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Jewish Identity, the Soviet Intelligentsia, and the Russian Orthodox Church
Doubly Chosen provides the first detailed study of a unique cultural and religious phenomenon in post-Stalinist Russia—the conversion of thousands of Russian Jewish intellectuals to Orthodox Christianity, first in the 1960s and later in the 1980s. These time periods correspond to the decades before and after the great exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union. Judith Deutsch Kornblatt contends that the choice of baptism into the Church was an act of moral courage in the face of Soviet persecution, motivated by solidarity with the values espoused by Russian Christian dissidents and intellectuals. Oddly, as Kornblatt shows, these converts to Russian Orthodoxy began to experience their Jewishness in a new and positive way.
Working primarily from oral interviews conducted in Russia, Israel, and the United States, Kornblatt underscores the conditions of Soviet life that spurred these conversions: the virtual elimination of Judaism as a viable, widely practiced religion; the transformation of Jews from a religious community to an ethnic one; a longing for spiritual values; the role of the Russian Orthodox Church as a symbol of Russian national culture; and the forging of a new Jewish identity within the context of the Soviet dissident movement.
Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World
Miriam Bodian's study of crypto-Jewish martyrdom in Iberian lands depicts a new type of martyr that emerged in the late 16th century -- a defiant, educated judaizing martyr who engaged in disputes with inquisitors. By examining closely the Inquisition dossiers of four men who were tried in the Iberian peninsula or Spanish America and who developed judaizing theologies that drew from currents of Reformation thinking that emphasized the authority of Scripture and the religious autonomy of individual interpreters of Scripture, Miriam Bodian reveals unexpected connections between Reformation thought and historic crypto-Judaism. The complex personalities of the martyrs, acting in response to psychic and situational pressures, emerge vividly from this absorbing book.
Jewish, Literary, and Moral Perspectives
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, best known for his writings on the Holocaust, is also the accomplished author of novels, essays, tales, and plays as well as portraits of seminal figures in Jewish life and experience. In this volume, leading scholars in the fields of Biblical, Rabbinic, Hasidic, Holocaust, and literary studies offer fascinating and innovative analyses of Wiesel's texts as well as illuminating commentaries on his considerable influence as a teacher and as a moral voice for human rights. By exploring the varied aspects of Wiesel's multifaceted career—his texts on the Bible, the Talmud, and Hasidism as well as his literary works, his teaching, and his testimony—this thought-provoking volume adds depth to our understanding of the impact of this important man of letters and towering international figure.
This book begins with a brief history about the Jews in Babylon (Iraq), their Hebrew creativity and the fact that this creativity was excluded from the history of Modern Hebrew literature because it was unknown to the scholars. The book focuses on the years 1735-1950 and presents the secular Hebrew poetry written in Babylon at that time, the folktales, journalistic articles, and epistles, research of Hebrew literature, a story and a play.
with Wiesel, Buber, Heschel, Arendt, Levinas
Marc Ellis maintains that the most vital questions about Judaism are prefigured in the work of Elie Wiesel, Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Hannah Arendt, and Emmanuel Levinas. Ellis's work is framed by encounters with each thinker's work, focusing on topics of God, the Holocaust, the prophetic legacy, philosophical and ethical standpoints, and Jewish empowerment and dissent.
Two generations after the Holocaust and Israel's founding, Ellis argues that the uncertain future of Judaism requires a deeply personal and intellectual exploration of Jewish tradition and identity, in conversation with the best philosophical and theological minds of recent years.
Jewish Narratives on Abandoned Wives
This illuminating study explores a central but neglected aspect of modern Jewish history: the problem of abandoned Jewish wives, or agunes ("chained wives")—women who under Jewish law could not obtain a divorce—and of the men who deserted them. Looking at seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Germany and then late nineteenth-century eastern Europe and twentieth-century United States, Enforced Marginality explores representations of abandoned wives while tracing the demographic movements of Jews in the West. Bluma Goldstein analyzes a range of texts (in Old Yiddish, German, Yiddish, and English) at the intersection of disciplines (history, literature, sociology, and gender studies) to describe the dynamics of power between men and women within traditional communities and to elucidate the full spectrum of experiences abandoned women faced.
Hermann Cohen’s essay on Maimonides’ ethics is one of the most fundamental texts of twentieth-century Jewish philosophy, correlating Platonic, prophetic, Maimonidean, and Kantian traditions. Almut Sh. Bruckstein provides the first English translation and her own extensive commentary on this landmark 1908 work, which inspired readings of medieval and rabbinic sources by Leo Strauss, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas.
Cohen rejects the notion that we should try to understand texts of the past solely in the context of their own historical era. Subverting the historical order, he interprets the ethical meanings of texts in the light of a future yet to be realized. He commits the entire Jewish tradition to a universal socialism prophetically inspired by ideals of humanity, peace, and universal justice.
Through her own probing commentary on Cohen’s text, like the margin notes of a medieval treatise, Bruckstein performs the hermeneutical act that lies at the core of Cohen’s argument: she reads Jewish sources from a perspective that recognizes the interpretive act of commentary itself.
Soldiers of Satan's Realm
The problem of evil has challenged mankind ever since the dawn of intelligence. Why is there evil in the world and why do pain and suffering come upon those who do not seem to deserve it? Written in a simple, popular style, Bamberger's book, first published in 1952, will appeal to anyone who, no matter what his own answer to the question may be, is curious to learn how it has been answered in the past or is being answered by others in our own age. The author traces the history of the belief in fallen angels in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and assembles a variety of tales and superstitions -- some grotesque, others quaint and humorous. His presentation also reveals a basic divergence between Judaism and Christianity in their respective attitudes toward the devil. The concluding chapter of the work deals with the return of the devil to prominence in contemporary religious thought and shows how Judaism seeks its own solution to the problem of evil. The book contains an extensive bibliography, notes, and index.
Jewish Military Chaplains and American History
Rabbi Elkan Voorsanger received the Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of Argonne. Chaplain Edgar Siskin, serving with the Marines on Pelilu Island, conducted Yom Kippur services in the midst of a barrage of artillery fire. Rabbi Alexander Goode and three fellow chaplains gave their own lifejackets to panicked soldiers aboard a sinking transport torpedoed by a German submarine, and then went down with the ship.
American Jews are not usually associated with warfare. Nor, for that matter, are their rabbis. And yet, Jewish chaplains have played a significant and sometimes heroic role in our nation's defense.
The Fighting Rabbis presents the compelling history of Jewish military chaplains from their first service during the Civil War to the first female Jewish chaplain and the rabbinic role in Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. Rabbi Slomovitz, himself a Navy chaplain, opens a window onto the fieldwork, religious services, counseling, and dramatic battlefield experiences of Jewish military chaplains throughout our nation's history.
From George Washington's early support for a religiously tolerant military to a Seder held in the desert sands of Kuwait, these rabbis have had a profound impact on Jewish life in America. Also striking are original documents which chronicle the ongoing care and concern by the Jewish community over the last 140 years for their follow Jews, including many new immigrants who entered the armed forces. Slomovitz refutes the common belief that the U.S. military itself has been a hostile place for Jews, in the process providing a unique perspective on American religious history.