact, the serpent of ancient times was more often associated with positive attributes like healing and eternal life than it was with negative meanings. This book explores the symbol of the serpent from 40,000 BCE to the present, and from diverse regions in the world. In doing so it emphasizes the creativity of the biblical authors' use of symbols and argues that we must today reexamine our own archetypal conceptions with comparable creativity.
Learning to Trust in Freedom: Signs from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Traditions, by David B. Burrell. Scranton: University of Scranton Press, 2010. 93pp. $25.00. ISBN 1-58966-195-8.
True religious faith cannot be confirmed by any external proofs. Rather, it is founded on a basic act of trust--and the common root of that trust, for Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, is a belief in the divine creation of the universe. But with Learning to Trust in Freedom, David B. Burrell asks the provocative question: How do we reach that belief, and what is it about the universe that could possibly testify to its divine origins? Even St. Augustine, he points out, could only find faith after a harrowing journey through the lures of desire--and it is that very desire that Burrell seizes on as a tool with which to explore the origin and purpose of the world. Delving into the intertwinings of desire and faith, and drawing on St. John of the Cross, Edith Stein, and Charles Taylor, Burrell offers a new understanding of free will, trust, and perception.
Religion and Everyday Life and Culture. Vol 1: Religion in the Practice of Daily Life in World History. Vol 2: Religion in the Practice of Public Life. Vol 3; Religion in the Practice of Private Life, edited by Richard D. Hecht and Vincent F. Biondo. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2010. 3 Vols., 1132 pp. $184.95. ISBN Vol. 1: 978-0-313-34280-6; Vol 2: 978-0-313-34282-0; Vol. 3: 978-0-313-34284-4.
This three-volume set explores the ways in which religion is bound to the practice of daily life and how daily life is bound to religion. Thirty-six international scholars describe the impact of religious practices around the world, using examples drawn from personal observation. Instead of repeating generalizations about what religion should mean, these volumes examine how religions actually influence our public and private lives "on the ground," on a day-to-day basis. Volume one introduces regional histories of the world's religions and discusses major ritual practices, such as the Catholic Mass and the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Volume two examines themes that will help readers understand how religions interact with the practices of public life, describing the ways religions influence government, education, criminal justice, economy, technology, and the environment. Volume three takes up themes that are central to how religions are realized in the practices of individuals.
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|Article Type:||Recommended readings|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2011|
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