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From Buchenwald to Carnegie Hall Cover

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From Buchenwald to Carnegie Hall

Marian Filar

Before the Nazis sent members of the Filar family to Treblinka, these were the last words Marian Filar's mother said to him: "I bless you. You'll survive this horror. You'll become a great pianist, and I'll be very proud of you."

Born in 1917 into a musical Jewish family in Warsaw, Filar began playing the piano when he was four. He performed his first public concert at the age of six. At twelve he played with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and went on to study with the great Polish pianist and teacher Zbigniew Drzewiecki at the State Conservatory of Music.

After the German invasion, Filar fled to Lemberg (Lvov), where he continued his music studies until 1941, when he returned to his family in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis killed his parents, a sister, and a brother, but he and his brother Joel survived as workers on the German railroad. After taking part in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Marian and Joel were captured and sent to Majdanek, Buchenwald, and other concentration camps. After liberation Filar was able to resume his career by studying with the renowned German pianist Walter Gieseking. In 1950 he immigrated to the United States and soon after was performing concerts with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He made his Carnegie Hall debut on New Year's Day, 1952. He became head of the piano department at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia and later a professor of music at Temple University, while continuing to perform in Europe, South America, Israel, and the United States.

Filar does not end his story with liberation but with the fulfillment of his mother's blessing. Without rancor or bitterness, his memoir comes full circle, ending where it began--in Warsaw. In 1992 Filar traveled to Poland to visit the school next to what had once been the Umschlagplatz, the place from which Jews had been sent to Treblinka and where he said farewell to the mother who blessed him.

Marian Filar, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and retired professor at Temple University, has performed throughout the world and with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and many others. He lives in Pennsylvania.

Charles Patterson is the author of Anti-Semitism: The Road to the Holocaust and Beyond, Marian Anderson, and The Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust.

From Krakow to Krypton Cover

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From Krakow to Krypton

Jews and Comic Books

Authored by Arie Kaplan; Forward by Harvey Pekar and JT Waldman

Jews created the first comic book, the first graphic novel, the first comic book convention, the first comic book specialty store, and they helped create the underground comics (or "Comix") movement of the late '60s and early '70s. Many of the creators of the most famous comic books, such as Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, and Batman, as well as the founders of MAD Magazine, were Jewish. From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books tells their stories and demonstrates how they brought a uniquely Jewish perspective to their work and to the comics industry as a whole. Over-sized and in full color, From Krakow to Krypton is filled with sidebars, cartoon bubbles, comic book graphics, original design sketches, and photographs. It is a visually stunning and exhilarating history.

From Metaphysics to Midrash Cover

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From Metaphysics to Midrash

Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala

Shaul Magid

In From Metaphysics to Midrash, Shaul Magid explores the exegetical tradition of Isaac Luria and his followers within the historical context in 16th-century Safed, a unique community that brought practitioners of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into close contact with one another. Luria's scripture became a theater in which kabbalists redrew boundaries of difference in areas of ethnicity, gender, and the human relation to the divine. Magid investigates how cultural influences altered scriptural exegesis of Lurianic Kabbala in its philosophical, hermeneutical, and historical perspectives. He suggests that Luria and his followers were far from cloistered. They used their considerable skills to weigh in on important matters of the day, offering, at times, some surprising solutions to perennial theological problems.

From Sermon to Commentary Cover

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From Sermon to Commentary

Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia

The Bible has always been vital to Jewish religious life, and it has been expounded in diverse ways. Perhaps the most influential body of Jewish biblical interpretation is the Midrash that was produced by expositors during the first five centuries CE. Many such teachings are collected in the Babylonian Talmud, the monumental compendium of Jewish law and lore that was accepted as the definitive statement of Jewish oral tradition for subsequent generations.

However, many of the Talmud’s interpretations of biblical passages appear bizarre or pointless. From Sermon to Commentary: Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia tries to explain this phenomenon by carefully examining representative passages from a variety of methodological approaches, paying particular attention to comparisons with Midrash composed in the Land of Israel.

Based on this investigation, Eliezer Segal argues that the Babylonian sages were utilizing discourses that had originated in Israel as rhetorical sermons in which biblical interpretation was being employed in an imaginative, literary manner, usually based on the interplay between two or more texts from different books of the Bible. Because they did not possess their own tradition of homiletic preaching, the Babylonian rabbis interpreted these comments without regard for their rhetorical conventions, as if they were exegetical commentaries, resulting in the distinctive, puzzling character of Babylonian Midrash.

From the Shahs to Los Angeles Cover

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From the Shahs to Los Angeles

Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture

A fascinating look at the lives, culture, and religious and ritual observance of three generations of Iranian Jewish women in the United States. Saba Soomekh offers a fascinating portrait of three generations of women in an ethnically distinctive and little-known American Jewish community, Jews of Iranian origin living in Los Angeles. Most of Iran’s Jewish community immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the government-sponsored discrimination that followed. Based on interviews with women raised during the constitutional monarchy of the earlier part of the twentieth century, those raised during the modernizing Pahlavi regime of mid-century, and those who have grown up in Los Angeles, the book presents an ethnographic portrait of what life was and is like for Iranian Jewish women. Featuring the voices of all generations, the book concentrates on religiosity and ritual observance, the relationship between men and women, and women’s self-concept as Iranian Jewish women. Mother-daughter relationships, double standards for sons and daughters, marriage customs, the appeal of American forms of Jewish practices, social customs and pressures, and the alternate attraction to and critique of materialism and attention to outward appearance are discussed by the author and through the voices of her informants.

Giving Beyond the Gift Cover

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Giving Beyond the Gift

Apophasis and Overcoming Theomania

Elliot R. Wolfson

This book explores the co-dependency of monotheism and idolatry by examining the thought of several prominent twentieth-century Jewish philosophers Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas. While all of these thinkers were keenly aware of the pitfalls of scriptural theism, to differing degrees they each succumbed to the temptation to personify transcendence, even as they tried either to circumvent or to restrain it by apophatically purging kataphatic descriptions of the deity. Derrida and Wyschogrod, by contrast, carried the project of denegation one step further, embarking on a path that culminated in the aporetic suspension of belief and the consequent removal of all images from God, a move that seriously compromises the viability of devotional piety. The inquiry into apophasis, transcendence, and immanence in these Jewish thinkers is symptomatic of a larger question. Recent attempts to harness the apophatic tradition to construct a viable postmodern negative theology, a religion without religion, are not radical enough. Not only are these philosophies of transcendence guilty of a turn to theology that defies the phenomenological presupposition of an immanent phenomenality, but they fall short on their own terms, inasmuch as they persist in employing metaphorical language that personalizes transcendence and thereby runs the risk of undermining the irreducible alterity and invisibility attributed to the transcendent other. The logic of apophasis, if permitted to run its course fully, would exceed the need to posit some form of transcendence that is not ultimately a facet of immanence. Apophatic theologies, accordingly, must be supplanted by a more far-reaching apophasis that surpasses the theolatrous impulse lying coiled at the crux of theism, an apophasis of apophasis, based on accepting an absolute nothingness to be distinguished from the nothingness of an absolute that does not signify the unknowable One but rather the manifold that is the pleromatic abyss at being's core. Hence, the much-celebrated metaphor of the gift must give way to the more neutral and less theologically charged notion of an unconditional givenness in which the distinction between giver and given collapses. To think givenness in its most elemental, phenomenological sense is to allow the apparent to appear as given without presuming a causal agency that would turn that given into a gift.

The Gods Are Broken! Cover

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The Gods Are Broken!

The Hidden Legacy of Abraham

Jeffrey K. Salkin

The story of Abraham smashing his father’s idols might be the most important Jewish story ever told and the key to how Jews define themselves. In a work at once deeply erudite and wonderfully accessible, Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin conducts readers through the life and legacy of this powerful story and explains how it has shaped Jewish consciousness.

Offering a radical view of Jewish existence, The Gods Are Broken! views the story of the young Abraham as the “primal trauma” of Jewish history, one critical to the development of a certain Jewish comfort with rebelliousness and one that, happening in every generation, has helped Jews develop a unique identity. Salkin shows how the story continues to reverberate through the ages, even in its connection to the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.

Salkin’s  work—combining biblical texts, archaeology, rabbinic insights, Hasidic texts (some never before translated), philosophy, history, poetry, contemporary Jewish thought, sociology, and popular culture—is nothing less than a journey through two thousand years of Jewish life and intellectual endeavor.

God's Voice from the Void Cover

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God's Voice from the Void

Old and New Studies in Bratslav Hasidism

New and classic explorations of the work of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, a major Hasidic thinker, using a wide range of approaches. 'Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav was one of the most celebrated masters of late Jewish mysticism and Hasidism, and his writings have become classics. This volume brings together translations of three seminal studies on Rabbi Nahman in German, Hebrew, and Yiddish with six new studies from scholars in various fields of Jewish studies. The presentation of new scholarly work widens the conversation about Hasidism in general and Rabbi Nahman in particular by viewing his ideology from the perspective of contemporary hermeneutic, philosophical, and literary perspectives incorporating the insights of postmodernism, gender theory, and literary criticism. New ground is covered in essays on Rabbi Nahman’s attitude toward death, his approach to gender, his interpretation of circumcision, the impact of his tales on Yiddish literature, and his hermeneutic theory. The combination of classic and new studies in God’s Voice from the Void offers a window into the trajectory of scholarship on Hasidism, including ways in which contemporary scholars of Hasidism and Hasidic literature both continue and develop the work of their predecessors.

Halakhah in the Making Cover

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Halakhah in the Making

The Development of Jewish Law from Qumran to the Rabbis

Aharon Shemesh

Halakhah in the Making offers the first comprehensive study of the legal material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and its significance in the greater history of Jewish religious law (halakhah). Aharon Shemesh's pioneering study revives an issue long dormant in religious scholarship: namely, the relationship between rabbinic law, as written more than one hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple, and Jewish practice during the Second Temple. The monumental discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran led to the revelation of this missing material and the closing of a two-hundred-year gap in knowledge, allowing work to begin comparing specific laws of the Qumran sect with rabbinic laws. With the publication of scroll 4QMMT-a polemical letter by Dead Sea sectarians concerning points of Jewish law-an effective comparison was finally possible. This is the first book-length treatment of the material to appear since the publication of 4QMMT and the first attempt to apply its discoveries to the work of nineteenth-century scholars. It is also the first work on this important topic written in plain language and accessible to nonspecialists in the history of Jewish law.

A Heart Afire Cover

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A Heart Afire

stories and teachings of the early Hasidic masters

Authored by Netanel Miles-Yepez and Zalman Schachter Shalomi

The interpretations in A Heart Afire are as rich and meaningful as the teachings and tales themselves in this intimate guided tour of Hasidism and Hasidic storytelling led by Reb Zalman, an old-world Hasidic elder who is also profoundly connected to modern culture. As a bridge between both worlds, Reb Zalman, and his co-author and student Netanel Miles-Yepez, introduce the reader to rare and unique translations of Hasidism with their own personal reflections on their meaning. This book gives the readers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of Hasidic wisdom and narrative and in the teachings of a modern Hasidic master.

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