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Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (The Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies) Paperback – April 1, 1996


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Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (The Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies) + A Short History of the Jews + Two Types of Faith: A Study of the Interpenetration of Judaism and Christianity (Martin Buber Library)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mr. Yerushalmi’s previous writings, on the Spanish and Portuguese Jews . . . established him as one of the Jewish community’s most important historians. His latest book should establish him as one of its most important critics. Zakhor is historical thinking of a very high order —- mature speculation based on massive scholarship."—New York Times Book Review

"Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi is an exemplary Jewish historian of the Jews, and with Zakhor he becomes an exemplary theorist of the troubling and possibly irreconcilable split between Jewish memory and Jewish historiography. . . [Zakhor] may well be a permanent contribution to Jewish speculation upon the dilemmas of Jewishness, and so it may join the canon of Jewish wisdom literature."—New York Review of Books

"A remarkable book that discusses the millennial tension between the age-old Jewish commandment - and tradition - of remembrance and the relatively new Jewish interest in history."—American Historical Review

Review

"A brilliant and fundamentally new appraisal of collective Jewish historical memory. . . . It opens up new horizons of thinking in a style that is beautiful and a scholarship that is overwhelming."—Gerson D. Cohen, former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
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Product Details

  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; Reissue edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295975199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295975191
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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I conclude with one small piece of Yerushalmi 's writing.
Shalom Freedman
That being said, one might assume that Jews and Judaism naturally place a great emphasis on the history of the Jewish people.
Ultimate Language Store
This is an essential book to anyone interested in Jewish History.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a classic in the field of Jewish studies. The author maintains that "Only in Israel and nowhere else is the injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people." What follows is a brilliant discussion of the meaning and selectivity of memory in Jewish religious tradition. Yerushalmi then shows how secularization radically transformed the meaning of memory and history for Jews. Writing of the rise of Jewish historiography in early 19th century Germany, he notes: "For the first time it is not history that must prove its utility to Judaism, but Judaism that must prove its validity to history, by revealing and justifying itself historically."
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Ultimate Language Store on July 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
A great many Jewish holidays and practices in their earliest understanding reflect the great innovation of Biblical religion which placed the emphasis on "historic events" in contrast to other ancient Near Eastern religions which stressed nature. As Abraham Joshua Heschel noted, faith is memory. The observances of Jewish holidays and of various Jewish practices ritually articulate theological ideas reflective of a collective Jewish memory.

That being said, one might assume that Jews and Judaism naturally place a great emphasis on the history of the Jewish people. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi in his work Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, however, argues that what has been understood as history in Jewish circles from the Biblical era until fairly recent times is considerably different that what the modern reader might expect in light of the importance of and emphasis placed on memory. Until recently as Yerushalmi notes, a general lack of interest in historical events that were disconnected to the theological concerns of the Jewish community existed, so much so that an interest in history was as Solomon Ibn Verga writing in the Middles Ages, seen as a "Christian" custom.

The seeming disconnect between memory, history, and histiography according to Yerushalmi is surprising given the fact that beginning with the Tanakh, an emphasis, or better said a command to remember is given. For Yerushalmi, the principal goal of Zakhor is to understand the relationship of Jews to their past and the place of the historian in that relationship. What Jews remembered, or chose to remember is the subject of Yerushalmi's quest.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
This work has four major chapters each of which deals with a certain period of Jewish history, and its approach to Jewish Memory. In the first chapter Yerushalmi explores the Biblical and Rabbinic Foundations for writing history, and remembering it. This is the stage when the process of remembering is connected with the recording of, and participation in history.

In the second phase, the Middle Ages Yerushalmi outlines the major division which dominates the work, between processes of collective memorization through ritual and religious practice which are not connected with everyday historical happening- and between the writing of history which is connected with historical happening. Yerushalmi says that from the time of the fall of the Second Temple and most especially in this period of the Middle Ages, the Jews remember without remembering historical events. The 'collective Zakhor' or command to collective remembrance ( which he says distinguishes the Jewish Religion) is done without writing the history of the people. The history of the people is avoided. The writing of history is considered by Rambam a low form of intellectual endeavor. The process of collective remembering is done through the living of the Jewish holidays each of which connects up with some historical memory. It is done through Memorbuchs of communities which have suffered in the Crusades.

In the third period which comes immediately after the expulsion from Spain i.e. in the beginning of the sixteenth century there is somehow a return to looking at the actual events of contemporary history but this by framing them in world- historical narratives.

The last period Yerushalmi writes about is the modern one in which there is a return to attending to the events of Jewish history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Avi Ezer on May 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the 30 years since Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi published his poignant and profound insight into the tension between history and sacred memory, it's hard to think of a more influential work by a Jewish historian. Or of one which so readily merits a re-reading by those who remember the impact it first made. As for those who aren't familiar with it, give yourself an intellectual treat-- a short study but one which --no pun intended-- you won't forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on March 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
Instead of repeating other reviewers, I primarily focus on other details.

The author identifies himself as a professional historian. (p. 81). He alludes to the J, or Yahwist, writer (p. xxv), which implies that he accepts the JEPD hypothesis and its rejection of the historicity and the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. On the other hand, he takes a middle view of the Bible between that of it being "factual" in the modern sense or "fictional" in the modern sense. (p. 13). He stresses the fact that later Bible authors did not rewrite earlier portions of the Bible to fit the realities of the more recent epochs. (p. 13).

In medieval Jewish thinking, Christianity became Esau, and Islam became Ishmael. (p. 36). The author touches on the form of Jewish martyrdom during the 1st Crusade, "Confronted with the intolerable--the gruesome scenes of Jewish mass suicide in the Rhineland, which which, by mutual consent, compassionate fathers took the slaughterer's knife to their children and wives and then to themselves rather than accept baptism--the chronicles of the Crusades turn repeatedly to the image of Abraham, ready to slaughter Isaac at Mount Moriah." (p. 38). For more on this martyrdom, please click on Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and read the detailed Peczkis review.

Yerushalmi occasionally mentions the Talmud. He cites the tractate NIDDAH, which mentions the fetus in the womb knowing the entire Torah, only to lose this knowledge at the moment of birth owing to the actions of an angel. The child is thus forced to learn the Torah anew while growing up. (p. 108). [How does this square with Jews being among the strongest champions of abortion rights, which, of course, implicitly or explicitly reject any humanity of the fetus?]
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Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (The Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies)
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