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In the decades directly following the Holocaust, American Jewish leaders anxiously debated how to preserve and produce what they considered authentic Jewish culture, fearful that growing affluence and suburbanization threatened the future of Jewish life. Many communal educators and rabbis contended that without educational interventions, Judaism as they understood it would disappear altogether. They pinned their hopes on residential summer camps for Jewish youth: institutions that sprang up across the U.S. in the postwar decades as places for children and teenagers to socialize, recreate, and experience Jewish culture. Adults' fears, hopes, and dreams about the Jewish future inflected every element of camp life, from the languages they taught to what was encouraged romantically and permitted sexually. But adult plans did not constitute everything that occurred at camp: children and teenagers also shaped these sleepaway camps to mirror their own desires and interests and decided whether to accept or resist the ideas and ideologies their camp leaders promoted. Focusing on the lived experience of campers and camp counselors, The Jews of Summer demonstrates how a cultural crisis birthed a rite of passage that remains a significant influence in American Jewish life.
This career-spanning anthology from prominent Jewish historian David Biale brings over a dozen of his key essays together for the first time. These pieces, written between 1974 and 2016, are all representative of a method Biale calls "counter-history": "the discovery of vital forces precisely in what others considered marginal, disreputable and irrational." The themes that have preoccupied Biale throughout the course of his distinguished career—in particular power, sexuality, blood, and secular Jewish thought—span the periods of the Bible, late antiquity, and the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. Exemplary essays in this volume argue for the dialectical relationship between modernity and its precursors in the older tradition, working together to "brush history against the grain" in order to provide a sweeping look at the history of the Jewish people. This volume of work by one of the boldest and most intellectually omnivorous Jewish thinkers of our time will be essential reading for scholars and students of Jewish studies.
In 1524, a man named David Reubeni appeared in Venice, claiming to be the ambassador of a powerful Jewish kingdom deep in the heart of Arabia. In this era of fierce rivalry between great powers, voyages of fantastic discovery, and brutal conquest of new lands, people throughout the Mediterranean saw the signs of an impending apocalypse and envisioned a coming war that would end with a decisive Christian or Islamic victory. With his army of hardy desert warriors from lost Israelite tribes, Reubeni pledged to deliver the Jews to the Holy Land by force and restore their pride and autonomy. He would spend a decade shuttling between European rulers in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France, seeking weaponry in exchange for the support of his hitherto unknown but mighty Jewish kingdom. Many, however, believed him to favor the relatively tolerant Ottomans over the persecutorial Christian regimes. Reubeni was hailed as a messiah by many wealthy Jews and Iberia's oppressed conversos, but his grand ambitions were halted in Regensburg when the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, turned him over to the Inquisition and, in 1538, he was likely burned at the stake. Diary of a Black Jewish Messiah is the first English translation of Reubeni's Hebrew-language diary, detailing his travels and personal travails. Written in a Hebrew drawn from everyday speech, entirely unlike other literary works of the period, Reubeni's diary reveals both the dramatic desperation of Renaissance Jewish communities and the struggles of the diplomat, trickster, and dreamer who wanted to save them.
In this gripping graphic novel, a Jewish journalist encounters an extension of the horrors of the Holocaust in North Africa. In the lead-up to World War II, the rising tide of fascism and antisemitism in Europe foreshadowed Hitler's genocidal campaign against Jews. But the horrors of the Holocaust were not limited to the concentration camps of Europe: antisemitic terror spread through Vichy French imperial channels to France's colonies in North Africa, where in the forced labor camps of Algeria and Morocco, Jews and other "undesirables" faced brutal conditions and struggled to survive in an unforgiving landscape quite unlike Europe. In this richly historical graphic novel, historian Aomar Boum and illustrator Nadjib Berber take us inside this lesser-known side of the traumas wrought by the Holocaust by following one man's journey as a Holocaust refugee. Hans Frank is a Jewish journalist covering politics in Berlin, who grows increasingly uneasy as he witnesses the Nazi Party consolidate power and decides to flee Germany. Through connections with a transnational network of activists organizing against fascism and anti-Semitism, Hans ultimately lands in French Algeria, where days after his arrival, the Vichy regime designates all foreign Jews as "undesirables" and calls for their internment. On his way to Morocco, he is detained by Vichy authorities and interned first at Le Vernet, then later transported to different camps in the deserts of Morocco and Algeria. With memories of his former life as a political journalist receding like a dream, Hans spends the next year and a half in forced labor camps, hearing the stories of others whose lives have been upended by violence and war. Through bold, historically inflected illustrations that convey the tension of the coming war and the grimness of the Vichy camps, Aomar Boum and Nadjib Berber capture the experiences of thousands of refugees through the fictional Hans, chronicling how the traumas of the Holocaust extended far beyond the borders of Europe.
The true story of a vigilante group of Holocaust survivors who conspired to kill six million Germans Nakam (Hebrew for "vengeance") tells the story of "the Avengers" (Nokmim), a group of young Holocaust survivors led by poet and resistance fighter Abba Kovner, who undertook a mission of revenge against Germany following the crimes of the Holocaust. Motivated by both the atrocities they had endured and the realization that murderous antisemitic attacks on survivors continued long after the Nazi surrender, these fifty young men and women sought retaliation at a level commensurate with the devastation caused by the Holocaust, making clear to the world that Jewish blood would no longer be shed with impunity. Had they been successful, they would have poisoned city water supplies and loaves of bread distributed to German POWs, with the aim of killing six million Germans. Kovner and his followers went to great lengths to carry out their plans, going so far as to obtain the schematics for Nuremberg's municipal water system, secure large quantities of poison, infiltrate a POW camp and the bakery that supplied it, and distribute poisoned bread to prisoners—but their plots were ultimately stymied. Most of the members of Nakam eventually returned to Israel, where for decades many of them refused to speak publicly about their roles in the group. While the Avengers' story began to come to light in the 1980s, details of the relations between the group and Zionist leadership and the motivations of its members have remained unknown. Drawing on rich archival sources and in-depth interviews with the Avengers in their later years, historian Dina Porat examines the formation of the group and the clash between the formative humanistic values held by its members and their unrealized plans for violent retribution.
This book explores the dynamic role of love in German-Jewish lives, from the birth of the German Empire in the 1870s, to the 1970s, a generation after the Shoah. During a remarkably turbulent hundred-year period when German Jews experienced five political regimes, rapid urbanization, transformations in gender relations, and war and genocide, the romantic ideals of falling in love and marrying for love helped German Jews to develop a new sense of self. Appeals to romantic love were also significant in justifying relationships between Jews and non-Jews, even when those unions created conflict within and between communities. By incorporating novel approaches from the history of emotions and life-cycle history, Christian Bailey moves beyond existing research into the sexual and racial politics of modern Germany and approaches a new frontier in the study of subjectivity and the self. German Jews in Love draws on a rich array of sources, from newspapers and love letters to state and other official records. Calling on this evidence, Bailey shows the ways German Jews' romantic relationships reveal an aspect of acculturation that has been overlooked: how deeply cultural scripts worked their way into emotions; those most intimate and seemingly pre-political aspects of German-Jewish subjectivity.
A sweeping biography that opens a window onto the gilded age of Jewish philanthropy. Baron Maurice de Hirsch was one of the emblematic figures of the nineteenth century. Above all, he was the most influential Jewish philanthropist of his time. Today Hirsch is less well known than the Rothschilds, or his gentile counterpart Andrew Carnegie, yet he was, to his contemporaries, the very embodiment of the gilded age of Jewish philanthropy. Hirsch's life provides a singular entry point for understanding Jewish philanthropy and politics in the late nineteenth century, a period when, as now, private benefactors played an outsize role in shaping the collective fate of Jewish communities. Hirsch's vast fortune derived from his role in creating the first rail line linking Western Europe with the Ottoman Empire, what came to be known as the Orient Express. Socializing with the likes of the Austrian crown prince Rudolph and "Bertie," Prince of Wales, Hirsch rose to the pinnacle of European aristocratic society, but also found himself the frequent target of vicious antisemitism. This was an era when what it meant to be Jewish—and what it meant to be European—were undergoing dramatic changes. Baron Hirsch was at the center of these historic shifts. While in his time Baron Hirsch was the subject of widespread praise, enraged political commentary, and conspiracy theories alike, his legacy is often overlooked. Responding to the crisis wrought by the mass departure of Jews from the Russian Empire at the turn of the century, Hirsch established the Jewish Colonization Association, with the goal of creating a refuge for the Jews in Argentina. When Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, advertised his plan to create a Jewish state (not without inspiration from Hirsch), he still wondered whether to do so in Palestine or in Argentina—and left the question open. In The Baron, Matthias Lehmann tells the story of this remarkable figure whose life and legacy provide a key to understanding the forces that shaped modern Jewish history.
In this elegant and personal new work, Michael P. Steinberg reflects on the story of Moses and the Exodus as a foundational myth of politics—of the formation not of a nation but of a political community grounded in universal law. Modern renderings of the story of Moses, from Michelangelo to Spinoza to Freud to Schoenberg to Derrida, have seized on the story's ambivalences, its critical and self-critical power. These literal returns form the first level of the afterlife of Moses. They spin a persistent critical and self-critical thread of European and transatlantic art and argument. And they enable the second strand of Steinberg's argument, namely the depersonalization of the Moses and Exodus story, its evolving abstraction and modulation into a varied modern history of political beginnings. Beginnings, as distinct from origins, are human and historical, writes Steinberg. Political constitutions, as a form of beginning, imply the eventuality of their own renewals and their own reconstitutions. Motivated in part by recent reactionary insurgencies in the US, Europe, and Israel, this astute work of intellectual history posits the critique of myths of origin as a key principle of democratic government, affect, and citizenship, of their endurance as well as their fragility.
This book, the first-ever collection of primary documents on North African history and the Holocaust, gives voice to the diversity of those involved—Muslims, Christians, and Jews; women, men, and children; black, brown, and white; the unknown and the notable; locals, refugees, the displaced, and the interned; soldiers, officers, bureaucrats, volunteer fighters, and the forcibly recruited. At times their calls are lofty, full of spiritual lamentation and political outrage. At others, they are humble, yearning for medicine, a cigarette, or a pair of shoes. Translated from French, Arabic, North African Judeo-Arabic, Spanish, Hebrew, Moroccan Darija, Tamazight (Berber), Italian, and Yiddish, or transcribed from their original English, these writings shed light on how war, occupation, race laws, internment, and Vichy French, Italian fascist, and German Nazi rule were experienced day by day across North Africa. Though some selections are drawn from published books, including memoirs, diaries, and collections of poetry, most have never been published before, nor previously translated into English. These human experiences, combined, make up the history of wartime North Africa.
A new history of twentieth-century North Africa, that gives voice to the musicians who defined an era and the vibrant recording industry that carried their popular sounds from the colonial period through decolonization. If twentieth-century stories of Jews and Muslims in North Africa are usually told separately, Recording History demonstrates that we have not been listening to what brought these communities together: Arab music. For decades, thousands of phonograph records flowed across North African borders. The sounds embedded in their grooves were shaped in large part by Jewish musicians, who gave voice to a changing world around them. Their popular songs broadcast on radio, performed in concert, and circulated on disc carried with them the power to delight audiences, stir national sentiments, and frustrate French colonial authorities. With this book, Christopher Silver provides the first history of the music scene and recording industry across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and offers striking insights into Jewish-Muslim relations through the rhythms that animated them. He traces the path of hit-makers and their hit records, illuminating regional and transnational connections. In asking what North Africa once sounded like, Silver recovers a world of many voices—of pioneering impresarios, daring female stars, cantors turned composers, witnesses and survivors of war, and national and nationalist icons—whose music still resonates well into our present.
A biography of the "Cinderella" of Egyptian cinema—the veneration and rumors that surrounded an unparalleled career, and the gendered questions that unsettled Egyptian society. Layla Murad (1918-1995) was once the highest-paid star in Egypt, and her movies were among the top-grossing in the box office. She starred in 28 films, nearly all now classics in Arab musical cinema. In 1955 she was forced to stop acting—and struggled for decades for a comeback. Today, even decades after her death, public interest in her life continues, and new generations of Egyptians still love her work. Unknown Past recounts Murad's extraordinary life—and the rapid political and sociocultural changes she witnessed. Hanan Hammad writes a story centered on Layla Murad's persona and legacy, and broadly framed around a gendered history of twentieth-century Egypt. Murad was a Jew who converted to Islam in the shadow of the first Arab-Israeli war. Her career blossomed under the Egyptian monarchy and later gave a singing voice to the Free Officers and the 1952 Revolution. The definitive end of her cinematic career came under Nasser on the eve of the 1956 Suez War. Egyptians have long told their national story through interpretations of Murad's life, intertwining the individual and Egyptian state and society to better understand Egyptian identity. As Unknown Past recounts, there's no life better than Murad's to reflect the tumultuous changes experienced over the dramatic decades of the mid-twentieth century.
The compelling true story of Nelly Benatar—a hero of the anti-Fascist North African resistance and humanitarian who changed the course of history for the "last million" escaping the Second World War. When France fell to Hitler's armies in June 1940, a flood of refugees fleeing Nazi terror quickly overwhelmed Europe's borders and spilled across the Mediterranean to North Africa, touching off a humanitarian crisis of dizzying proportions. Nelly Benatar, a highly regarded Casablancan Jewish lawyer, quickly claimed a role of rescuer and almost single-handedly organized a sweeping program of wartime refugee relief. But for all her remarkable achievements, Benatar's story has never been told. With this book, Susan Gilson Miller introduces readers to a woman who fought injustice as an anti-Fascist resistant, advocate for refugee rights, liberator of Vichy-run forced labor camps, and legal counselor to hundreds of Holocaust survivors. Miller crafts a gripping biography that spins a tale like a Hollywood thriller, yet finds its truth in archives gathered across Europe, North Africa, Israel, and the United States and from Benatar's personal collection of eighteen thousand documents now housed in the US Holocaust Museum. Years of Glory offers a rich narrative and a deeper understanding of the complex currents that shaped Jewish, North African, and world history over the course of the Second World War. The traumas of genocide, the struggle for anti-colonial liberation, and the eventual Jewish exodus from Arab lands all take on new meaning when reflected through the interstices of Benatar's life. A courageous woman with a deep moral conscience and an iron will, Nelly Benatar helped to lay the groundwork for crucial postwar efforts to build a better world over Europe's ashes.
In this rich intellectual history of the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas's Talmudic lectures in Paris, Ethan Kleinberg addresses Levinas's Jewish life and its relation to his philosophical writings while making an argument for the role and importance of Levinas's Talmudic lessons. Pairing each chapter with a related Talmudic lecture, Kleinberg uses the distinction Levinas presents between "God on Our Side" and "God on God's Side" to provide two discrete and at times conflicting approaches to Levinas's Talmudic readings. One is historically situated and argued from "our side" while the other uses Levinas's Talmudic readings themselves to approach the issues as timeless and derived from "God on God's own side." Bringing the two approaches together, Kleinberg asks whether the ethical message and moral urgency of Levinas's Talmudic lectures can be extended beyond the texts and beliefs of a chosen people, religion, or even the seemingly primary unit of the self. Touching on Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition, Kleinberg provides readers with a boundary-pushing investigation into the origins, influences, and causes of Levinas's turn to and use of Talmud.
A magisterial, modern reading of the deepest mysteries in the Kabbalistic tradition. Seekers of the Face opens the profound treasure house at the heart of Judaism's most important mystical work: the Idra Rabba (Great Gathering) of the Zohar. This is the story of the Great Assembly of mystics called to order by the master teacher and hero of the Zohar, Rabbi Shim'on bar Yochai, to align the divine faces and to heal Jewish religion. The Idra Rabba demands a radical expansion of the religious worldview, as it reveals God's faces and bodies in daring, anthropomorphic language. For the first time, Melila Hellner-Eshed makes this challenging, esoteric masterpiece meaningful for everyday readers. Hellner-Eshed expertly unpacks the Idra Rabba's rich grounding in tradition, its probing of hidden layers of consciousness and the psyche, and its striking, sacred images of the divine face. Leading readers of the Zohar on a transformative adventure in mystical experience, Seekers of the Face allows us to hear anew the Idra Rabba's bold call to heal and align the living faces of God.
The Oldest Guard tells the story of Zionist settler memory in and around the private Jewish agricultural colonies (moshavot) established in late nineteenth-century Ottoman Palestine. Though they grew into the backbone of lucrative citrus and wine industries of mandate Palestine and Israel, absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants, and became known as the "first wave" (First Aliyah) of Zionist settlement, these communities have been regarded—and disregarded—in the history of Zionism as sites of conservatism, lack of ideology, and resistance to Labor Zionist politics. Treating the "First Aliyah" as a symbol created and deployed only in retrospect, Liora R. Halperin offers a richly textured portrait of commemorative practices between the 1920s and the 1960s. Drawing connections to memory practices in other settler societies, The Oldest Guard demonstrates how private agriculturalists and their advocates in the Zionist center and on the right celebrated and forged the "First Aliyah" past, revealing the centrality of settlement to Zionist collective memory and the politics of Zionist settler "firstness."
Around the beginning of the twentieth century, Jewish writers and artists across Europe began depicting fellow Jews as savages or "primitive" tribesmen. Primitivism—the European appreciation of and fascination with so-called "primitive," non-Western peoples who were also subjugated and denigrated—was a powerful artistic critique of the modern world and was adopted by Jewish writers and artists to explore the urgent questions surrounding their own identity and status in Europe as insiders and outsiders. Jewish primitivism found expression in a variety of forms in Yiddish, Hebrew, and German literature, photography, and graphic art, including in the work of figures such as Franz Kafka, Y.L. Peretz, S. An-sky, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Else Lasker-Schüler, and Moï Ver. In Jewish Primitivism, Samuel J. Spinner argues that these and other Jewish modernists developed a distinct primitivist aesthetic that, by locating the savage present within Europe, challenged the idea of the threatening savage other from outside Europe on which much primitivism relied: in Jewish primitivism, the savage is already there. This book offers a new assessment of modern Jewish art and literature and shows how Jewish primitivism troubles the boundary between observer and observed, cultured and "primitive," colonizer and colonized.
Dances and balls appear throughout world literature as venues for young people to meet, flirt, and form relationships, as any reader of Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, or Romeo and Juliet can attest. The popularity of social dance transcends class, gender, ethnic, and national boundaries. In the context of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jewish culture, dance offers crucial insights into debates about emancipation and acculturation. While traditional Jewish law prohibits men and women from dancing together, Jewish mixed-sex dancing was understood as the very sign of modernity––and the ultimate boundary transgression. Writers of modern Jewish literature deployed dance scenes as a charged and complex arena for understanding the limits of acculturation, the dangers of ethnic mixing, and the implications of shifting gender norms and marriage patterns, while simultaneously entertaining their readers. In this pioneering study, Sonia Gollance examines the specific literary qualities of dance scenes, while also paying close attention to the broader social implications of Jewish engagement with dance. Combining cultural history with literary analysis and drawing connections to contemporary representations of Jewish social dance, Gollance illustrates how mixed-sex dancing functions as a flexible metaphor for the concerns of Jewish communities in the face of cultural transitions.
Hasidism is an influential spiritual revival movement within Judaism that began in the eighteenth century and continues to thrive today. One of the great classics of early Hasidism, The Light of the Eyes is a collection of homilies on the Torah, reading the entire Five Books of Moses as a guide to spiritual awareness and cultivation of the inner life. This is the first English translation of any major work from Hasidism's earliest and most creative period. Arthur Green's introduction and annotations survey the history of Hasidism and outline the essential religious and moral teachings of this mystical movement. The Light of the Eyes, by Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, offers insights that remain as fresh and relevant for the contemporary reader as they were when first published in 1798.
In 1948, a war broke out that would result in Israeli independence and the erasure of Arab Palestine. Over twenty months, thousands of Jews and Arabs came from all over the world to join those already on the ground to fight in the ranks of the Israel Defense Forces and the Arab Liberation Army. With this book, the young men and women who made up these armies come to life through their letters home, writing about everything from daily life to nationalism, colonialism, race, and the character of their enemies. Shay Hazkani offers a new history of the 1948 War through these letters, focusing on the people caught up in the conflict and its transnational reverberations. Dear Palestine also examines how the architects of the conflict worked to influence and indoctrinate key ideologies in these ordinary soldiers, by examining battle orders, pamphlets, army magazines, and radio broadcasts. Through two narratives—the official and unofficial, the propaganda and the personal letters—Dear Palestine reveals the fissures between sanctioned nationalism and individual identity. This book reminds us that everyday people's fear, bravery, arrogance, cruelty, lies, and exaggerations are as important in history as the preoccupations of the elites.
In a book that will touch hearts and minds, acclaimed cultural historian Marilyn Yalom presents firsthand accounts of six witnesses to war, each offering lasting memories of how childhood trauma transforms lives. The violence of war leaves indelible marks, and memories last a lifetime for those who experienced this trauma as children. Marilyn Yalom experienced World War II from afar, safely protected in her home in Washington, DC. But over the course of her life, she came to be close friends with many less lucky, who grew up under bombardment across Europe—in France, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, England, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Holland. With Innocent Witnesses, Yalom collects the stories from these accomplished luminaries and brings us voices of a vanishing generation, the last to remember World War II. Memory is notoriously fickle: it forgets most of the past, holds on to bits and pieces, and colors the truth according to unconscious wishes. But in the circle of safety Marilyn Yalom created for her friends, childhood memories return in all their startling vividness. This powerful collage of testimonies offers us a greater understanding of what it is to be human, not just then but also today. With this book, her final and most personal work of cultural history, Yalom considers the lasting impact of such young experiences—and asks whether we will now force a new generation of children to spend their lives reconciling with such memories.
Wild Visionary reconsiders Maurice Sendak's life and work in the context of his experience as a Jewish gay man. Maurice (Moishe) Bernard Sendak (1928–2012) was a fierce, romantic, and shockingly funny truth seeker who intervened in modern literature and culture. Raising the stakes of children's books, Sendak painted childhood with the dark realism and wild imagination of his own sensitive "inner child," drawing on the queer and Yiddish sensibilities that shaped his singular voice. Interweaving literary biography and cultural history, Golan Y. Moskowitz follows Sendak from his parents' Brooklyn home to spaces of creative growth and artistic vision—from neighborhood movie palaces to Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, Fire Island, and the Connecticut country home he shared with Eugene Glynn, his partner of more than fifty years. Further, he analyzes Sendak's investment in the figure of the endangered child in symbolic relation to collective touchstones that impacted the artist's perspective—the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the AIDS crisis. Through a deep exploration of Sendak's picture books, interviews, and previously unstudied personal correspondence, Wild Visionary offers a sensitive portrait of the most beloved and enchanting picture-book artist of our time.
Among the Jewish writers who emigrated from Eastern Europe to France in the 1910s and 1920s, a number chose to switch from writing in their languages of origin to writing primarily in French, a language that represented both a literary center and the promises of French universalism. But under the Nazi occupation of France from 1940 to 1944, these Jewish émigré writers—among them Irène Némirovsky, Benjamin Fondane, Romain Gary, Jean Malaquais, and Elsa Triolet—continued to write in their adopted language, even as the Vichy regime and Nazi occupiers denied their French identity through xenophobic and antisemitic laws. In this book, Julia Elsky argues that these writers reexamined both their Jewishness and their place as authors in France through the language in which they wrote. The group of authors Elsky considers depicted key moments in the war from their perspective as Jewish émigrés, including the June 1940 civilian flight from Paris, life in the occupied and southern zones, the roundups and internment camps, and the Resistance in France and in London. Writing in French, they expressed multiple cultural, religious, and linguistic identities, challenging the boundaries between center and periphery, between French and foreign, even when their sense of belonging was being violently denied.
The Sultan's Communists uncovers the history of Jewish radical involvement in Morocco's national liberation project and examines how Moroccan Jews envisioned themselves participating as citizens in a newly-independent Morocco. Closely following the lives of five prominent Moroccan Jewish Communists (Léon René Sultan, Edmond Amran El Maleh, Abraham Serfaty, Simon Lévy, and Sion Assidon), Alma Rachel Heckman describes how Moroccan Communist Jews fit within the story of mass Jewish exodus from Morocco in the 1950s and '60s, and how they survived oppressive post-independence authoritarian rule under the Moroccan monarchy to ultimately become heroic emblems of state-sponsored Muslim-Jewish tolerance. The figures at the center of Heckman's narrative stood at the intersection of colonialism, Arab nationalism, and Zionism. Their stories unfolded in a country that, upon independence from France and Spain in 1956, allied itself with the United States (and, more quietly, Israel) during the Cold War, while attempting to claim a place for itself within the fraught politics of the post-independence Arab world. The Sultan's Communists contributes to the growing literature on Jews in the modern Middle East and provides a new history of twentieth-century Jewish Morocco.
When European powers carved political borders across the Middle East following World War I, a curious event in the international drug trade occurred: Palestine became the most important hashish waystation in the region and a thriving market for consumption. British and French colonial authorities utterly failed to control the illicit trade, raising questions about the legitimacy of their mandatory regimes. The creation of the Israeli state, too, had little effect to curb illicit trade. By the 1960s, drug trade had become a major point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and drug use widespread. Intoxicating Zion is the first book to tell the story of hashish in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. Trafficking, use, and regulation; race, gender, and class; colonialism and nation-building all weave together in Haggai Ram's social history of the drug from the 1920s to the aftermath of the 1967 War. The hashish trade encompassed smugglers, international gangs, residents, law enforcers, and political actors, and Ram traces these flows through the interconnected realms of cross-border politics, economics, and culture. Hashish use was and is a marker of belonging and difference, and its history offers readers a unique glimpse into how the modern Middle East was made.
Another Modernity is a rich study of the life and thought of Elia Benamozegh, a nineteenth-century rabbi and philosopher whose work profoundly influenced Christian-Jewish dialogue in twentieth-century Europe. Benamozegh, a Livornese rabbi of Moroccan descent, was a prolific writer and transnational thinker who corresponded widely with religious and intellectual figures in France, the Maghreb, and the Middle East. This idiosyncratic figure, who argued for the universalism of Judaism and for interreligious engagement, came to influence a spectrum of religious thinkers so varied that it includes proponents of the ecumenical Second Vatican Council, American evangelists, and right-wing Zionists in Israel. What Benamozegh proposed was unprecedented: that the Jewish tradition presented a solution to the religious crisis of modernity. According to Benamozegh, the defining features of Judaism were universalism, a capacity to foster interreligious engagement, and the political power and mythical allure of its theosophical tradition, Kabbalah—all of which made the Jewish tradition uniquely equipped to assuage the post-Enlightenment tensions between religion and reason. In this book, Clémence Boulouque presents a wide-ranging and nuanced investigation of Benamozegh's published and unpublished work and his continuing legacy, considering his impact on Christian-Jewish dialogue as well as on far-right Christians and right-wing religious Zionists.
Forging Ties, Forging Passports is a history of migration and nation-building from the vantage point of those who lived between states. Devi Mays traces the histories of Ottoman Sephardi Jews who emigrated to the Americas—and especially to Mexico—in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the complex relationships they maintained to legal documentation as they migrated and settled into new homes. Mays considers the shifting notions of belonging, nationality, and citizenship through the stories of individual women, men, and families who navigated these transitions in their everyday lives, as well as through the paperwork they carried. In the aftermath of World War I and the Mexican Revolution, migrants traversed new layers of bureaucracy and authority amid shifting political regimes as they crossed and were crossed by borders. Ottoman Sephardi migrants in Mexico resisted unequivocal classification as either Ottoman expatriates or Mexicans through their links to the Sephardi diaspora in formerly Ottoman lands, France, Cuba, and the United States. By making use of commercial and familial networks, these Sephardi migrants maintained a geographic and social mobility that challenged the physical borders of the state and the conceptual boundaries of the nation.
Five centuries after the forced conversion of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to Catholicism, stories of these conversos' descendants uncovering long-hidden Jewish roots have come to light and taken hold of the literary and popular imagination. This seemingly remote history has inspired a wave of contemporary writing involving hidden artifacts, familial whispers and secrets, and clandestine Jewish ritual practices pointing to a past that had been presumed dead and buried. The Converso's Return explores the cultural politics and literary impact of this reawakened interest in converso and crypto-Jewish history, ancestry, and identity, and asks what this fascination with lost-and-found heritage can tell us about how we relate to and make use of the past. Dalia Kandiyoti offers nuanced interpretations of contemporary fictional and autobiographical texts about crypto-Jews in Cuba, Mexico, New Mexico, Spain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey. These works not only imagine what might be missing from the historical archive but also suggest an alternative historical consciousness that underscores uncommon convergences of and solidarities within Sephardi, Christian, Muslim, converso, and Sabbatean histories. Steeped in diaspora, Sephardi, transamerican, Iberian, and world literature studies, The Converso's Return illuminates how the converso narrative can enrich our understanding of history, genealogy, and collective memory.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was the charismatic leader of the Chabad Hasidic movement and its designated Messiah. Yet when he died in 1994, the messianic fervor he inspired did not subside. Through traditional means and digital technologies, a group of radical Hasidim, the Meshichistim, still keep the Rebbe palpably close—engaging in ongoing dialogue, participating in specific rituals, and developing an ever-expanding visual culture of portraits and videos. With Us More Than Ever focuses on this group to explore how religious practice can sustain the belief that a messianic figure is both present and accessible. Yoram Bilu documents a unique religious experience that is distinctly modern. The rallying point of the Meshichistim—that the Rebbe is "with us more than ever"—is sustained through an elaborate system that creates the sense of his constant and pervasive presence in the lives of his followers. The virtual Rebbe that emerges is multiple, visible, accessible, and highly decentralized, the epicenter of a truly messianic movement in the twenty-first century. Combining ethnographic fieldwork and cognitive science with nuanced analysis, Bilu documents the birth and development of a new religious faith, describing the emergence of new spiritual horizons, a process common to various religious movements old and new.
Memoirs of Jewish life in the east European shtetl often recall the hekdesh (town poorhouse) and its residents: beggars, madmen and madwomen, disabled people, and poor orphans. Stepchildren of the Shtetl tells the story of these marginalized figures from the dawn of modernity to the eve of the Holocaust. Combining archival research with analysis of literary, cultural, and religious texts, Natan M. Meir recovers the lived experience of Jewish society's outcasts and reveals the central role that they came to play in the drama of modernization. Those on the margins were often made to bear the burden of the nation as a whole, whether as scapegoats in moments of crisis or as symbols of degeneration, ripe for transformation by reformers, philanthropists, and nationalists. Shining a light into the darkest corners of Jewish society in eastern Europe—from the often squalid poorhouse of the shtetl to the slums and insane asylums of Warsaw and Odessa, from the conscription of poor orphans during the reign of Nicholas I to the cholera wedding, a magical ritual in which an epidemic was halted by marrying outcasts to each other in the town cemetery—Stepchildren of the Shtetl reconsiders the place of the lowliest members of an already stigmatized minority.
The German language holds an ambivalent and controversial place in the modern history of European Jews, representing different—often conflicting—historical currents. It was the language of the German classics, of German Jewish writers and scientists, of Central European Jewish culture, and of Herzl and the Zionist movement. But it was also the language of Hitler, Goebbels, and the German guards in Nazi concentration camps. The crucial role of German in the formation of Jewish national culture and politics in the late nineteenth century has been largely overshadowed by the catastrophic events that befell Jews under Nazi rule. German as a Jewish Problem tells the Jewish history of the German language, focusing on Jewish national movements in Central and Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel. Marc Volovici considers key writers and activists whose work reflected the multilingual nature of the Jewish national sphere and the centrality of the German language within it, and argues that it is impossible to understand the histories of modern Hebrew and Yiddish without situating them in relation to German. This book offers a new understanding of the language problem in modern Jewish history, turning to German to illuminate the questions and dilemmas that largely defined the experience of European Jews in the age of nationalism.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Jerusalem was rich with urban texts inscribed in marble, gold, and cloth, investing holy sites with divine meaning. Ottoman modernization and British colonial rule transformed the city; new texts became a key means to organize society and subjectivity. Stone inscriptions, pilgrims' graffiti, and sacred banners gave way to street markers, shop signs, identity papers, and visiting cards that each sought to define and categorize urban space and people. A City in Fragments tells the modern history of a city overwhelmed by its religious and symbolic significance. Yair Wallach walked the streets of Jerusalem to consider the graffiti, logos, inscriptions, official signs, and ephemera that transformed the city over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As these urban texts became a tool in the service of capitalism, nationalism, and colonialism, the affinities of Arabic and Hebrew were forgotten and these sister-languages found themselves locked in a bitter war. Looking at the writing of—and literally on—Jerusalem, Wallach offers a creative and expansive history of the city, a fresh take on modern urban texts, and a new reading of the Israel/Palestine conflict through its material culture.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the eastern Mediterranean port city of Izmir had been home to a vibrant and substantial Sephardi Jewish community for over four hundred years, and had emerged as a major center of Jewish life. The Jews of Ottoman Izmir tells the story of this long overlooked Jewish community, drawing on previously untapped Ladino archival material. Across Europe, Jews were often confronted with the notion that their religious and cultural distinctiveness was somehow incompatible with the modern age. Yet the view from Ottoman Izmir invites a different approach: what happens when Jewish difference is totally unremarkable? Dina Danon argues that while Jewish religious and cultural distinctiveness might have remained unquestioned in this late Ottoman port city, other elements of Jewish identity emerged as profound sites of tension, most notably those of poverty and social class. Through the voices of both beggars on the street and mercantile elites, shoe-shiners and newspaper editors, rabbis and housewives, this book argues that it was new attitudes to poverty and class, not Judaism, that most significantly framed this Sephardi community's encounter with the modern age.
American and Israeli Jews have historically clashed over the contours of Jewish identity, and their experience of modern Jewish life has been radically different. As Philip Roth put it, they are the "heirs jointly of a drastically bifurcated legacy." But what happens when the encounter between American and Israeli Jewishness takes place in literary form—when Jewish American novels make aliyah, or when Israeli novels are imported for consumption by the diaspora? Reading Israel, Reading America explores the politics of translation as it shapes the understandings and misunderstandings of Israeli literature in the United States and American Jewish literature in Israel. Engaging in close readings of translations of iconic novels by the likes of Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, and Yoram Kaniuk—in particular, the ideologically motivated omissions and additions in the translations, and the works' reception by reviewers and public intellectuals—Asscher decodes the literary encounter between Israeli and American Jews. These discrepancies demarcate an ongoing cultural dialogue around representations of violence, ethics, Zionism, diaspora, and the boundaries between Jews and non-Jews. Navigating the disputes between these "rival siblings" of the Jewish world, Asscher provocatively untangles the cultural relations between Israeli and American Jews.
When Vichy France and the Jews was first published in France in 1981, the reaction was explosive. Before the appearance of this groundbreaking book, the question of the Vichy regime's cooperation with the Third Reich had been suppressed. Michael R. Marrus and Robert O. Paxton were the first to access closed archives that revealed the extent of Vichy's complicity in the Nazi effort to eliminate the Jews. Since the book's original publication, additional archives have been opened, and the role of the French state in the deportation of Jews to the Nazi death factories is now openly acknowledged. This new edition integrates over thirty years of subsequent scholarship, and incorporates research on French public opinion and the diversity of responses by French civilians to the campaign of persecution they witnessed around them. This classic account remains central to the historiography of France and the Holocaust, and in its revised edition, is more important than ever for understanding the Vichy government's role in the darkest atrocity of the twentieth century.
In 1869, Hayyim Habshush, a Yemeni Jew, accompanied the European orientalist Joseph Halévy on his archaeological tour of Yemen. Twenty years later, Habshush wrote A Vision of Yemen, a memoir of their travels, that provides a vivid account of daily life, religion, and politics. More than a simple travelogue, it is a work of trickster-tales, thick anthropological descriptions, and reflections on Jewish–Muslim relations. At its heart lies the fractious and intimate relationship between the Yemeni coppersmith and the "enlightened" European scholar and the collision between the cultures each represents. The book thus offers a powerful indigenous response to European Orientalism. This edition is the first English translation of Habshush's writings from the original Judeo-Arabic and Hebrew and includes an accessible historical introduction to the work. The translation maintains Habshush's gripping style and rich portrayal of the diverse communities and cultures of Yemen, offering a potent mixture of artful storytelling and cultural criticism, suffused with humor and empathy. Habshush writes about the daily lives of men and women, rich and poor, Jewish and Muslim, during a turbulent period of war and both Ottoman and European imperialist encroachment. With this translation, Alan Verskin recovers the lost voice of a man passionately committed to his land and people.
At once an ecological phenomenon and a cultural construction, the desert has varied associations within Zionist and Israeli culture. In the Judaic textual tradition, it evokes exile and punishment, yet is also a site for origin myths, the divine presence, and sanctity. Secular Zionism developed its own spin on the duality of the desert as the romantic site of Jews' biblical roots that inspired the Hebrew culture, and as the barren land outside the Jewish settlements in Palestine, featuring them as an oasis of order and technological progress within a symbolic desert. Yael Zerubavel tells the story of the desert from the early twentieth century to the present, shedding light on romantic-mythical associations, settlement and security concerns, environmental sympathies, and the commodifying tourist gaze. Drawing on literary narratives, educational texts, newspaper articles, tourist materials, films, popular songs, posters, photographs, and cartoons, Zerubavel reveals the complexities and contradictions that mark Israeli society's semiotics of space in relation to the Middle East, and the central role of the "besieged island" trope in Israeli culture and politics.
At the turn of the twentieth century, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death across America, Europe, and the Russian Empire. The incurable disease gave rise to a culture of convalescence, creating new opportunities for travel and literary reflection. Tubercular Capital tells the story of Yiddish and Hebrew writers whose lives and work were transformed by a tubercular diagnosis. Moving from eastern Europe to the Italian Peninsula, and from Mandate Palestine to the Rocky Mountains, Sunny S. Yudkoff follows writers including Sholem Aleichem, Raḥel Bluvshtein, David Vogel, and others as they sought "the cure" and drew on their experiences of illness to hone their literary craft. Combining archival research with literary analysis, Yudkoff uncovers how tuberculosis came to function as an agent of modern Jewish literature. The illness would provide the means for these suffering writers to grow their reputations and find financial backing. It served a central role in the public fashioning of their literary personas and ushered Jewish writers into a variety of intersecting English, German, and Russian literary traditions. Tracing the paths of these writers, Tubercular Capital reconsiders the foundational relationship between disease, biography, and literature.
The Holocaust is usually understood as a European story. Yet, this pivotal episode unfolded across North Africa and reverberated through politics, literature, memoir, and memory—Muslim as well as Jewish—in the post-war years. The Holocaust and North Africa offers the first English-language study of the unfolding events in North Africa, pushing at the boundaries of Holocaust Studies and North African Studies, and suggesting, powerfully, that neither is complete without the other. The essays in this volume reconstruct the implementation of race laws and forced labor across the Maghreb during World War II and consider the Holocaust as a North African local affair, which took diverse form from town to town and city to city. They explore how the Holocaust ruptured Muslim–Jewish relations, setting the stage for an entirely new post-war reality. Commentaries by leading scholars of Holocaust history complete the picture, reflecting on why the history of the Holocaust and North Africa has been so widely ignored—and what we have to gain by understanding it in all its nuances. Published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Iran is home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East, outside of Israel. At its peak in the twentieth century, the population numbered around 100,000; today about 25,000 Jews live in Iran. Between Iran and Zion offers the first history of this vibrant community over the course of the last century, from the 1905 Constitutional Revolution through the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over this period, Iranian Jews grew from a peripheral community into a prominent one that has made clear impacts on daily life in Iran. Drawing on interviews, newspapers, family stories, autobiographies, and previously untapped archives, Lior B. Sternfeld analyzes how Iranian Jews contributed to Iranian nation-building projects, first under the Pahlavi monarchs and then in the post-revolutionary Islamic Republic. He considers the shifting reactions to Zionism over time, in particular to religious Zionism in the early 1900s and political Zionism after the creation of the state of Israel. And he investigates the various groups that constituted the Iranian Jewish community, notably the Jewish communists who became prominent activists in the left-wing circles in the 1950s and the revolutionary Jewish organization that participated in the 1979 Revolution. The result is a rich account of the vital role of Jews in the social and political fabric of twentieth-century Iran.
How did Jews go from lives organized by synagogues, shul, and mikvehs to lives that—if explicitly Jewish at all—were conducted in Hillel houses, JCCs, Katz's, and even Chabad? In pre-emancipation Europe, most Jews followed Jewish law most of the time, but by the turn of the twentieth century, a new secular Jewish identity had begun to take shape. Homes Away From Home tells the story of Ashkenazi Jews as they made their way in European society in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing on the Jewish communities of Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. At a time of growing political enfranchisement for Jews within European nations, membership in the official Jewish community became increasingly optional, and Jews in turn created spaces and programs to meet new social needs. The contexts of Jewish life expanded beyond the confines of "traditional" Jewish spaces into sites of consumption and leisure, sometimes to the consternation of Jewish authorities. Sarah Wobick-Segev argues that the social practices that developed between 1890 and the 1930s—such as celebrating holydays at hotels and restaurants, or sending children to summer camp—fundamentally reshaped Jewish community, redefining and extending the boundaries of where Jewishness happened.
Stories abound of immigrant Jews on the outside looking in, clambering up the ladder of social mobility, successfully assimilating and integrating into their new worlds. But this book is not about the success stories. It's a paean to the bunglers, the blockheads, and the just plain weird—Jews who were flung from small, impoverished eastern European towns into the urban shtetls of New York and Warsaw, where, as they say in Yiddish, their bread landed butter side down in the dirt. These marginal Jews may have found their way into the history books far less frequently than their more socially upstanding neighbors, but there's one place you can find them in force: in the Yiddish newspapers that had their heyday from the 1880s to the 1930s. Disaster, misery, and misfortune: you will find no better chronicle of the daily ignominies of urban Jewish life than in the pages of the Yiddish press. An underground history of downwardly mobile Jews, Bad Rabbi exposes the seamy underbelly of pre-WWII New York and Warsaw, the two major centers of Yiddish culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With true stories plucked from the pages of the Yiddish papers, Eddy Portnoy introduces us to the drunks, thieves, murderers, wrestlers, poets, and beauty queens whose misadventures were immortalized in print. There's the Polish rabbi blackmailed by an American widow, mass brawls at weddings and funerals, a psychic who specialized in locating missing husbands, and violent gangs of Jewish mothers on the prowl—in short, not quite the Jews you'd expect. One part Isaac Bashevis Singer, one part Jerry Springer, this irreverent, unvarnished, and frequently hilarious compendium of stories provides a window into an unknown Yiddish world that was.
Written in pieces over the last fifteen years of his life and published posthumously, S. Y. Agnon's A City in Its Fullness is an ambitious, historically rich sequence of stories memorializing Buczacz, the city of his birth. This town in present-day Ukraine was once home to a vibrant Jewish population that was destroyed twice over—in the First World War and again in the Holocaust. Agnon's epic story cycle, however, focuses not on the particulars of destruction, but instead reimagines the daily lives of Buczacz's Jewish citizens, vividly preserving the vanished world of early modern Jewry. Ancestral Tales shows how this collection marks a critical juncture within the Agnon canon. Through close readings of the stories against a shifting historical backdrop, Alan Mintz presents a multilayered history of the town, along with insight into Agnon's fictional transformations. Mintz relates these narrative strategies to catastrophe literature from earlier periods of Jewish history, showing how Agnon's Buczacz is a literary achievement at once innovative in its form of remembrance and deeply rooted in Jewish tradition.
The Merchants of Oran weaves together the history of a Mediterranean port city with the lives of Oran's Jewish mercantile elite during the transition to French colonial rule. Through the life of Jacob Lasry and other influential Jewish merchants, Joshua Schreier tells the story of how this diverse and fiercely divided group both responded to, and in turn influenced, French colonialism in Algeria. Jacob Lasry and his cohort established themselves in Oran in the decades after the Regency of Algiers dislodged the Spanish in 1792, during a period of relative tolerance and economic prosperity. In newly Muslim Oran, Jewish merchants found opportunities to ply their trades, dealing in both imports and exports. On the eve of France's long and brutal invasion of Algeria, Oran owed much of its commercial vitality to the success of these Jewish merchants. Under French occupation, the merchants of Oran maintained their commercial, political, and social clout. Yet by the 1840s, French policies began collapsing Oran's diverse Jewish inhabitants into a single social category, legally separating Jews from their Muslim neighbors and creating a racial hierarchy. Schreier argues that France's exclusionary policy of "emancipation," far more than older antipathies, planted the seeds of twentieth-century ruptures between Muslims and Jews.
Touted as the "Jerusalem of the Balkans," the Mediterranean port city of Salonica (Thessaloniki) was once home to the largest Sephardic Jewish community in the world. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the city's incorporation into Greece in 1912 provoked a major upheaval that compelled Salonica's Jews to reimagine their community and status as citizens of a nation-state. Jewish Salonica is the first book to tell the story of this tumultuous transition through the voices and perspectives of Salonican Jews as they forged a new place for themselves in Greek society. Devin E. Naar traveled the globe, from New York to Salonica, Jerusalem, and Moscow, to excavate archives once confiscated by the Nazis. Written in Ladino, Greek, French, and Hebrew, these archives, combined with local newspapers, reveal how Salonica's Jews fashioned a new hybrid identity as Hellenic Jews during a period marked by rising nationalism and economic crisis as well as unprecedented Jewish cultural and political vibrancy. Salonica's Jews—Zionists, assimilationists, and socialists—reinvigorated their connection to the city and claimed it as their own until the Holocaust. Through the case of Salonica's Jews, Naar recovers the diverse experiences of a lost religious, linguistic, and national minority at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East.
For nineteenth-century Eastern European Jews, modernization entailed the abandonment of arranged marriage in favor of the "love match." Romantic novels taught Jewish readers the rules of romance and the choreography of courtship. But because these new conceptions of romance were rooted in the Christian and chivalric traditions, the Jewish embrace of "the love religion" was always partial. In The Marriage Plot, Naomi Seidman considers the evolution of Jewish love and marriage though the literature that provided Jews with a sentimental education, highlighting a persistent ambivalence in the Jewish adoption of European romantic ideologies. Nineteenth-century Hebrew and Yiddish literature tempered romantic love with the claims of family and community, and treated the rules of gender complementarity as comedic fodder. Twentieth-century Jewish writers turned back to tradition, finding pleasures in matchmaking, intergenerational ties, and sexual segregation. In the modern Jewish voices of Sigmund Freud, Erica Jong, Philip Roth, and Tony Kushner, the Jewish heretical challenge to the European romantic sublime has become the central sexual ideology of our time.
Genocide in the Carpathians presents the history of Subcarpathian Rus', a multiethnic and multireligious borderland in the heart of Europe. This society of Carpatho-Ruthenians, Jews, Magyars, and Roma disintegrated under pressure of state building in interwar Czechoslovakia and, during World War II, from the onslaught of the Hungarian occupation. Charges of "foreignness" and disloyalty to the Hungarian state linked antisemitism to xenophobia and national security anxieties. Genocide unfolded as a Hungarian policy, and Hungarian authorities committed mass robbery, deportations, and killings against all non-Magyar groups in their efforts to recast the region as part of an ethnonational "Greater Hungary." In considering the events that preceded the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, this book reorients our view of the Holocaust not simply as a German drive for continent-wide genocide, but as a truly international campaign of mass murder, related to violence against non-Jews unleashed by projects of state and nation building. Focusing on both state and society, Raz Segal shows how Hungary's genocidal attack on Subcarpathian Rus' obliterated not only tens of thousands of lives but also a diverse society and way of life that today, from the vantage point of our world of nation-states, we find difficult to imagine.
Ivan Jablonka's grandparents' lives ended long before his began: although Matès and Idesa Jablonka were his family, they were perfect strangers. When he set out to uncover their story, Jablonka had little to work with. Neither of them was the least bit famous, and they left little behind except their two orphaned children, a handful of letters, and a passport. Persecuted as communists in Poland, as refugees in France, and then as Jews under the Vichy regime, Matès and Idesa lived their short lives underground. They were overcome by the tragedies of the twentieth century: Stalinism, the mounting dangers in Europe during the 1930s, the Second World War, and the destruction of European Jews. Jablonka's challenge was, as a historian, to rigorously distance himself and yet, as family, to invest himself completely in their story. Imagined oppositions collapsed—between scholarly research and personal commitment, between established facts and the passion of the one recording them, between history and the art of storytelling. To write this book, Jablonka traveled to three continents; met the handful of survivors of his grandparents' era, their descendants, and some of his far-flung cousins; and investigated twenty different archives. And in the process, he reflected on his own family and his responsibilities to his father, the orphaned son, and to his own children and the family wounds they all inherited. A History of the Grandparents I Never Had cannot bring Matès and Idesa to life, but Jablonka succeeds in bringing them, as he soberly puts it, to light. The result is a gripping story, a profound reflection, and an absolutely extraordinary history.
The Zohar is the great medieval compendium of Jewish esoteric and mystical teaching, and the basis of the kabbalistic faith. It is, however, a notoriously difficult text, full of hidden codes, concealed meanings, obscure symbols, and ecstatic expression. This illuminating study, based upon the last several decades of modern Zohar scholarship, unravels the historical and intellectual origins of this rich text and provides an excellent introduction to its themes, complex symbolism, narrative structure, and language. A Guide to the Zohar is thus an invaluable companion to the Zohar itself, as well as a useful resource for scholars and students interested in mystical literature, particularly that of the west, from the Middle Ages to the present.