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Cultures of the Jews: A New History

Overview

WITH MORE THAN 100 BLACK-AND-WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS THROUGHOUT
 
Who are “the Jews”? Scattered over much of the world throughout most of their three-thousand-year-old history, are they one people or many? How do they resemble and how do they differ from Jews in other places and times? What have their relationships been to the cultures of their neighbors?
 
To address ...
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Cultures of the Jews: A New History

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Overview

WITH MORE THAN 100 BLACK-AND-WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS THROUGHOUT
 
Who are “the Jews”? Scattered over much of the world throughout most of their three-thousand-year-old history, are they one people or many? How do they resemble and how do they differ from Jews in other places and times? What have their relationships been to the cultures of their neighbors?
 
To address these and similar questions, twenty-three of the finest scholars of our day—archaeologists, cultural historians, literary critics, art historians , folklorists, and historians of relation, all affiliated with major academic institutions in the United States, Israel, and France—have contributed their insight to Cultures of the Jews. The premise of their endeavor is that although Jews have always had their own autonomous traditions, Jewish identity cannot be considered immutable, the fixed product of either ancient ethnic or religious origins. Rather, it has shifted and assumed new forms in response to the cultural environment in which the Jews have lived.
 
Building their essays on specific cultural artifacts—a poem, a letter, a traveler’s account, a physical object of everyday or ritual use—that were made in the period and locale they study, the contributors describe the cultural interactions among different Jews—from rabbis and scholars to non-elite groups, including women—as well as between Jews and the surrounding non-Jewish world.
 
Part One, “Mediterranean Origins,” describes the concept of the “People” or “Nation” of Israel that emerges in the Hebrew Bible and the culture of the Israelites in relation to that of the Canaanite groups. It goes on to discuss Jewish cultures in the Greco-Roman world, Palestine during the Byzantine period, Babylonia, and Arabia during the formative years of Islam.
 
Part Two, “Diversities of Diaspora,” illuminates Judeo-Arabic culture in the Golden Age of Islam, Sephardic culture as it bloomed first if the Iberian Peninsula and later in Amsterdam, the Jewish-Christian symbiosis in Ashkenazic Europe and in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the culture of the Italian Jews of the Renaissance period, and the many strands of folklore, magic, and material culture that run through diaspora Jewish history.
 
Part Three, “Modern Encounters,” examines communities, ways of life, and both high and fold culture in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, the Ladino Diaspora, North Africa and the Middle East, Ethiopia, Zionist Palestine and the State of Israel, and, finally, the United States.
 
Cultures of the Jews is a landmark, representing the fruits of the present generation of scholars in Jewish studies and offering a new foundation upon which all future research into Jewish history will be based. Its unprecedented interdisciplinary approach will resonate widely among general readers and the scholarly community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and it will change the terms of the never-ending debate over what constitutes Jewish identity.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This landmark collaborative work presents a cultural history of the Jews from 23 perspectives. Positing that there has never been one constant, unchanging Jewish identity, the contributing scholars show how Jews in diverse communities and eras responded to their own traditions and the world around them. From an essay about imagining the birth of ancient Israel to an exploration of American Jewish culture in the 20th century, this volume will resonate in readers' lives.
Publishers Weekly
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) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805241310
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/15/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1232
  • Sales rank: 1,095,503
  • Product dimensions: 7.31 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 2.31 (d)

Meet the Author

David Biale is the Emanuel Ringelblum Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History, Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, and Eros and the Jews. He is also the editor of Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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Table of Contents

List of Contributors
Acknowledgments
Preface: Toward a Cultural History of the Jews
Pt. 1 Mediterranean Origins
Introduction 3
1 Imagining the Birth of Ancient Israel: National Metaphors in the Bible 9
2 Israel Among the Nations: Biblical Culture in the Ancient Near East 43
3 Hellenistic Judaism 77
4 Jewish Culture in Greco-Roman Palestine 135
5 Confronting a Christian Empire: Jewish Culture in the World of Byzantium 181
6 Babylonian Rabbinic Culture 223
7 Jewish Culture in the Formative Period of Islam 267
Pt. 2 Diversities for Diaspora
Introduction 305
1 Merchants and Intellectuals, Rabbis and Poets: Judeo-Arabic Culture in the Golden Age of Islam 313
2 A Letter to a Wayward Teacher: The Transformations of Sephardic Culture in Christian Iberia 389
3 A Jewish-Christian Symbiosis: The Culture of Early Ashkenaz 449
4 Innovative Tradition: Jewish Culture in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 519
5 Families and Their Fortunes: The Jews of Early Modern Italy 573
6 Bom Judesmo: The Western Sephardic Diaspora 639
7 Childbirth and Magic: Jewish Folklore and Material Culture 671
Pt. 3 Modern Encounters
Introduction 725
1 Urban Visibility and Biblical Visions: Jewish Culture in Western and Central Europe in the Modern Age 731
2 A Journey Between Worlds: East European Jewish Culture from the Partitions of Poland to the Holocaust 799
3 The Ottoman Diaspora: The Rise and Fall of Ladino Literary Culture 863
4 Multicultural Visions: The Cultural Tapestry of the Jews of North Africa 887
5 Challenges to Tradition: Jewish Cultures in Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Bukhara 933
6 Religious Interplay on an African Stage: Ethiopian Jews in Christian Ethiopia 977
7 Locus and Language: Hebrew Culture in Israel, 1890-1990 1011
8 The "Other" Israel: Folk Cultures in the Modern State of Israel 1063
9 Declarations of Independence: American Jewish Culture in the Twentieth Century 1099
Conclusion 1147
Index 1151
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