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The Individual and Community in Jewish Philosophical Thought
This volume brings together leading philosophers of Judaism on the issue of autonomy in the Jewish tradition. Addressing themselves to the relationship of the individual Jew to the Jewish community and to the world at large, some selections are systematic in scope, while others are more historically focused. The authors address issues ranging from the earliest expressions of individual human fulfillment in the Bible and medieval Jewish discussions of the human good to modern discussions of the necessity for the Jew to maintain both a Jewish sensibility as well as an active engagement in the modern pluralistic state. Contributors include Eugene Borowitz, Elliot N. Dorff, Daniel H. Frank, Robert Gibbs, Lenn E. Goodman, Ze’ev Levy, Kenneth Seeskin, and Martin D. Yaffe.
Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur
Avodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur is the first major translation of one of the most important genres of the lost literature of the ancient synagogue. Known as the Avodah piyyutim, this liturgical poetry was composed by the synagogue poets of fifth- to ninth-century Palestine and sung in the synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Although it was suppressed by generations of rabbis, its ornamental beauty and deep exploration of sacred stories ensured its popularity for centuries. Piyyut literature can teach us much about how ancient Jews understood sacrifice, sacred space, and sin. The poems are also a rich source for retrieving myths and symbols not found in the conventional Rabbinic sources such as the Talmuds and Midrash. Moreover, these compositions rise to the level of fine literature. They are the products of great literary effort, continue and extend the tradition of biblical parallelism, and reveal the aesthetic sensibilities of the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity.tAvodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur is the first volume in The Penn State Library of Jewish Literature, overseen by Baruch Halpern and Aminadav Dykman. This series will constitute a library of primary source material for the Jewish and Hebrew literary traditions. The library will present Jewish and Hebrew works from all eras and cultures, offering both scholars and general readers original, modern translations of previously overlooked texts.
The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony of bar mitzvah was first recorded in thirteenth-century France, where it took the form of a simple statement by the father that he was no longer responsible for his thirteen-year-old son. Today, bar mitzvah for boys and bat mitzvah for girls are more popular than at any time in history and are sometimes accompanied by lavish celebrations.
How did bar mitzvah develop over the centuries from an obscure legal ritual into a core component of Judaism? How did it capture the imagination of even non-Jewish youth? Bar Mitzvah is a comprehensive history of the ceremonies and celebrations for both boys and girls. As cultural anthropology informed by rabbinic knowledge, it explores the origins and development of the most important coming-of-age milestone in Judaism. Rabbi Michael Hilton has sought out every reference to bar mitzvah in the Bible, the Talmud, and numerous other Jewish texts spanning several centuries, extracting a fascinating miscellany of information, stories, and commentary.
The Bolshevik Experiment in Minsk
Minsk, the present capital of Belarus, was a heavily Jewish city in the decades between the world wars. Recasting our understanding of Soviet Jewish history, Becoming Soviet Jews demonstrates that the often violent social changes enforced by the communist project did not destroy continuities with prerevolutionary forms of Jewish life in Minsk. Using Minsk as a case study of the Sovietization of Jews in the former Pale of Settlement, Elissa Bemporad reveals the ways in which many Jews acculturated to Soviet society in the 1920s and 1930s while remaining committed to older patterns of Jewish identity, such as Yiddish culture and education, attachment to the traditions of the Jewish workers' Bund, circumcision, and kosher slaughter. This pioneering study also illuminates the reshaping of gender relations on the Jewish street and explores Jewish everyday life and identity during the years of the Great Terror.
In Being Jewish in the New Germany, Peck explores the diversity of contemporary Jewish life and the complex struggles within the community—and among Germans in general—over history, responsibility, culture, and identity. He provides a glimpse of an emerging, if conflicted, multicultural country and examines how the development of the European Community, globalization, and the post–9/11 political climate play out in this context. With sensitive, yet critical insight into the nation’s political and social life, chapters explore issues such as the shifting ethnic/national makeup of the population, changes in political leadership, and American, Israeli, and European Jewish relations with the growing Jewish population in Germany.
Portraits of Identity in Cynthia Ozick's Fiction
Shows how Ozick's characters attempt to mediate a complex Jewish identity, one that bridges the differences between traditional Judaism and secular American culture. 'Shows how Ozick’s characters attempt to mediate a complex Jewish identity, one that bridges the differences between traditional Judaism and secular American culture. In Belonging Too Well, Miriam Sivan draws on contemporary literary theory as well as traditional Jewish texts and culture to explore the question of identity in Cynthia Ozick’s fiction. Many critics have pointed to a split in Ozick’s work between Judaic and secular culture and values. Sivan suggests, however, that Ozick never settles for a simple either/or dichotomy between traditional Judaism and secular American culture, but that her protagonists instead fashion new means of living genuinely Jewish lives within the American Diaspora. Often they struggle not with not belonging to either the Old or the New Worlds, but of belonging too well to both. Part of a recent trend toward analyzing Jewish American literature in the context of a deep encounter with and understanding of Judaism and traditional Jewish texts, Sivan’s study enables readers of Ozick’s fiction to penetrate the complex webs she creates among cultures, time periods, and characters, some quite sober, others fantastic, all unusual. Miriam Sivan teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Haifa in Israel.
The first full-scale history of the creation, growth, and ultimate decline of the dominant twentieth-century model for American Jewish education Samson Benderly inaugurated the first Bureau of Jewish Education in 1910 amid a hodgepodge of congregational schools, khayders, community Talmud Torahs, and private tutors. Drawing on the theories of Johann Pestalozzi, Herbert Spencer, and John Dewey, and deriving inspiration from cultural Zionism, Benderly sought to modernize Jewish education by professionalizing the field, creating an immigrant-based, progressive supplementary school model, and spreading the mantra of community responsibility for Jewish education. With philanthropist Jacob Schiff and influential laymen financing his plans, Benderly realized that his best hope for transforming the educational landscape nationwide was to train a younger generation of teachers, principals, and bureau leaders. These young men became known collectively as the “Benderly Boys,” who, from the 1920s to the 1970s, were the dominant force in Jewish education—both formal and informal—in the United States.
Magician, Mystic, and Leader
Now available in English, a provocative new biography of the founder of Hasidism Founded in Eastern Europe in the eighteenth century, the Hasidic movement and its religious thinking have dramatically transformed modern Judaism. The figure of the Ba’al Shem Tov (known in acronym form as the BeSHT)—the purported founder of the Hasidic movement—has fascinated scholars, Jewish philosophers, and laypeople interested in popular Jewish mysticism in general and the contemporary Hasidic movement in all its variety. In this volume, Etkes enters a rich and heated debate over the origins of the movement, as well as the historicity of its mythic founder, Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, who lived much of his life as a miracle worker. The eighteenth century, as Etkes vividly portrays, was the heyday of the kabbalists, who dabbled in the magical power of letters and words to solve personal and communal problems—and to earn a living. Etkes sheds light on the personality of the Besht, on his mysticism, and on his close circle of followers. But equally important, he challenges the popular myth of the Besht as a childlike mystic, wandering the fields in prayer, seeing visions and engaging in acts of godliness and piety. Although Etkes shows great empathy for his subject, the Besht who emerges in these pages is much more down to earth, much more a man of his times. Indeed, according to Etkes, it was never the intention of the Besht to found a religious movement. Etkes looks at the Besht’s mystical roots, examining him not only from the vantage point of a social historian, but as a religious figure. Moshe Rosman, author of Founder of Hasidism, a biography of the Besht, claims that In Praise of the Besht—a volume published about the Besht in 1814, many years after his death, which portrayed his character by means of stories told by his close followers—could not be a reliable source. Etkes, disputing this claim, shows definitively that this well-known text (translated and interpreted by, among others, Martin Buber) may indeed offer trustworthy accounts of the Besht’s life and thinking.
S. Y. Agnon and the Drama of Writing
This innovative study of the modern Hebrew writer, S. Y. Agnon, offers new insight into his literary transformations of Jewish themes and sources. With particular attention to Kafka, Hoffman situates Agnon in the context of twentieth-century literature and examines such central issues in Agnon’s art as the relationship of the literary text to traditions of sacred writings, the place of the book in culture, and the relationship of writing to the body.