Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illustrated Manuscripts edited by Marc Michael Epstein, the Mattie M. Paschall (1899) and Norman Davis Chair of Religion and Visual Culture at Vassar College, provides the first full survey of Jewish illuminated manuscripts—from hand illustrated versions of the Bible, to beloved Jewish texts, to marriage documents—ranging from their origins in the Middle Ages to the present day. The illustrations are magnificent. As Passover is occurring now through Saturday, Marc Epstein provided us background on a handful of particularly arresting images. More information on Passover can be found here, and you can read chapter one here.
Be among the first to browse and download our new Jewish studies catalog!
Of particular interest is Moshe Halbertal’s Maimonides: Life and Thought. Maimonides was the greatest Jewish philosopher and legal scholar of the medieval period, a towering figure who has had a profound and lasting influence on Jewish law, philosophy, and religious consciousness. This book provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to his life and work, revealing how his philosophical sensibility and outlook informed his interpretation of Jewish tradition.
Also be sure to note Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern’s The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe. The shtetl was home to two-thirds of East Europe’s Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, yet it has long been one of the most neglected and misunderstood chapters of the Jewish experience. This book provides the first grassroots social, economic, and cultural history of the shtetl. Challenging popular misconceptions of the shtetl as an isolated, ramshackle Jewish village stricken by poverty and pogroms, Petrovsky-Shtern argues that, in its heyday from the 1790s to the 1840s, the shtetl was a thriving Jewish community as vibrant as any in Europe.
And don’t miss out on new and forthcoming books in the series Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World and others. Jonathan Marc Gribetz fundamentally recasts our understanding of the modern Jewish-Arab encounter and of the Middle East conflict today in Defining Neighbors: Religion, Race, and the Early Zionist-Arab Encounter and Sidney H. Griffith offers a new frame of reference for the pivotal place of Arabic Bible translations in the religious and cultural interactions between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the ‘People of the Book’ in the Language of Islam.
More of our leading titles in Jewish studies can be found in the catalog. You may also sign up with ease to be notified of forthcoming titles at http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/. (Your e-mail address will remain confidential!)
The Marginalia Review of Books announces the “Lives of Great Religious Books Essay Competition.” We invite essay submissions of up to 3,000 words related to the theme of the reception of religious books, broadly conceived. Those interested should read past essays to ensure their submissions correspond to MRB‘s style. The eminent philosopher Roger Scruton will join the MRB editors to judge the competition. The winner will receive Princeton University Press’s entire Lives of Great Religious Books series, and we will consider all submissions for publication in early 2015.
The competition closes on November 1 and the winner will be announced in January 2015.
For details on how to submit an essay for consideration, please visit The Marginalia Review of Books web site.
About the Lives of Great Religious Books series:
Lives of Great Religious Books is a new series of short volumes that recount the complex and fascinating histories of important religious texts from around the world. Written for general readers by leading authors and experts, these books examine the historical origins of texts from the great religious traditions, and trace how their reception, interpretation, and influence have changed–often radically–over time. As these stories of translation, adaptation, appropriation, and inspiration dramatically remind us, all great religious books are living things whose careers in the world can take the most unexpected turns.
Carlin Romano called the series “innovative,” in his earlier article for The Chronicle of Higher Education and Bruce Elder, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald praised the series as an “inspired publishing idea.”
Many family memories of Passover include delicious shared food experiences. I asked Merry “Corky” White, the reigning expert on Cooking for Crowds, for advice on how to shake up the traditional fare and introduce some new flavors and ideas to the Passover table. Here is her alternative Passover menu.
Forget the brisket–or relegate it to a nice memory of a great aunt who did it well–and choose a Belgian beef stew– Carbonnades Flamandes. Serve with small boiled potatoes.
A second idea, equally good and homey is the Greek Beef Stifatho, made either with beef or with lamb, which has some Sephardic possibilities, in the cinnamon and cumin. Leave out the feta if you are keeping kosher. If rice can be on your menu, serve it with rice: if not, saffron-tinged mashed potatoes with olive oil.
Stuffed Cabbage would be also a nice dish, but use ground beef and substitute 3 Tb olive oil for salt pork in the version for six people.
The best possible dessert for Passover is a flourless hazelnut torte and strawberries. Unfortunately I have no flourless tortes in the book but if it is permissible to use dairy in a meat menu, then Strawberries with Sabayon Sauce will do beautifully. Or the Toasted Almond Parfait, again, if dairy is permitted.
If you try any of these recipes, please leave us a note below. We’d love to hear from you!
Join the Tikvah Center as they welcome Leora Batnitzky for a discussion of the intellectuals who recast Judaism as a modern religion, those that opposed the change, and the legacy of modern Jewish thought today.
Is Judaism a Religion?
Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 5:30pm EST
The Tikvah Center
Reserve your seat: http://tikvahfund.org/events/is-judaism-a-religion/
Nineteenth century political emancipation brought citizenship rights to European Jews. In How Judaism Became a Religion, Leora Batnitzky explores how this new political reality affected Jewish philosophy and the Jewish people. The prospect of secular citizenship challenged Judaism’s premodern integrity, and drove Jewish writers, intellectuals, and rabbis to grapple with how to recast Judaism as a “religion,” emphasizing its private faith over its national call to public practice. The transformation of Judaism as a religion – and reactions to it – is the driving question of modern Jewish thought to this day. What does Judaism gain and lose as a religion? What effects, positive and negative, has this modern transformation yielded? How does conceiving of Judaism as a religion relate to Zionism and the refounding of a Jewish State for the Jewish People?
Leora Batnitzky is the Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies, Professor of Religion, and Chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University.
Moshe Halbertal, Gruss Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, and Noah Feldman, Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School, discuss Halbertal’s new book, Maimonides: Life and Thought.
Prompted by this great meeting overview in Publishers Weekly, I asked our religion editor Fred Appel what his experience was like at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature conference. Here’s how he describes the meeting:
The joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature is one of North America’s biggest academic conferences. Almost 11,000 scholars attended last month’s meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center. The meetings are noted for their diversity. All manner of religion scholars attend, from specialists of the Hebrew Bible and Qur’an, to experts in Zen Buddhism, Christian monasticism and Hinduism, to historians of American religion. The exhibit hall is filled with all sorts of publishers, including many with avowedly religious/confessional commitments. Publishers from the world of scholarly book publishing were also there in force.
Among PUP’s strong sellers at this meeting were recent volumes in the “Lives of Great Religious Books” series, especially Mark Larrimore’s book on Job and John Collins on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also quite popular was The Bible in Arabic, a scholarly book tracing this history of early translations of the Bible in the Arab world by Sidney Griffith of Catholic University. Our two big religion reference books (The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism and A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations) this season also attracted considerable attention, and we had one social science title that performed very well too: Mark Chaves’ American Religion.
Since Hanukkah is officially underway as of Wednesday night, we at the Press would like to say Happy Hanukkah by showing off some of our most interesting books about Jewish culture and history. So take a break from your Black Friday shopping and check out some of these Jewish gems!
Author Ruth R. Wisse will be making several appearances in the next couple of months to discuss her new book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that have called Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.
The next two events will be held in November, the first being November 20th at 7:00 PM at the APJCC Auditorium in Silicon Valley. To learn more about the event, click here.
The second event will be held at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on November 21st at 7:00 PM. To learn more about the event, click here.
For both events, Wisse will discuss “No Joke: Making Jewish Humor,” her book about the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity. Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. She is the author of The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Language and Culture, which won a National Jewish Book Award. Her other books include Jews and Power (Schocken) and The Schlemiel as Modern Hero.
Aftermath, a Polish film based on the historical book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross, was recently released in limited showing in the United States, including New York City and Los Angeles (with Boston, Chicago and more to come shortly).
The official website for the film can be found here on Menemsha Films’ website, which includes a short synopsis, a trailer, photos from the film, and reviews. It also has links to locations and showtimes for the film in the United States.
The film was reviewed by The New York Times, which can be found here.
This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.
Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne’s Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne’s surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.
Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne’s Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, Neighbors tells us why.
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.
Daniel B. Schwartz is assistant professor of history at George Washington University.