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The Modern Jewish Experience

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The Modern Jewish Experience

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The Radical American Judaism of Mordecai M. Kaplan

Mel Scult

Mordecai M. Kaplan, founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist movement, is the only rabbi to have been excommunicated by the Orthodox rabbinical establishment in America. Kaplan was indeed a heretic, rejecting such fundamental Jewish beliefs as the concept of the chosen people and a supernatural God. Although he valued the Jewish community and was a committed Zionist, his primary concern was the spiritual fulfillment of the individual. Drawing on Kaplan's 27-volume diary, Mel Scult describes the development of Kaplan's radical theology in dialogue with the thinkers and writers who mattered to him most, from Spinoza to Emerson and from Ahad Ha-Am and Matthew Arnold to Felix Adler, John Dewey, and Abraham Joshua Heschel. This gracefully argued book, with its sensitive insights into the beliefs of a revolutionary Jewish thinker, makes a powerful contribution to modern Judaism and to contemporary American religious thought.

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Reframing Holocaust Testimony

Noah Shenker

Institutions that have collected video testimonies from the few remaining Holocaust survivors are grappling with how to continue their mission to educate and commemorate. Noah Shenker calls attention to the ways that audiovisual testimonies of the Holocaust have been mediated by the institutional histories and practices of their respective archives. Shenker argues that testimonies are shaped not only by the encounter between interviewer and interviewee, but also by technical practices and the testimony process. He analyzes the ways in which interview questions, the framing of the camera, and curatorial and programming preferences impact how Holocaust testimony is molded, distributed, and received.

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Taking Stock

Cultures of Enumeration in Contemporary Jewish Life

Edited by Michal Kravel-Tovi and Deborah Dash Moore

Taking Stock is a collection of lively, original essays that explore the cultures of enumeration that permeate contemporary and modern Jewish life. Speaking to the profound cultural investment in quantified forms of knowledge and representation—whether discussing the Holocaust or counting the numbers of Israeli and American Jews—these essays reveal a social life of Jewish numbers. As they trace the uses of numerical frameworks, they portray how Jews define, negotiate, and enact matters of Jewish collectivity. The contributors offer productive perspectives into ubiquitous yet often overlooked aspects of the modern Jewish experience.

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Zionism and the Roads Not Taken

Rawidowicz, Kaplan, Kohn

Noam Pianko

Today, Zionism is understood as a national movement whose primary historical goal was the establishment of a Jewish state. However, Zionism's association with national sovereignty was not foreordained. Zionism and the Roads Not Taken uncovers the thought of three key interwar Jewish intellectuals who defined Zionism's central mission as challenging the model of a sovereign nation-state: historian Simon Rawidowicz, religious thinker Mordecai Kaplan, and political theorist Hans Kohn. Although their models differed, each of these three thinkers conceived of a more practical and ethical paradigm of national cohesion that was not tied to a sovereign state. Recovering these roads not taken helps us to reimagine Jewish identity and collectivity, past, present, and future.

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Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia

Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging

Tatjana Lichtenstein

This book presents an unconventional history of minority nationalism in interwar Eastern Europe. Focusing on an influential group of grassroots activists, Tatjana Lichtenstein uncovers Zionist projects intended to sustain the flourishing Jewish national life in Czechoslovakia.The book shows that Zionism was not an exit strategy for Jews, but as a ticket of admission to the societies they already called home.It explores how and why Zionists envisioned minority nationalism as a way to construct Jews’ belonging and civic equality in Czechoslovakia.By giving voice to the diversity of aspirations within interwar Zionism, the book offers a fresh view of minority nationalism and state building in Eastern Europe.

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