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A Rabbi's Journey from Silent Nights to High Holy Days
A young Lutheran girl grows up on Long Island, New York. She aspires to be a doctor, and is on the fast track to marriage and the conventional happily-ever-after. But, as the Yiddish saying goes, "Man plans, and God laughs." Meet Andrea Myers, whose coming-of-age at Brandeis, conversion to Judaism, and awakening sexual identity make for a rich and well-timed life in the rabbinate.
In The Choosing, Myers fuses heartwarming anecdotes with rabbinic insights and generous dollops of humor to describe what it means to survive and flourish on your own terms. Portioned around the cycle of the Jewish year, with stories connected to each of the holidays, Myers draws on her unique path to the rabbinate--leaving behind her Christian upbringing, coming out as a lesbian, discovering Judaism in college, moving to Israel, converting, and returning to New York to become a rabbi, partner, and parent.
Myers relates tales of new beginnings, of reinventing oneself, and finding oneself. Whether it's a Sicilian grandmother attempting to bake hamantaschen on Purim for her Jewish granddaughter, or an American in Jerusalem saving a chicken from slaughter during a Rosh Hashanah ritual, Myers keeps readers entertained as she reflects that spirituality, goodness, and morality can and do take many forms. Readers will enthusiastically embrace stories of doors closing and windows opening, of family and community, of integration and transformation. These captivating narratives will resonate and, in the author's words, "reach across coasts, continents, and generations."
Jews in Science in the Twentieth Century
Scholars have struggled for decades to explain why Jews have succeeded extravagantly in modern science. A variety of controversial theories—from such intellects as C. P. Snow, Norbert Wiener, and Nathaniel Weyl—have been promoted. Snow hypothesized an evolved genetic predisposition to scientific success. Wiener suggested that the breeding habits of Jews sustained hereditary qualities conducive for learning. Economist and eugenicist Weyl attributed Jewish intellectual eminence to "seventeen centuries of breeding for scholars." Rejecting the idea that Jews have done well in science because of uniquely Jewish traits, Jewish brains, and Jewish habits of mind, historian of science Noah J. Efron approaches the Jewish affinity for science through the geographic and cultural circumstances of Jews who were compelled to settle in new worlds in the early twentieth century. Seeking relief from religious persecution, millions of Jews resettled in the United States, Palestine, and the Soviet Union, with large concentrations of settlers in New York, Tel Aviv, and Moscow. Science played a large role in the lives and livelihoods of these immigrants: it was a universal force that transcended the arbitrary Old World orders that had long ensured the exclusion of all but a few Jews from the seats of power, wealth, and public esteem. Although the three destinations were far apart geographically, the links among the communities were enduring and spirited. This shared experience—of facing the future in new worlds, both physical and conceptual—provided a generation of Jews with opportunities unlike any their parents and grandparents had known. The tumultuous recent century of Jewish history, which saw both a methodical campaign to blot out Europe's Jews and the inexorable absorption of Western Jews into the societies in which they now live, is illuminated by the place of honor science held in Jewish imaginations. Science was central to their dreams of creating new worlds—welcoming worlds—for a persecuted people. This provocative work will appeal to historians of science as well as scholars of religion, Jewish studies, and Zionism.
How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492
In 70 CE, the Jews were an agrarian and illiterate people living mostly in the Land of Israel and Mesopotamia. By 1492 the Jewish people had become a small group of literate urbanites specializing in crafts, trade, moneylending, and medicine in hundreds of places across the Old World, from Seville to Mangalore. What caused this radical change? The Chosen Few presents a new answer to this question by applying the lens of economic analysis to the key facts of fifteen formative centuries of Jewish history. Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein offer a powerful new explanation of one of the most significant transformations in Jewish history while also providing fresh insights into the growing debate about the social and economic impact of religion.
Jews on the Frontiers of Texas
Texas has one of the largest Jewish populations in the South and West, comprising an often-overlooked vestige of the Diaspora. The Chosen Folks brings this rich aspect of the past to light, going beyond single biographies and photographic histories to explore the full evolution of the Jewish experience in Texas. Drawing on previously unpublished archival materials and synthesizing earlier research, Bryan Edward Stone begins with the crypto-Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition in the late sixteenth century and then discusses the unique Texas-Jewish communities that flourished far from the acknowledged centers of Jewish history and culture. The effects of this peripheral identity are explored in depth, from the days when geographic distance created physical divides to the redefinitions of “frontier” that marked the twentieth century. The rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the creation of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust, and the civil rights movement are covered as well, raising provocative questions about the attributes that enabled Texas Jews to forge a distinctive identity on the national and world stage. Brimming with memorable narratives, The Chosen Folks brings to life a cast of vibrant pioneers. Jewish History, Life, and Culture Michael Neiditch, Series Editor
Studies in the Use of Gender in Kabbalistic Symbolism
This book deals with the issue of gender in Jewish mysticism showing the thematic correlation of eroticism and esotericism that is central to the kabbalah. This book deals with aspects of the gender imaging of God in a variety of medieval kabbalistic sources. It provides the key to understanding the phenomenological structures of mystical experience as well as the thematic correlation of esotericism and eroticism that is central to the kabbalah. The author examines the role of gender utilizing current feminist studies and cultural anthropology. He explores the themes of the feminization of the Torah, the correlation of circumcision and vision of God, the phallocentric understanding of divine creation as a process of inscription mythologized as an act of sexual self-gratification, and the phenomenon of gender-crossing in kabbalistic myth and ritual. Collectively, the studies explore in great depth the androcentric phallocentrism that is characteristic of medieval Jewish mysticism.
Memories of Riga
"With each memoir by a survivor, Riga's tragic fate becomes better known. Thus Max Michelson's book, filled with poignant and moving episodes, deserves to be read by anyone wishing to learn more about the life and death of a Jewish community which included the great historian Shimon Dubnov. But it is also a story of courage and rebirth of a young man who wants to find meaning in his survival." —Elie Wiesel City of Life, City of Death: Memories of Riga is Max Michelson's stirring and haunting personal account of the Soviet and German occupations of Latvia and of the Holocaust. Michelson had a serene boyhood in an upper middle-class Jewish family in Riga, Latvia--at least until 1940, when the fifteen-year old Michelson witnessed the annexation of Latvia by the Soviet Union. Private properties were nationalized, and Stalin's terror spread to Soviet Latvia. Soon after, Michelson's family was torn apart by the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. He quickly lost his entire family, while witnessing the unspeakable brutalities of war and genocide. Michelson's memoir is an ode to his lost family; it is the speech of their muted voices and a thank you for their love. Although badly scarred by his experiences, like many other survivors he was able to rebuild his life and gain a new sense of what it means to be alive. His experiences will be of interest to scholars of both the Holocaust and Eastern European history, as well as the general reader
Russia's Jews and the Myth of Old Odessa
Old Odessa, on the Black Sea, gained notoriety as a legendary city of Jewish gangsters and swindlers, a frontier boomtown mythologized for the adventurers, criminals, and merrymakers who flocked there to seek easy wealth and lead lives of debauchery and excess. Odessa is also famed for the brand of Jewish humor brought there in the 19th century from the shtetls of Eastern Europe and that flourished throughout Soviet times. From a broad historical perspective, Jarrod Tanny examines the hybrid Judeo-Russian culture that emerged in Odessa in the 19th century and persisted through the Soviet era and beyond. The book shows how the art of eminent Soviet-era figures such as Isaac Babel, Il'ia Ilf, Evgenii Petrov, and Leonid Utesov grew out of the Odessa Russian-Jewish culture into which they were born and which shaped their lives.
Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and Peretz
Revisits fiction by the three major Yiddish authors who wrote between 1864 and 1916, exploring their literary and social worlds. Yiddish literature, despite its remarkable achievements during an era bounded by Russian reforms in the 1860s and the First World War, has never before been surveyed by a scholarly monograph in English. Classic Yiddish Fiction provides an overview and interprets the Yiddish fiction of S. Y. Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and I. L. Peretz. While analyzing their works, Frieden situates these three authors in their literary world and in relation to their cultural contexts. Two or three generations ago, Yiddish was the primary language of Jews in Europe and America. Today, following the Nazi genocide and half a century of vigorous assimilation, Yiddish is sinking into oblivion. By providing a bridge to the lost continent of Yiddish literature, Frieden returns to those European traditions. This journey back to Ashkenazic origins also encompasses broader horizons, since the development of Yiddish culture in Europe and America parallels the history of other ethnic traditions.