In three chronological sections -- Mediterranean Origins, Diversities of Diaspora, and Modem Encounters -- comprised of essays by twenty-three internationally renowned scholars, this landmark work considers many of the Jewish cultures that developed in communities around the world from the epoch of the Bible through the twentieth century, and addresses the fundamental question of the identity of the Jews in virtually every period and locale of their history. An artifact of Jewish life from a specific era and place -- an object of everyday or ritual use, a piece of writing, a work of art -- is each contributor's point of departure. The range and scope of this approach is rich and diverse -- incorporating social, religious, and intellectual history as well as literary criticism, archaeology, folklore, and art history -- but individually and taken together these essays describe a people whose own culture assumed new forms as their communities interacted with the non-Jewish cultures that surrounded them.Cultures of the Jews, a milestone of scholarship, is the new foundation upon which all future research into Jewish history will be based.
This insightful collection of essays by today's leading Judaica scholars (such as Ilana Pardes and Isaiah Gafni) transports the reader from the nascent Jewish nation first emerging from bondage in Egypt through both its cultural and religious decline and efflorescence in the Middle Ages to modern-day Israeli and American Jewish culture. Divided into three sections, "Mediterranean Origins," "Diversities of Diaspora" and "Modern Encounters," the compilation provides an array of creative perspectives. Objects of material culture a map, an amulet, a ketubbah (a Jewish marriage contract) are used as lenses through which to examines various aspects of Jewish life in a given time and place; e.g., a menorah topped by an eagle symbolizing Polish sovereignty opens Moshe Rosman's study of Polish-Lithuanian-Jewish culture. The contributors assume that Jewish history did not develop in a vacuum, but that Jewish culture and religion were at times influenced by the surrounding cultures, and that Jews incorporated elements of what they saw around them while striving to refashion them as distinctly Jewish. Furthermore, if Jewish identity changed according to differing historical contexts, editor Biale (a professor of Jewish history at UC-Davis and author of Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History) suggests, referring to Jewish culture in the singular is inadequate and oversimplified. The authors raise questions central to the understanding of Judaism and Jewish life, and propose answers that try to reconcile ideas with their historical realities. Intellectually stimulating, articulately written and extensively documented, this collection is sure to raise excitement in aficionados looking for something to whet their historical appetite. (Oct. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Knopf Group E-Books
October 15, 2002
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