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Cultures of the Jews: A New History Hardcover – October 15, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0805241310 ISBN-10: 0805241310 Edition: First Edition

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Cultures of the Jews: A New History + A Short History of the Jewish People: From Legendary Times to Modern Statehood
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1196 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; First Edition edition (October 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805241310
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805241310
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 2.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This monumental work comprises essays by 23 scholars, including editor Biale, who also has written a preface and an introduction to each of the book's three sections: Mediterranean Origins, Diversities of Diaspora, and Modern Encounters. Writers from many fields--archaeology, art history, ancient Near Eastern studies, cultural history, literary studies, and folklore--address the question of Jewish identity throughout history. In his conclusion, Biale writes that "The great crises of this age are not the destruction of the Temple but the Holocaust that eradicated the cultures of Jewish Europe and, more broadly, the cultural pluralism ushered in by modernity." The extensive range of concepts and insights raised here cannot be examined in a brief review; suffice it to say that the book is truly one of the most important works on the subject ever published. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Yehezkel Dror on December 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are few more complex and also baffling subjects than the nature of the Jewish People and Judaism as a fusion between a civilization and a community/people/nation. Even more enigmatic is the survival and frequent thriving of Judaism during more than three thousand years of continuous pluralistic existance under a great variety of radically different conditions and in very different political and cultural environments.
This collection by David Biale is an outstanding introduction and profile of this historic riddle, presenting in clear but scholarly sound narratives an overview of the dynamics of Jewish cultures (note the plural) with their shared cores and diverse envelopes. Further such books by Biale are to be eagerly expected, hopefully together with a comprehensive theoretic treatment providing deep understanding of the past and supplying a basis for predicting and trying to weave the future.
This book is strongly recommended to scholars and intellectuals concerned with the history and nature of the Jewish People and to decision makers and policy planners trying to assure its thriving together with contributions to changing global cultures in the future. This book is also essential reading for students of the dynamics of cultures.
Professor Yehezkel Dror. Founding President, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (established by the Jewish Agency of Israel) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have not read this entire work as yet but I am working on it. The essays offer more than enough detail for the nonscholarly reader to enjoy and learn without being overwhelmed. The writing is clear and well organized. For me, it is a treasure chest of information and insights about the history and social life of the Jewish people.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By I. W. Gittleman on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is particularly recommended for the unique subjects being discussed, as well as the 'non-continuity' of each chapter's material.

By this, I mean each chapter=subject does not relate to any previous or subsequent chapter.

This gives one the opportunity to choose whatever subjects interests him/her -- particularly to the non-Jew who seeks only information of select subjects.

The quality of the material is excellent and readable. I have an extensive 'Jewish' library; but have seen no book covering many of its 'unexpected' and most interesting subjects.

A 'must' purchase'; I have seen no book like it.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In surveying the overall history of the Jewish people one should have some sense of its overall direction and meaning. One should too give the reader a real sense of the transformations through various periods. One should also have a sense of the centrality of Israel, and the significance of the Jewish return to sovereignty.
This collection is lacking all these elements. While it contains many fine individual essays as an overall work it just does not hang together. Previous collections of essays on Jewish history as a whole, one thinks of the great Ben- Sassoon anthology are far superior to this one.
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