In October, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance” by Elisheva Baumgarten (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:
In the urban communities of medieval Germany and northern France, the beliefs, observances, and practices of Jews allowed them to create and define their communities on their own terms as well as in relation to the surrounding Christian society. Although medieval Jewish texts were written by a learned elite, the laity also observed many religious rituals as part of their everyday life. In Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz, Elisheva Baumgarten asks how Jews, especially those who were not learned, expressed their belonging to a minority community and how their convictions and deeds were made apparent to both their Jewish peers and the Christian majority.
Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz provides a social history of religious practice in context, particularly with regard to the ways Jews and Christians, separately and jointly, treated their male and female members. Medieval Jews often shared practices and beliefs with their Christian neighbors, and numerous notions and norms were appropriated by one community from the other. By depicting a dynamic interfaith landscape and a diverse representation of believers, Baumgarten offers a fresh assessment of Jewish practice and the shared elements that composed the piety of Jews in relation to their Christian neighbors.
In July, Brandeis University Press released “Becoming Israeli: National Ideals and Everyday Life in the 1950s” by Anat Helman (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:
With a light touch and many wonderful illustrations, historian Anat Helman investigates “life on the ground” in Israel during the first years of statehood. She looks at how citizens–natives of the land, longtime immigrants, and newcomers–coped with the state’s efforts to turn an incredibly diverse group of people into a homogenous whole. She investigates the efforts to make Hebrew the lingua franca of Israel, the uses of humor, and the effects of a constant military presence, along with such familiar aspects of daily life as communal dining on the kibbutz, the nightmare of trying to board a bus, and moviegoing as a form of escapism. In the process Helman shows how ordinary people adapted to the standards and rules of the political and cultural elites and negotiated the chaos of early statehood.
This October, University of Chicago Press will release “Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today” by David Nirenberg (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are usually treated as autonomous religions, but in fact across the long course of their histories the three religions have developed in interaction with one another. In Neighboring Faiths, David Nirenberg examines how Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived with and thought about each other during the Middle Ages and what the medieval past can tell us about how they do so today.
There have been countless scripture-based studies of the three “religions of the book,” but Nirenberg goes beyond those to pay close attention to how the three religious neighbors loved, tolerated, massacred, and expelled each other—all in the name of God—in periods and places both long ago and far away. Nirenberg argues that the three religions need to be studied in terms of how each affected the development of the others over time, their proximity of religious and philosophical thought as well as their overlapping geographies, and how the three “neighbors” define—and continue to define—themselves and their place in terms of one another. From dangerous attractions leading to interfaith marriage; to interreligious conflicts leading to segregation, violence, and sometimes extermination; to strategies for bridging the interfaith gap through language, vocabulary, and poetry, Nirenberg aims to understand the intertwined past of the three faiths as a way for their heirs to produce the future—together.
This past June, Oxford University Press released “In Praise of Intransigence: The Perils of Flexibility” by Richard Weisberg (Cardozo School of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
Flexibility is usually seen as a virtue in today’s world. Even the dictionary seems to dislike those who stick too hard to their own positions. The thesaurus links “intransigence” to a whole host of words signifying a distaste for loyalty to fixed positions: intractable, stubborn, Pharisaic, close-minded, and stiff-necked, to name a few.
In this short and provocative book, constitutional law professor Richard H. Weisberg asks us to reexamine our collective cultural bias toward flexibility, open-mindedness, and compromise. He argues that flexibility has not fared well over the course of history. Indeed, emergencies both real and imagined have led people to betray their soundest traditions.
Weisberg explores the rise of flexibility, which he traces not only to the Enlightenment but further back to early Christian reinterpretation of Jewish sacred texts. He illustrates his argument with historical examples from Vichy France and the occupation of the British Channel Islands during World War II as well as post-9/11 betrayals of sound American traditions against torture, eavesdropping, unlimited detention, and drone killings.
Despite the damage wrought by Western society’s incautious embrace of flexibility over the past two millennia, Weisberg does not make the case for unthinking rigidity. Rather, he argues that a willingness to embrace intransigence allows us to recognize that we have beliefs worth holding on to — without compromise.
Next month, Brandeis University Press will release “American Jewish History” edited by Gary Phillip Zola (Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion) and Marc Dollinger (San Francisco State University). The publisher’s description follows:
Presenting the American Jewish historical experience from its communal beginnings to the present through documents, photographs, and other illustrations, many of which have never before been published, this entirely new collection of source materials complements existing textbooks on American Jewish history with an organization and pedagogy that reflect the latest historiographical trends and the most creative teaching approaches.
Ten chapters, organized chronologically, include source materials that highlight the major thematic questions of each era and tell many stories about what it was like to immigrate and acculturate to American life, practice different forms of Judaism, engage with the larger political, economic, and social cultures that surrounded American Jews, and offer assistance to Jews in need around the world.
At the beginning of each chapter, the editors provide a brief historical overview highlighting some of the most important developments in both American and American Jewish history during that particular era. Source materials in the collection are preceded by short headnotes that orient readers to the documents’ historical context and significance.
In August, Brandeis University Press will release “Sites of European Antisemitism in the Age of Mass Politics, 1880–1918″, edited by Robert Nemes (Colgate University) and Daniel Unowsky (University of Memphis). The publisher’s description follows:
This innovative collection of essays on the upsurge of antisemitism across Europe in the decades around 1900 shifts the focus away from intellectuals and well-known incidents to less-familiar events, actors, and locations, including smaller towns and villages. This “from below” perspective offers a new look at a much-studied phenomenon: essays link provincial violence and antisemitic politics with regional, state, and even transnational trends. Featuring a diverse array of geographies that include Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Romania, Italy, Greece, and the Russian Empire, the book demonstrates the complex interplay of many factors—economic, religious, political, and personal—that led people to attack their Jewish neighbors.
In September, Cambridge University Press will release Organ Donation and the Divine Lien in Talmudic Law by Madeline Kochen (University of Michigan Law School). The publisher’s description follows:
This book offers a new theory of property and distributive justice derived from Talmudic law, illustrated by a case study involving the sale of organs for transplant. Although organ donation did not exist in late antiquity, this book posits a new way, drawn from the Talmud, to conceive of this modern means of giving to others. Our common understanding of organ transfers as either a gift or sale is trapped in a dichotomy that is conceptually and philosophically limiting. Drawing on Maussian gift theory, this book suggests a different legal and cultural meaning for this property transfer. It introduces the concept of the “divine lien,” an obligation to others in need built into the definition of all property ownership. Rather than a gift or sale, organ transfer is shown to exemplify an owner’s voluntary recognition and fulfillment of this latent property obligation.
In August, Brandeis University Press will release “Jewish Philosophical Politics in Germany, 1789-1848″ by Sven-Erik Rose (University of California, Davis). The Publisher’s description follows:
A provocative look at how Jewish intellectuals thought about Jewish religion and existence within a German philosophical tradition
In this book Rose illuminates the extraordinary creativity of Jewish intellectuals as they reevaluated Judaism with the tools of a German philosophical tradition fast emerging as central to modern intellectual life. While previous work emphasizes the “subversive” dimensions of German-Jewish thought or the “inner antisemitism” of the German philosophical tradition, Rose shows convincingly the tremendous resources German philosophy offered contemporary Jews for thinking about the place of Jews in the wider polity. Offering a fundamental reevaluation of seminal figures and key texts, Rose emphasizes the productive encounter between Jewish intellectuals and German philosophy. He brings to light both the complexity and the ambivalence of reflecting on Jewish identity and politics from within a German tradition that invested tremendous faith in the political efficacy of philosophical thought itself.
This May, Yale University Press published Jabotinsky: A Life by Hillel Halkin. The publisher’s description follows.
Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880–1940) was a man of huge paradoxes and contradictions and has been the most misunderstood of all Zionist politicians–a first-rate novelist, a celebrated Russian journalist, and the founder of the branch of Zionism now headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. This biography, the first in English in nearly two decades, undertakes to answer central questions about Jabotinsky as a writer, a political thinker, and a leader. Hillel Halkin sets aside the stereotypes to which Jabotinsky has been reduced by his would-be followers and detractors alike.
Halkin explains the importance of Odessa, Jabotinsky’s native city, in molding his character and outlook; discusses his novels and short stories, showing the sometimes hidden connections between them and Jabotinsky’s political thought, and studies a political career that ended in tragic failure. Halkin also addresses Jabotinsky’s position, unique among the great figures of Zionist history, as both a territorial maximalist and a principled believer in democracy. The author inquires why Jabotinsky was often accused of fascist tendencies though he abhorred authoritarian and totalitarian politics, and investigates the many opposed aspects of his personality and conduct while asking whether or not they had an ultimate coherence. Few figures in twentieth-century Jewish life were quite so admired and loathed, and Halkin’s splendid, subtle book explores him with empathy and lucidity.
This June, Stanford University Press will publish Jewish Spain, A Mediterranean Memory by Tabea Alexa Linhard (Washington University- St. Louis). The publisher’s description follows.
What is meant by “Jewish Spain”? The term itself encompasses a series of historical contradictions. No single part of Spain has ever been entirely Jewish. Yet discourses about Jews informed debates on Spanish identity formation long after their 1492 expulsion. The Mediterranean world witnessed a renewed interest in Spanish-speaking Jews in the twentieth century, and it has grappled with shifting attitudes on what it meant to be Jewish and Spanish throughout the century.
At the heart of this book are explorations of the contradictions that appear in different forms of cultural memory: literary texts, memoirs, oral histories, biographies, films, and heritage tourism packages. Tabea Alexa Linhard identifies depictions of the difficulties Jews faced in Spain and Northern Morocco in years past as integral to the survival strategies of Spanish Jews, who used them to make sense of the confusing and harrowing circumstances of the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist repression, and World War Two.
Jewish Spain takes its place among other works on Muslims, Christians, and Jews by providing a comprehensive analysis of Jewish culture and presence in twentieth-century Spain, reminding us that it is impossible to understand and articulate what Spain was, is, and will be without taking into account both “Muslim Spain” and “Jewish Spain.”