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Area and Ethnic Studies > Jewish Studies

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Between Witness and Testimony Cover

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Between Witness and Testimony

The Holocaust and the Limits of Representation

Examines the ethical and pedagogical stakes of representing the Holocaust in books, films, and museum exhibits. The Holocaust presents an immense challenge to those who would represent it or teach it through fiction, film, or historical accounts. Even the testimonies of those who were there provide only a glimpse of the disaster to those who were not. Between Witness and Testimony investigates the difficulties inherent in the obligation to bear witness to events that seem not just unspeakable but also unthinkable. The authors examine films, fictional narratives, survivor testimonies, and the museums at Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in order to establish an ethics of Holocaust representation. Traversing the disciplines of history, philosophy, religious studies, and literary and cultural theory, the authors suggest that while no account adequately provides access to what Adorno called “the extremity that eludes the concept,” we are still obliged to testify, to put into language what history cannot contain.

Between Worlds Cover

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Between Worlds

The Life and Thought of Rabbi David ben Judah Messer Leon

It is a work of sound scholarship dealing with an interesting historical figure and his unique cultural world. The author focuses correctly on the transition from Italian to Ottoman Jewish culture in the life of David Messer Leon and reveals much about the continuities and discontinuities between both societies. He nicely fuses social and intellectual history, and uses a life to illuminate a number of interesting and important cultural trends among early modern Jews, particularly the integration of kabbalah and philosophy, Humanism and Thomism. The presentation of the symbiotic nature of Jewish culture with contemporary intellectual trends and the appropriation of Christian theological strategies by a Jewish thinker to explain Judaism make this study a fascinating one.

Beyond Yiddishkeit Cover

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Beyond Yiddishkeit

The Struggle for Jewish Identity in a Reform Synagogue

“Beyond Yiddishkeit deals in an intelligent and perceptive way with the issue of Jewish identity in an affluent and highly educated suburban community. Particularly significant is that it relies upon participant observation, as well as ethnographic interview techniques and data, on the part of the author. In this way, the work constitutes the first major study of this type conducted within the liberal Jewish American community. As such, it is a “pioneering” work. Equally impressive is the author’s command of the sociological literature on issues of identity and her ability to apply it to the data gathered in this study. She makes sociological jargon intelligible and presents an easily-read and well-constructed book. Her ability throughout the work to focus on issues of modernity is insightful and brilliant. I found myself racing through the book and, indeed, read it in one sitting. This really is an unparalleled work in this field.” — David Ellenson, Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion

The Bible's Many Voices Cover

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The Bible's Many Voices

Michael Carasik

The most common English translations of the Bible often sound like a single, somewhat archaic voice. In fact, the Bible is made up of many separate books composed by multiple writers in a wide range of styles and perspectives. It is, as Michael Carasik demonstrates, not a remote text reserved for churches and synagogues but rather a human document full of history, poetry, politics, theology, and spirituality.
 
Using historic, linguistic, anthropological, and theological sources, Carasik helps us distinguish between the Jewish Bible’s voices—the mythic, the historical, the prophetic, the theological, and the legal. By articulating the differences among these voices, he shows us not just their messages and meanings but also what mattered to the authors. In these contrasts we encounter the Bible anew, as a living work whose many voices tell us about the world out of which the Bible grew—and the world that it created.

Binding of Isaac and Messiah, The Cover

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Binding of Isaac and Messiah, The

Law, Martyrdom, and Deliverance in Early Rabbinic Religiosity

The author provides an interpretation of the words of Jews living during the intertestamental period and through the third century, including several hassidim. A hermeneutics grounded in the perception of early Rabbinic texts as sharing in events rather than as linguistically autonomous is used. The phenomenology of Jewish martyrdom is read as an acting-out of the Binding of Isaac. The search leads into the question of the bindingness of the Law. The religious soul’s passion for the revelation of Law is followed out in its path of temptation to martyrdom. A grand drama of sacrifice and messianic yearnings is thereby unearthed.

The Blessed Abyss Cover

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The Blessed Abyss

Inmate #6582 in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp for Women

Nanda Herbermann Translated by Hester Baer Edited by Hester Baer and Elizabeth R. Baer

On February 4, 1941, Nanda Herbermann, a German Catholic writer and editor, was arrested by the Gestapo in Münster, Germany. Accused of collaboration with the Catholic movement, Herbermann was deported to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp for Women in July 1941 and later released upon direct orders from Heinrich Himmler on March 19, 1943. Although she was instructed by the Gestapo not to reveal information about the camp, Herbermann soon began to record her memories of her experiences. The Blessed Abyss was originally published in German under the imprint of the Allied occupation forces in 1946, and it now appears in English for the first time. Hester Baer and Elizabeth Baer include an extensive introduction that situates Herbermann's work within current debates about gender and the Holocaust and provides historical and biographical information about Herbermann, Ravensbrück, and the Third Reich.

Blood Libel Cover

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Blood Libel

The Ritual Murder Accusation at the Limit of Jewish History

Hannah Johnson

The ritual murder accusation is one of a series of myths that fall under the label blood libel, and describes the medieval legend that Jews require Christian blood for obscure religious purposes and are capable of committing murder to obtain it. This malicious myth continues to have an explosive afterlife in the public sphere, where Sarah Palin's 2011 gaffe is only the latest reminder of its power to excite controversy. Blood Libel is the first book-length study to analyze the recent historiography of the ritual murder accusation and to consider these debates in the context of intellectual and cultural history as well as methodology. Hannah R. Johnson articulates how ethics shapes methodological decisions in the study of the accusation and how questions about methodology, in turn, pose ethical problems of interpretation and understanding. Examining recent debates over the scholarship of historians such as Gavin Langmuir, Israel Yuval, and Ariel Toaff, Johnson argues that these discussions highlight an ongoing paradigm shift that seeks to reimagine questions of responsibility by deliberately refraining from a discourse of moral judgment and blame in favor of an emphasis on historical contingencies and hostile intergroup dynamics.

Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia Cover

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Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia

The Ritual Murder Trial of Mendel Beilis

Robert Weinberg

On Sunday, March 20, 1911, children playing in a cave near Kiev made a gruesome discovery: the blood-soaked body of a partially clad boy. After right-wing groups asserted that the killing was a ritual murder, the police, with no direct evidence, arrested Menachem Mendel Beilis, a 39-year-old Jewish manager at a factory near the site of the crime. Beilis's trial in 1913 quickly became an international cause célèbre. The jury ultimately acquitted Beilis but held that the crime had the hallmarks of a ritual murder. Robert Weinberg's account of the Beilis Affair explores the reasons why the tsarist government framed Beilis, shedding light on the excesses of antisemitism in late Imperial Russia. Primary documents culled from the trial transcript, newspaper articles, Beilis's memoirs, and archival sources, many appearing in English for the first time, bring readers face to face with this notorious trial.

B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of Ethnic Leadership Cover

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B'nai B'rith and the Challenge of Ethnic Leadership

B’nai B’rith has a history almost as diverse as the story of American Jewry itself. The oldest secular Jewish organization in the United States, it was founded in 1843. Thereafter, it followed in the footsteps of its immigrant founders, spreading into the cities, towns, and villages of America, eventually becoming the worldwide order it is today.

Books of Contemplation, The Cover

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Books of Contemplation, The

Medieval Jewish Mystical Sources

The earliest medieval Jewish mystical writings, or kabbalah, date from the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. This is the first book to focus on the most prodigious group active at that time—the ‘Circle of Contemplation’.

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