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Enforced Marginality Cover

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Enforced Marginality

Jewish Narratives on Abandoned Wives

Bluma Goldstein

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.

Essays in Jewish Thought Cover

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Essays in Jewish Thought

A fascinating and eclectic collection of twenty-two essays, Essays in Jewish Thought examines and explores divers topics of Jewish thought and history. From Judaism’s view of ancient Rome at its imperial apogee and the Dead Sea Scrolls to Jewish thought in Europe’s revolutions of 1848 and Franz Kafka, the collection offers a rich compendium of essays of interest to scholars, historians, philosophers, and students. 


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Ethics of Maimonides

Hermann Cohen, Translated by Almut Sh. Bruckstein

    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.

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Eve's Journey

Feminine Images in Hebraic Literary Tradition

By Nehama Aschkenasy

In Eve's Journey, Nehama Aschkenasy traces the migration of several female images and feminine situations from their early appearances in Biblical writings to their incarnations in modern Hebraic literature. Focusing on the evolution of early female archetypes and prototypes, Aschkenasy uncovers the ancient roots of modern female characters and traces the changing cultural perceptions of women in Hebraic letters.

The author draws on the vast body of Hebraic literary documents to illustrate how the female character is a mirror of her times as well as being a product of her creator''s imagination and conception of the woman's role in society and in fiction. The historical spectrum, provided by a discussion of Biblical narratives, Midrashic sources, documents of the Jewish mystics, Hasidic tales, and modern Hebrew works, allows an understanding of the metamorphosis that the female figure has experienced in her literary odyssey.

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Fallen Angels

Soldiers of Satan's Realm

Authored by Bernard J. Bamberger

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.

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The Fighting Rabbis

Jewish Military Chaplains and American History

Albert Slomovitz

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.

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Finding Our Way

Jewish Texts and the Lives We Live Today

Authored by Barry W. Holtz PhD

The ancient rabbis believed that the world rests on three pillars: study, worship, and good deeds. It is said that the greatest of these is study, for it leads to the other two. But exactly how does the modern Jewish reader go about studying the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash --- the great ancient and often hard-to-comprehend texts of our tradition? And how do we glean the great insights and wisdom from these sacred texts, which inspired our ancestors, and apply them to our modern lives? With guidance from renowned author and educator Barry Holtz, these ancient texts take on new meaning for us. He provides a framework for exploring our thinking about God, prayer, and ritual, as well as social issues, such as charity, friendship, and justice. His new study guide helps readers and study groups launch their exploration of the ancient texts, posing probing questions to help them stay engaged as they pursue their quest for a deeper understanding of their faith. This spiritual and spirited book, a sequel to Holtz's classic Back to the Sources, is a must-read for adult Jewish learners and educators alike.

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The First Modern Jew

Spinoza and the History of an Image

Daniel B. Schwartz

Pioneering biblical critic, theorist of democracy, and legendary conflater of God and nature, Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was excommunicated by the Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam in 1656 for his "horrible heresies" and "monstrous deeds." Yet, over the past three centuries, Spinoza's rupture with traditional Jewish beliefs and practices has elevated him to a prominent place in genealogies of Jewish modernity. The First Modern Jew provides a riveting look at how Spinoza went from being one of Judaism's most notorious outcasts to one of its most celebrated, if still highly controversial, cultural icons, and a powerful and protean symbol of the first modern secular Jew.

Ranging from Amsterdam to Palestine and back again to Europe, the book chronicles Spinoza's posthumous odyssey from marginalized heretic to hero, the exemplar of a whole host of Jewish identities, including cosmopolitan, nationalist, reformist, and rejectionist. Daniel Schwartz shows that in fashioning Spinoza into "the first modern Jew," generations of Jewish intellectuals--German liberals, East European maskilim, secular Zionists, and Yiddishists--have projected their own dilemmas of identity onto him, reshaping the Amsterdam thinker in their own image. The many afterlives of Spinoza are a kind of looking glass into the struggles of Jewish writers over where to draw the boundaries of Jewishness and whether a secular Jewish identity is indeed possible. Cumulatively, these afterlives offer a kaleidoscopic view of modern Jewish cultureand a vivid history of an obsession with Spinoza that continues to this day.

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For Decades I Was Silent

A Holocaust Survivor's Journey Back to Faith

In 1939, Baruch Goldstein was a religiously observant adolescent resident of the Jewish community in Mlawa, a town that was then in East Prussia. After war broke out, the Jewish community there was relatively sheltered, as that region was incorporated into the German Reich rather than into the General Government (the German run-fragment of pre-war Poland, where conditions were harsh for everyone). However in 1942, Goldstein was sent to Auschwitz, where he stayed two-and-a-half years. His family was scattered all to their deaths, but he survived the war--barely. For Decades I Was Silent is an account of life in a small Polish-German town and provides information on the religious life of the Jewish citizens. This book creates a direct sense of the random, mystifying personal violence individuals felt at the hands of Germans--not the anonymous industrial death machine, but immediate, face-to-face violence.

After the war, Goldstein drifted as a refugee to UNRR camps in Italy. Over time, young Goldstein had to face the fact that all of his extended family was lost and he had only the possibilities of Palestine or help from distant relatives in the United States as a future. His American relatives urged him to enter the United States as a yeshiva student, and eventually he became a rabbi and started a family. As a young rabbinical student, and then as a rabbi, Goldstein was forced to confront the events of the Holocaust and the damage done to his faith. This well-written and evocative book eloquently handles Goldstein’s story.

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For the Love of God and People

A Philosophy of Jewish Law

Authored by Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff

Every generation of Jews in every denomination of Judaism finds itself facing complex legal questions. The status of same-sex unions and the plight of the agunah (a woman who cannot obtain a divorce), are just two of a myriad of thorny questions Jewish legal experts grapple with today. These are not esoteric problems but issues with a profound impact on the daily happiness of countless people. How do the rabbis who draft responses to these questions reach their conclusions? What informs their decisions and their approach to Jewish law? Acclaimed writer and legal expert Elliot Dorff addresses these and other questions in this intelligent, accessible guide to the philosophy behind Jewish law. In his view, Jewish law is an expression of the love we have for God and for our fellow human beings. This theme permeates his discussion of important aspects of the law. For example, what motivates modern Jews to follow Jewish law? How does Jewish law strike the balance between continuity and change? On what grounds and under what circumstances do human beings have the authority to interpret or even change God's laws? Dorff also offers a systematic comparison of Jewish law and U.S. law, based on his course on this subject at UCLA School of Law. Whether you are a lawyer or simply interested in the philosophy behind recent rabbinic decisions, this is a book that will deepen your understanding of the Jewish legal system and its role in the modern world.

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