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Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka

The Operation Reinhard Death Camps

Yitzhak Arad

"... Mr. Arad reports as a controlled and effective witness for the prosecution.... Mr. Arad’s book, with its abundance of horrifying detail, reminds us of how far we have to go."—New York Times Book Review

"... some of the most gripping chapters I have ever read.... the authentic, exhaustive, definitive account of the least known death camps of the Nazi era." —Raul Hilberg

Arad, historian and principal prosecution witness at the Israeli trial of John Demjanjuk (accused of being Treblinka’s infamous "Ivan the Terrible"), uses primary materials to reveal the complete story of these Nazi death camps.

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Best Jewish books for Children and Teens

A JPS Guide

Authored by Linda R. Silver MLS

So many books, so little time! Where do you start? With this book: Linda Silver’s guide to the most notable books for young readers. Here are a top librarian’s picks of the best in writing, illustration, reader appeal, and authentically Jewish content in picture books, fiction and non-fiction, for early childhood through the high school years. You’ll find the classics like K’tonton and the All-of-a-Kind Family books, right on to Terrible Things, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and today’s bestsellers, along with hundreds of others. Chapters are organized by subject and entries within each include a succinct description of the book and author, and Silver’s own insights on what makes it worth reading. There are title, subject, author, and illustrator indexes, title-grouping by reading level, and lists of award winners. A wonderful reference for parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians—and, of course, the kids so dear to them.

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A Best-Selling Hebrew Book of the Modern Era

The Book of the Covenant of Pinhas Hurwitz and Its Remarkable Legacy

David B. Ruderman

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Bestiarium Judaicum

Unnatural Histories of the Jews

Jay Geller

Given the vast inventory of verbal and visual images of nonhuman animals—pigs, dogs, vermin, rodents, apes disseminated for millennia to debase, dehumanize, and justify the persecution of Jews, Bestiarium Judaicum asks: What is at play when Jewish-identified writers tell animal stories?

Focusing on the nonhuman-animal constructions of primarily Germanophone authors, including Sigmund Freud, Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, and Gertrud Kolmar, Jay Geller expands his earlier examinations (On Freud’s Jewish Body: Mitigating Circumcisions and The Other Jewish Question: Identifying the Jew and Making Sense of Modernity) of how such writers drew upon representations of Jewish corporeality in order to work through their particular situations in Gentile modernity. From Heine’s ironic lizards to Kafka’s Red Peter and Siodmak’s Wolf Man, Bestiarium Judaicum brings together Jewish cultural studies and critical animal studies to ferret out these writers’ engagement with the bestial answers upon which the Jewish and animal questions converged and by which varieties of the species “Jew” were identified.

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The Beta Israel

Falasha in Ethiopia: From Earliest Times to the Twentieth Century

Steven Kaplan

...balanced and well informed...a striking piece of scholarship aimed at demythologizing the origins of the Ethiopian Falasha.
-Foreign Affairs

Kaplan's definitive treatment will be of interest to students and scholars of Jewish history, African history, and comparative religion, as well as anyone interested in Jewish affairs and the modern Middle East.

The Midwest Book Review

Kaplan's conceptualizations are judicious and clearly expressed...incisive and well documented... and provides essential background for the process of assimilation now taking lace in Israel.
-The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Kaplan's able interdisciplinary approach is of great value for persons interested in religion, civilization, and process of change.
-Religious Studies Review

Kaplan's well-written, lucid presentation make[s] this important, competent contribution accessible to all levels of readers. Highly recommended.


Insightful and thorough, a welcome contribution.Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Professor of Music, Harvard University

Undoubtedly the most detailed, most scholarly, and most dispassionate argument of Falasha history hitherto published. [T]his work deserves ... the most careful study by all those (and in particular in Israel) who have any practical or scholarly connection with the Beta Israel.
-- Edward UllendorffEmeritus Professor of Ethiopian Studies, University of LondonFellow of the British Academy

Given Kaplan's facility with both written and oral sources, he is in a unique position to synthesize and reconcile the new historical findings of ethnographers with the written sources and differing conclusions of earlier historians and linguists. His work is insightful and thorough, a welcome contribution.
-- Kay Shelemay, Wesleyan University

The origin of the Black Jews of Ethiopia has long been a source of fascination and controversy. Their condition and future continues to generate debate. The culmination of almost a decade of research, The Beta Israel (Falasha) in Ethiopia marks the publication of the first book-length scholarly study of the history of this unique community.
In this volume, Steven Kaplan seeks to demythologize the history of the Falasha and to consider them in the wider context of Ethiopian history and culture. This marks a clear departure from previous studies which have viewed them from the external perspective of Jewish history. Drawing on a wide variety of sources including the Beta Israel's own literature and oral traditions, Kaplan demonstrates that they are not a lost Jewish tribe, but rather an ethnic group which emerged in Ethiopia between the 14th and 16th century. Indeed, the name, Falasha, their religious hierarchy, sacred texts, and economic specialization can all be dated to this period. Among the subjects the book addresses are their links with Ethiopian Christianity, the medieval legends concerning their existence, their wars with the Ethiopian emperors, their relegation to the status of a despised semi-caste, their encounters with European missionaries, and the impact of the Great Famine of 1888-1892.
Kaplan's definitive treatment will be of interest to students and scholars of Jewish history, African history, and comparative religion, as well as anyone interested in Jewish affairs and the modern Middle East.

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Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity

Rethinking an Old Opposition

Edited by Michael A. Meyer and David N. Myers

Although the ideas of “tradition” and “modernity” may seem to be directly opposed, David Ellenson, a leading contemporary scholar of modern Jewish thought, understood that these concepts can also enjoy a more fluid relationship. In honor of Ellenson, editors Michael A. Meyer and David N. Myers have gathered contributors for Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity: Rethinking an Old Opposition to examine the permutations and adaptations of these intertwined forms of Jewish expression. Contributions draw from a range of disciplines and scholarly interests and range in subject from the theological to the liturgical, sociological, and literary. The geographic and historical focus of the volume is on the United States and the State of Israel, both of which have been major sites of inquiry in Ellenson’s work. In twenty-two essays, contributors demonstrate that modernity did not simply replace tradition in Judaism but rather entered into a variety of relationships with it: adopting or adapting certain elements, repossessing rituals that had once been abandoned, or struggling with its continuing influence. In four parts—Law, Ritual, Thought, and Culture—contributors explore a variety of subjects, including the role of reform in Israeli Orthodoxy, traditions of twentieth-century bar/bat mitzvah, end-of-life ethics, tensions between Zionism and American Jewry, and the rise of a 1960s New York Jewish countrerculture. An introductory essay also presents an appreciation of Ellenson's scholarly contribution. Bringing together leading Jewish historians, anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers and liturgists, Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity offers a collective view of a historically and culturally significant issue that will be of interest to Jewish scholars of many discplines.

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Between Worlds

Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism

By J. H. Chajes

After a nearly two-thousand-year interlude, and just as Christian Europe was in the throes of the great Witch Hunt and what historians have referred to as "The Age of the Demoniac," accounts of spirit possession began to proliferate in the Jewish world. Concentrated at first in the Near East but spreading rapidly westward, spirit possession, both benevolent and malevolent, emerged as perhaps the most characteristic form of religiosity in early modern Jewish society.

Adopting a comparative historical approach, J. H. Chajes uncovers this strain of Jewish belief to which scant attention has been paid. Informed by recent research in historical anthropology, Between Worlds provides fascinating descriptions of the cases of possession as well as analysis of the magical techniques deployed by rabbinic exorcists to expel the ghostly intruders.

Seeking to understand the phenomenon of spirit possession in its full complexity, Chajes delves into its ideational framework—chiefly the doctrine of reincarnation—while exploring its relation to contemporary Christian and Islamic analogues. Regarding spirit possession as a form of religious expression open to—and even dominated by—women, Chajes initiates a major reassessment of women in the history of Jewish mysticism. In a concluding section he examines the reception history of the great Hebrew accounts of spirit possession, focusing on the deployment of these "ghost stories" in the battle against incipient skepticism in the turbulent Jewish community of seventeenth-century Amsterdam.

Exploring a phenomenon that bridged learned and ignorant, rich and poor, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, Between Worlds maps for the first time a prominent feature of the early modern Jewish religious landscape, as quotidian as it was portentous: the nexus of the living and the dead.

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Beyond Alliances

The Jewish Role in Reshaping the Racial Landscape of Southern California

edited by George J. Sanchez

This volume focuses on the special role that Jews played in reshaping the racial landscape of southern California in the twentieth century. Rather than considering this issue in terms of broad analyses of organizations or communities, each contribution instead approaches it by examining the activity of a single Jewish individual, and how he or she navigated the social terrain of a changing southern California. In particular, this volume is one of the first to take seriously the unique racial/ethnic makeup of southern California for Jewish activism, with a particular focus on the relationship between Jews and Mexican Americans in the area around Los Angeles. The Jewish individuals who are this volume’s subjects represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives, ranging from an elected official to an activist lawyer, and from a local businessman to a Democratic Party organizer. The volume culminates with an interview with one of the most beloved of local university rabbis, who has been operating in the ever-changing environment of higher education in Los Angeles over the past thirty years. While its overall message is one of optimism, the volume does not shy away from taking on some of the more vexed issues in the scholarship of racial/ethnic interaction. While Jewish activism in shaping local civil rights is thoroughly discussed, the specific and unequal dynamics of power within the civil rights community is also analyzed. The changing relationship of Jews to “whiteness” in southern California during the late twentieth century, in both geographic and political terms, shapes many of these ongoing relationships. Finally, the volume provides a unique historical perspective on our understanding of contemporary Los Angeles in all its ethnic complexity, and specifically in thinking through the future of Jewish role in urban southern California.

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Beyond Anne Frank

Hidden Children and Postwar Families in Holland

Diane L. Wolf

The image of the Jewish child hiding from the Nazis was shaped by Anne Frank, whose house—the most visited site in the Netherlands— has become a shrine to the Holocaust. Yet while Anne Frank's story continues to be discussed and analyzed, her experience as a hidden child in wartime Holland is anomalous—as this book brilliantly demonstrates. Drawing on interviews with seventy Jewish men and women who, as children, were placed in non-Jewish families during the Nazi occupation of Holland, Diane L. Wolf paints a compelling portrait of Holocaust survivors whose experiences were often diametrically opposed to the experiences of those who suffered in concentration camps.

Although the war years were tolerable for most of these children, it was the end of the war that marked the beginning of a traumatic time, leading many of those interviewed here to remark, "My war began after the war." This first in-depth examination of hidden children vividly brings to life their experiences before, during, and after hiding and analyzes the shifting identities, memories, and family dynamics that marked their lives from childhood through advanced age. Wolf also uncovers anti-Semitism in the policies and practices of the Dutch state and the general population, which historically have been portrayed as relatively benevolent toward Jewish residents. The poignant family histories in Beyond Anne Frank demonstrate that we can understand the Holocaust more deeply by focusing on postwar lives.

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Beyond Chrismukkah

The Christian-Jewish Interfaith Family in the United States

Samira K. Mehta

The rate of interfaith marriage in the United States has risen so radically since the sixties that it is difficult to recall how taboo the practice once was. How is this development understood and regarded by Americans generally, and what does it tell us about the nation's religious life? Drawing on ethnographic and historical sources, Samira K. Mehta provides a fascinating analysis of wives, husbands, children, and their extended families in interfaith homes; religious leaders; and the social and cultural milieu surrounding mixed marriages among Jews, Catholics, and Protestants.

Mehta's eye-opening look at the portrayal of interfaith families across American culture since the mid-twentieth century ranges from popular TV shows, holiday cards, and humorous guides to "Chrismukkah" to children's books, young adult fiction, and religious and secular advice manuals. Mehta argues that the emergence of multiculturalism helped generate new terms by which interfaith families felt empowered to shape their lived religious practices in ways and degrees previously unknown. They began to intertwine their religious identities without compromising their social standing. This rich portrait of families living diverse religions together at home advances the understanding of how religion functions in American society today.

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