Tag Archives: Judaism

Iyigun, “War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God: The Ottoman Role in Europe’s Socioeconomic Evolution”

In April, the University of Chicago Press will release “War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God: The Ottoman Role in Europe’s Socioeconomic Evolution” by Murat Iyigun (University of Colorado Boulder). The publisher’s description follows:

Differences among religious communities have motivated—and continue to motivate—many of the deadliest conflicts in human history. But how did political power and organized religion become so thoroughly intertwined? And how have religion and religiously motivated conflicts affected the evolution of societies throughout history, from demographic and sociopolitical change to economic growth?

War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God turns the focus on the “big three monotheisms”—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—to consider these questions. Chronicling the relatively rapid spread of the Abrahamic religions among the Old World, Murat Iyigun shows that societies that adhered to a monotheistic belief in that era lasted longer, suggesting that monotheism brought some sociopolitical advantages. While the inherent belief in one true god meant that these religious communities had sooner or later to contend with one another, Iyigun shows that differences among them were typically strong enough to trump disagreements within. The book concludes by documenting the long-term repercussions of these dynamics for the organization of societies and their politics in Europe and the Middle East.

Fine, “Political Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: From Holy War to Modern Terror”

In April, Rowman & Littlefield will release “Political Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: From Holy War to Modern Terror” by Jonathan Fine (Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzlyia). The publisher’s description follows:

Religious political violence is by no means a new phenomenon, yet there are critical differences between the various historical instances of such violence and its more current permutations. Since the mid-1970s, religious fundamentalist movements have been seeking to influence world order by participating in local political systems. For example, Islamic fundamentalism is at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Christian fundamental right wing has seen a resurgence in Europe, and Jewish fundamentalism is behind the actions of Meir Kahane’s Kach movement and the settler movement. The shift in recent years from secular to religious political violence necessitates a reevaluation of contemporary political violence and of the concept of religious violence.

This text analyzes the evolution of religious political violence, in both historical and contemporary perspectives. Since religious political violent events are usually associated with the term “terrorism,” the book first analyzes the origins of this controversial term and its religious manifestations. It then outlines and highlights the differences between secular and religious political violence, on ideological, strategic, and tactical levels before comparing the concept of Holy War in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Lastly, it shows how modern radical monotheistic religious groups interpret and manipulate their religious sources and ideas to advocate their political agendas, including the practice of violence. A unique comparative study of religious political violence across Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, this text features many international case studies from the Crusades to the Arab Spring.

Hashkes, “Rabbinic Discourse as a System of Knowledge”

In March, Brill will release “Rabbinic Discourse as a System of Knowledge” by Hannah E. Hashkes. The publisher’s description follows:

In Rabbinic Discourse as a System of Knowledge Hannah Hashkes employs contemporary philosophy in describing rabbinic reasoning as a rational response to experience. Hashkes combines insights from the analytic philosophy of Wittgenstein, Quine, and Davidson with the semiotics of Peirce to construe knowledge as systematic reasoning occurring within a community of inquiry. Her reading of the works of Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Marion allows her to create a philosophical bridge between a discourse of God and a discourse of reason. This synthesis of analytic philosophy and pragmatism, hermeneutics and theology provides Hashkes with a sophisticated tool to understand Rabbinic Judaism. It also makes this study both unique and path breaking in contemporary Jewish philosophy and Rabbinic thought.

Symposium: “Monuments and Memory”

On February 20th, Columbia University will host “Monuments and Memory: Material Culture and the Aftermaths of Histories of Mass Violence,” a symposium that will focus on the topics of restoration, restitution, and social justice:

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a groundbreaking symposium will be held at Columbia University and sponsored by the Armenian Center of Columbia University, Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University and the Armenian General Benevolent Union. Peter Balakian, Donald M. Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University, and Rachel Goshgarian, Assistant Professor of History at Lafayette College, are organizers and hosts of the event.

The symposium will be groundbreaking in its comparative analysis of Jewish monuments in eastern Europe, Muslim monuments in the Balkans, and Armenian Christian monuments in Turkey. Issues of preservation, social justice, and restitution will be discussed. The symposium will take place in Room 1501 of Columbia University’s Morningside Campus International Affairs Building, located at 420 West 118th Street, from 10 am until 6 pm with breaks for lunch and coffee. A reception will follow.

More details can be found here.

Bretherton, “Resurrecting Democracy”

In December, Cambridge University Press released “Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life” by Luke Bretherton (Duke University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Resurrecting DemocracyThrough a case study of community organizing in the global city of London and an examination of the legacy of Saul Alinsky around the world, this book develops a constructive account of the relationship between religious diversity, democratic citizenship, and economic and political accountability. Based on an in-depth, ethnographic study, Part I identifies and depicts a consociational, populist and post-secular vision of democratic citizenship by reflecting on the different strands of thought and practice that feed into and help constitute community organizing. Particular attention is given to how organizing mediates the relationship between Christianity, Islam and Judaism and those without a religious commitment in order to forge a common life. Part II then unpacks the implications of this vision for how we respond to the spheres in which citizenship is enacted, namely, civil society, the sovereign nation-state, and the globalized economy. Overall, the book outlines a way of re-imagining democracy, developing innovative public policy, and addressing poverty in the contemporary context.

What’s Happening in Argentina?

I confess I don’t follow Argentine politics. So when an Argentine friend posted the message “Yo Soy Nisman” on her Facebook page this week, I didn’t get the reference. I asked her about it, and she directed me to several news items on the death Sunday of an Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who was about to testify about an alleged deal to immunize the perpetrators of one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in recent history. It is an astonishing story.

In 1994, a bomb exploded at a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Iranian agents are suspected, and Interpol has issued arrest warrants against some Iranian officials. This month, Nisman accused the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner, of blocking the investigation. Kirschner, he claimed, had made a secret agreement with Iran to shield the officials from prosecution in exchange for Iranian oil. He filed a criminal complaint against her and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman. Both Kirschner and Timerman deny the charge. They say that Nisman was being manipulated by their political opponents.

Nisman had an appointment to testify before Argentine legislators on Monday. On Sunday, police found him dead in his apartment, with a gunshot wound to the head. Kirschner first called the death a suicide, which is how the police described it. Many Argentines were skeptical, as Nisman had left no note and forensic evidence didn’t point to a suicide.

Now, apparently, Ms. Kirschner is skeptical as well. On her website yesterday, she wrote that she believes Nisman was murdered–implicitly, by the same people who had manipulated him to bring the charges against her in the first place. “They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead,” she wrote. Presumably, the plot was to get Nisman to indict Kirschner on phony charges, and then kill him before the plot against Kirschner could be revealed.

So: A prosecutor claims he has evidence that the president has made a secret deal with a foreign country to cover up a attack on a religious minority that killed 85 people, then dies under mysterious circumstances the day before he is to testify. The president first claims it’s a suicide, then changes her mind and says, without providing evidence, that it’s a murder directed, ultimately, at her. Does any of this make sense? What’s happening in Argentina?

Walzer, “The Paradox of Liberation”

In March, Yale University Press will release “The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions” by Michael Walzer (Emeritus Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study).  The publisher’s description follows:

Paradox of LiberationMany of the successful campaigns for national liberation in the years following World War II were initially based on democratic and secular ideals. Once established, however, the newly independent nations had to deal with entirely unexpected religious fierceness. Michael Walzer, one of America’s foremost political thinkers, examines this perplexing trend by studying India, Israel, and Algeria, three nations whose founding principles and institutions have been sharply attacked by three completely different groups of religious revivalists: Hindu militants, ultra-Orthodox Jews and messianic Zionists, and Islamic radicals.

In his provocative, well-reasoned discussion, Walzer asks why these secular democratic movements have failed to sustain their hegemony: Why have they been unable to reproduce their political culture beyond one or two generations? In a postscript, he compares the difficulties of contemporary secularism to the successful establishment of secular politics in the early American republic—thereby making an argument for American exceptionalism but gravely noting that we may be less exceptional today.

Novak, “Zionism and Judaism: A New Theory”

In February, Cambridge University Press will release “Zionism and Judaism: A New Theory” by David Novak (University of Toronto). The publisher’s description follows:

Why should anyone be a Zionist, a supporter of a Jewish state in the land of Israel? Why should there be a Jewish state in the land of Israel? This book seeks to provide a philosophical answer to these questions. Although a Zionist need not be Jewish, nonetheless this book argues that Zionism is only a coherent political stance when it is intelligently rooted in Judaism, especially in the classical Jewish doctrine of God’s election of the people of Israel and the commandment to them to settle the land of Israel. The religious Zionism advocated here is contrasted with secular versions of Zionism that take Zionism to be a replacement of Judaism. It is also contrasted with versions of religious Zionism that ascribe messianic significance to the State of Israel, or which see the main task of religious Zionism to be the establishment of an Israeli theocracy.

Kwall, “The Myth of the Cultural Jew”

This February, Oxford University Press will release “The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition” by Roberta Rosenthal Kwall (DePaul University College of Law).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Myth of the CulturalA myth exists that Jews can embrace the cultural components of Judaism without appreciating the legal aspects of the Jewish tradition. This myth suggests that law and culture are independent of one another. In reality, however, much of Jewish culture has a basis in Jewish law. Similarly, Jewish law produces Jewish culture. A cultural analysis paradigm provides a useful way of understanding the Jewish tradition as the product of both legal precepts and cultural elements. This paradigm sees law and culture as inextricably intertwined and historically specific. This perspective also emphasizes the human element of law’s composition and the role of existing power dynamics in shaping Jewish law.

In light of this inevitable intersection between culture and law, The Myth of the Cultural Jew: Culture and Law in Jewish Tradition argues that Jewish culture is shallow unless it is grounded in Jewish law. Roberta Rosenthal Kwall develops and applies a cultural analysis paradigm to the Jewish tradition that departs from the understanding of Jewish law solely as the embodiment of Divine command. Her paradigm explains why both law and culture must matter to those interested in forging meaningful Jewish identity and transmitting the tradition.

Ryback, “Hitler’s First Victims”

In October, Random House released “Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for ryJustice,” by Timothy W. Ryback. The publisher’s description follows:

The remarkable story of Josef Hartinger, the German prosecutor who risked everything to bring to justice the first killers of the Holocaust and whose efforts would play a key role in the Nuremberg tribunal.

Before Germany was engulfed by Nazi dictatorship, it was a constitutional republic. And just before Dachau Concentration Camp became a site of Nazi genocide, it was a state detention center for political prisoners, subject to police authority and due process. The camp began its irrevocable transformation from one to the other following the execution of four Jewish detainees in the spring of 1933. Timothy W. Ryback’s gripping and poignant historical narrative focuses on those first victims of the Holocaust and the investigation that followed, as Hartinger sought to expose these earliest cases of state-condoned atrocity.

In documenting the circumstances surrounding these first murders and Hartinger’s unrelenting pursuit of the SS perpetrators, Ryback indelibly evokes a society on the brink—one in which civil liberties are sacrificed to national security, in which citizens increasingly turn a blind eye to injustice, in which the bedrock of judicial accountability chillingly dissolves into the martial caprice of the Third Reich.

We see Hartinger, holding on to his unassailable sense of justice, doggedly resisting the rising dominance of Nazism. His efforts were only a temporary roadblock to the Nazis, but Ryback makes clear that Hartinger struck a lasting blow for justice. The forensic evidence and testimony gathered by Hartinger provided crucial evidence in the postwar trials.

Hitler’s First Victims exposes the chaos and fragility of the Nazis’ early grip on power and dramatically suggests how different history could have been had other Germans followed Hartinger’s example of personal courage in that time of collective human failure.