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Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady: The Origins of Chabad Hasidism (The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry)
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady: The Origins of Chabad Hasidism (The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry)
by I. Etkes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $45.00
25 used & new from $36.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful & brilliant biography of the founder of the Chabad movement, July 21, 2016
A recent Amazon search on Hasidic tales returned 231 books. These tales of righteous Hasidic leaders are meant to make a point, tell a story, inspire the listener, and much more. A problem is that some of these stories are conflicting and self-contradictory. When used as a biographical vehicle, these stories are often more hagiography than biography.

In Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady: The Origins of Chabad Hasidism (Brandeis University Press, ISBN 1611686776), author Immanuel Etkes, Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, has written a masterful and brilliant biography of the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement.

The 9 chapters focus on R’ Shneur Zalman’s adult life, with the narrative starting from his ascent as a Hasidic leader, ending with his death fleeing with the Russian Army from Napoleon:
1. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady’s Rise to Leadership
2. A Leader of Hasidim
3. Between Center and Periphery
4. Sefer Shel Beinonim: The Book of Average Men
5. On the Front Line against the Mitnagdim: Excommunications and Prohibitions
6. At the Front versus the Mitnagdim: The First Imprisonment
7. At the Front against the Mitnagdim: The Second Arrest
8. Zaddikim as Human Beings: The Conflict with Rabbi Abraham of Kalisk
9. Between Napoleon and Alexander

What makes this biography unique is that Etkes uses documents written by R’ Shneur Zalman’s himself. This is in addition to other historical documents and letters related to him. Etkes is able to create a critical analysis, yet not lose focus of the human element.

A man of legendary talents and one of the greatest Jewish minds of the last few hundred years, R’ Shneur Zalman’s genius was matched by his leadership and organizational skills. This led to Chabad becoming the largest Hasidic group in Eastern Europe at the time.

With these documents, Etkes is able to create an insightful biography, more of an empirical tale of a legendary rabbi, than simply a fanciful Hasidic tale. These letters have rich and detailed information, and in the hands of a scholar like Etkes, are an invaluable tool. Ironic as it is, Etkes’ conclusion and that of the storytellers are the same.

The book details the struggles the nascent Hasidic movement faced. This was initially via protests from the opponents of Hasidism, known as Misnagdim. Once the Hasidic movement solidified, it found itself in a sort of identity crisis on how the movement should grow and continue.

Etkes writes that contrary to common belief, the early Hasidic leaders didn’t address the masses. Their intended audience were men with knowledge of rabbinic literature, especially those who attended yeshivas.

The challenge of the leaders were to find a way to transmit their message to the less educated masses. This was a special challenge for R’ Shneur Zalman, given that Tanya, his magnum opus, contained significant amounts of kabalistic thought.

Chapter 4 is the densest and most difficult chapter in the book, not coincidently that it is about Tanya. To that, R’ Shneur Zalman was opposed by a number of his colleagues who felt that Tanya simply provided too much kabalistic information to the masses, who simply could not comprehend the profundities of the topic. But R’ Shneur Zalman was convinced that the basic ideas of Kabbalah were a vital foundation for a Jewish person’s service of God. He also assumed that not all of the members of his community could master the book easily, to which he established groups for the study of Tanya.

Chapter 5-7 detail R’ Shneur Zalman’s dealings with the Misnagdim, the group opposed to the movement, who banned and persecuted them. This conflict with the Misnagdim landed him in Russian jails on two occasions, being accused of spying and misuse of public funds. He was interrogated numerous times in jail, and Etkes uses Russian transcripts to provide an insights into what transpired.

It should be noted that Tanya, which was published in 1797, was the first Hasidic work that offered a detailed and comprehensive set of instructions in the ways of worshipping God. The book, unique in its day, served as a comprehensive and detailed guide to many Hasidim, not just those of Chabad.

R’ Shneur Zalman wrote a letter to a Rabbi Moshe Meizeles while fleeing from the French army explaining his opposition to Napoleon. This illustrious letter is legendary within the Chabad movement. Etkes attempts to prove that the letter was not written R’ Shneur Zalman, but leave it as a question who the actual author was.

This is an English translation of the original Hebrew version published in 2011. The English version is missing, for reasons not made clear, a number of chapters. Chapter 5 of the Hebrew edition is devoted to a discussion of R’ Shneur Zalman’s view of the relation between mysticism and the normative patterns of the service of God. A topic of such importance would have been a valuable part of this book.

Etkes has written a remarkable work that gives the reader a vivid presentation of the times, and understanding of this extraordinary man. He closes the book with the observation that R’ Shneur Zalman’s influence continues to this very day primarily from his Hasidic ethos that he created and shared, an ethos embodied in this writings and in the living tradition that have come down among his Hasidim from generation to generation.


Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government
Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government
by William D. Eggers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.71
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Details a number of government IT success stories, July 18, 2016
The debacle of the Healthcare.gov launch as expected in 2013 is one the biggest public IT failures in history. There have been hundreds of articles written on the myriad reasons for the failure.

In Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government (RosettaBooks 0795347510), author William Eggers showcases the other side of the story, the many cases where government IT projects were successfully rolled out.

Eggers does also chime in on his views why Obamacare site failed so miserably, and what lead to its catastrophic roll-out. He uses that to contrast other, smaller project that were able to be successfully rolled-out.

Eggers is a big fan of open source and cloud computing, and many of the success stories in the book on centered around agencies that successfully used these technologies.

The book details the high-level methods government agencies can use to jump start new project.

Many of the success stories the book chronicles are smaller, more discrete applications that are easier to modify. Legacy systems such as those from the IRS are inificnitely more complicated and don’t lend themselves to such easy retrofitting.

A recurring theme Eggers makes is that there is no shortage of technical capabilities that is hindering government agencies, rather it is the culture that is often highly resistant to any sort of change.

At about 250 pages, the book is a very high-level overview to the topic. Eggers does not get into low-level details about systems design or implementation. Such a detailed technical guide would easily be over 2,000 pages long for any moderately complex government system.

For those in the government sector looking for that high-level guide to digital transformation, Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies That Are Transforming Government is a handy guide to help them get started on their journey.


Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds
Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds
by Greg Milner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.37
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent big picture overview of GPS and its implications, July 5, 2016
It’s a rare technology that becomes so pervasive and ubiquitous that for many people it becomes a necessary entity. Over the last decade, GPS is one of those technologies.

In Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds, author Greg Milner has written a highly engaging and fascinating book on the story of GPS.

More than just an embellishment of a Wikipedia entry on the topic; the book covers a wide variety of fascinating subjects connected to GPS. Matters from Polynesian navigation, precision agriculture, seismology all the way to meteorology and much more are detailed as to how they relate to navigation and GPS.

Chapter 5 is particularly interesting where Milner details the new phenomenon known as death by GPS. This is where GPS users lose cognitive ability, become disengaged from the road, and end up crashing or losing their way; ending in death. With all of the benefits that GPS affords, its meteoric rise into use means that we are now just beginning to take stock of how GPS can affect the cognitive map of people.

Milner writes that a study at Cornell University looked at the effect GPS use had on drivers and reached the conclusion that GPS has eliminated much of the need to pay attention. Sadly, that disengagement can result in tragic consequences.

Rather than just focusing on the satellites and underlying technology that makes GPS work, Milner goes behind the scenes and details the people and organizations that created GPS. While the benefits of GPS are astounding and revolutionary, Milner writes that it was not always such an easy sell. The creators of GPS had to deal with military and government bureaucracies, in which the GPS project came close to being cancelled on many occasions.

The only quibble I have with the book is that on a number of occasions, Milner uses acronyms without defining what they mean.

While most people use GPS via their smartphones or portable GPS devices, it’s also embedded in many areas and technologies that deal with nearly every aspect of daily living. In Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds, Greg Milner has written an interesting book about one of the most important technologies of recent times.


Eilu V'eilu: Halachic Insights & Responsa
Eilu V'eilu: Halachic Insights & Responsa
by Rabbi Ari N. Enkin
Edition: Hardcover
4 used & new from $24.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read on a large range of contemporary halachic topics, June 27, 2016
In Eilu V'eilu: Halachic Insights & Responsa author Rabbi Ari Enkin has written an engaging work that will awaken the reader, who’ll find that time goes by quite quickly reading this interesting work. This is a collection of over 100 brief chapters dealing with contemporary halachic issues and some of their potential solutions.

Each well-research chapter is short at about 2-3 pages, and contains interesting and topical contents. The topics can also be used as a launching pad for a deeper discussion.

Some of the many topics in this interesting book include: Shabbat: Solar Heating & the dud shemesh, buried next to which spouse?, dreams , bankruptcy, emergency halachic measures: Es la’asos l’hashem, cruelty to animals in refereeing to foie gras & veal, contradictions in the Shulchan Aruch and more.

Enkin writes in the preface that his vision for a book on halacha is that it could be enjoyed by a scholar and layman.

The title is based on the Talmudic observation that there were many disputes between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel; concluding with the observation that eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim chayyim - these and these are the words of the Living God. With that, the book provides various ways to look at each topic within the lens of traditional Jewish sources.

I found the most intriguing chapter to be: Foolish Piety: Chassid Shoteh. Chassid shoteh is the Talmudic term describing someone who is foolish in their supposed acts of piety. Enkin provides a modern-day example in the growing number of individuals who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated, even though doctors have unequivocally shown that they are safe. These modern day pious fools claim God will protect them if they get sick due to lack of inoculations.

Enkin astutely notes that a wise person will thoughtfully balance their observance and piety avoiding any semblance of being a chassid shoteh. It’s also worth noting that expert in Jewish medical ethics Rabbi J. David Bleich stated that the most dangerous part of getting vaccinated is the automobile ride to the doctor's office.

Another contemporary issue Enkin addresses is if a ba’al teshuva, convert or woman can be a Rabbi. Enkin explains that the underlying issue is due to serara, which teaches that these people are disqualified from holding positions of authority. A different question the book doesn’t address is if they can be a shul president; to that, there are different opinions.

The book is heavily footnoted with its sources. For anyone looking for a quick d’var Torah, or perhaps something to say at a sheva brachos or Shabbos table, the book is a great resource to save the day.

Those looking for an interesting read on a large range of contemporary topics will find Eilu V'eilu: Halachic Insights & Responsa a fascinating and engaging book.


The War on Leakers: National Security and American Democracy, from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden
The War on Leakers: National Security and American Democracy, from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden
by Lloyd C. Gardner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.11
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important work on the need for whistleblowers in society, and government oppression of leakers., June 22, 2016
When it comes to Edward Snowden, the question has often been posed as: is he a patriot or a traitor? In The War on Leakers: National Security and American Democracy, from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden , author Lloyd Gardner, professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University, has written a fascinating work showing that the question of leakers and whistleblowers is rarely so binary or simple.

The topic is so volatile that while in the days that followed Snowden’s revelation in 2013, many politicians called for his head. But just last month, former US Attorney General Eric Holder said Snowden performed a public service by triggering a debate over surveillance techniques.

The experienced writer that he is, Lloyd Gardner has written an engaging book that gives the reader an overview of the topic without the histrionics that usually go along with it.

Much of the book is centered on the Espionage Act of 1917, a US federal law passed just after the start of World War I. It was intended to stop interference with military operations or recruitment, prevent military insubordination, and to prevent the support of US enemies during wartime. In the century since it’s passing, it has rarely been used. But as Gardner explains in great detail, that all changed when Obama came to town.

President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise of creating a transparent administration. Yet the nearly 8 years he’s been in office has shown that he’s been one of the most secretive presidents ever. And in using the Espionage Act, Gardner writes how he’s been the most punitive President to leakers and whistleblowers. Obama also holds the distinction of using the act more times than any other president.

Perhaps the ultimate sacrilege is that not only has the Obama administration been hostile to whistleblowers, in initially not releasing the full Omar Mateen 911 call transcripts; it was actually calling more attention to the very enemies the country faces.

National security is something that needs to be taken very seriously. While leakers and whistleblowers can seriously undermine American interests and security, there’s indeed a time and place for such people. Gardner has written a fantastic book that balances that very fine line between national security and abuse of power, and the ensuing need for whistleblowers to come forward.

The author takes a fair and balanced approach to the topic. He’s rational enough to know that there are many national security secrets that forever (or almost) need to be kept confidential; yet takes the government to task where its war on leakers goes beyond the pale.

The book offers no easy answers in which the Snowden story plays a large part. While the NSA has long countered that they would have taken Snowden’s allegations seriously had he submitted them through proper channels; that notion has been shown to be absurd. Snowden’s leaks showed the NSA, CIA and other agencies trampled over the constitutional rights of American’s. To think that they would have stopped hundreds of programs (and tens of billions of dollars in active projects) due to the protests of a single Booz Allen consultant is both ludicrous and an assault on intellectual honesty.

Gardner writes of numerous cases where legitimate whistleblowers were hounded and prosecuted by the government. From union leader Eugene Debs during World War I, to current times regarding CIA analyst John Kiriakou who shared information about CIA waterboarding of Al Qaeda prisoners, New York Times author James Risen, to NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake.

The book notes that while the Espionage Act has specific places it’s meant to operate it, the government has repeatedly used it in a manner in which it was not intended. Rather than focus on those attempting to attack the US, the government made the legitimate leakers the enemy.

Part of the issue is that the government is often handcuffed by the First Amendment; the Espionage Act places the burden of evidence on the whistleblower, and not on the information they are sharing. The very writing of the Act was meant to give the government a tool to stifle the whistleblower, where the Constitution could not.

An interesting point the book makes is that while Obama campaigned against George W. Bush and his policies; in many instances, Obama had sped up many of the spying programs Bush initiated.

Gardner closes the book with the observation that there is a distinction between citizens, who have rights and privileges protected by the state, and subjects, who are under the complete control and authority of the state. There is a fine line between the two. What made America great is treating the public as citizens. But if that line is not preserved, we can quickly revert to the pre-1776 days as subjects of the government.

The debate will forever rage about how to balance national security and privacy against legitimate dissent. For those looking to truly understand the issue; The War on Leakers: National Security and American Democracy, from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden, is a most important book every American should read.


How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet (Information Policy)
How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet (Information Policy)
by Benjamin Peters
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $34.88
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of when the Americans behaved more like socialists & the Soviets behaved more like capitalists, June 14, 2016
There are often questions or ideas that when you first hear them, you ask yourself: why didn’t I think of that? In How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet , author Benjamin Peters (Professor, Department of Communication at the University of Tulsa) asks the simple question: why didn’t the Soviet Union create something akin to the Internet before the US did?

This is the same Soviet Union that beat the US in the cold war space race. So why didn’t they do that when it came to interconnected networks?

Peters writes that the Soviets did try to create an interconnected network, but were never able to get it right. The Soviets had no shortage of brilliant scientists that could have gotten them to that goal. So it was clearly not lack of brainpower that stymied the Soviets.

The book begins with a somewhat dry overview of the global history of cybernetics and how it was used by the Soviets. Peters than gets into the intricacies of the mindset of the communist party and how it was what largely precluded the development of any sort of interconnected network.

Victor Glushkov, one of the leading Soviet cybernetic scientists plays a large role in the book. He created what was known as the All-State Automated System (OGAS in Russian) which could have led to an autonomous ARPANET-like network in Russia if deployed. In fact, Glushkov proposed the idea of OGAS in 1962, years before ARPANET went live in 1969.

Peters is of the opinion that while the Soviets had the raw brainpower to create an early ARPANET-like network, the failure to execute on that was due to entrenched bureaucratic corruption which was systemic in Communist Russia, in addition to conflicts of interest within the Soviet system.

While the Americans saw ARPANET as a way to share information and knowledge, Soviet bureaucrats thought such a network would undermine communism and threaten their control of the Soviet economy.

ARPANET was developed due to the collaboration of its developers in addition to grants from the National Science Foundation. Peters writes that ironically, the Americans that created ARPANET behaved more like socialists, while the Soviet scientists behaved more like capitalists.

Peters has written the definitive narrative on the topic. For those looking to understand the Communist mindset in an information technology perspective, How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet is an interesting read.


Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side
Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side
by Jonathan Boyarin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $70.80
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anthropologist on the Lower East Side of Manhattan looks at a synagogue in transition, June 6, 2016
Too many recent books thrive on scandal or outrageous behavior. The public has an almost insatiable desire for such salacious stories. Those looking for such scandalous stories won’t find it in Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side.

In this enjoyable and insightful book, anthropologist and ethnographer Jonathan Boyarin, Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at Cornell University, writes of his experiences at the Stanton Street Shul, a historic Jewish congregation in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. While the Lower East side was once teaming with hundreds of thousands of Jews filling hundreds of synagogues; one of the problems Boyarin details is the dilemma of finding the requisite 10 men for the daily prayer services at the synagogue.

As an ethnographer, Boyarin’s goal is to understand the people and culture of the synagogue and neighborhood. The summer of 2008 in which he wrote about was a transition year for the synagogue as its Rabbi was retiring and the membership had to find someone who could rejuvenate its diminishing and mainly elderly membership.

Part of the transition of the Lower East Side that Boyarin describes is that while it once was the starting point for millions of Jewish and other immigrants and a place many tried to escape from. In recent years, the neighborhood has turned into a hot area for hipsters. Boyarin writes how one of the congregants described the synagogue as where “hip meets hip replacement”.

Boyarin notes that there are myriad book about old Jews; but his goal was to write about the new post-modern Jew in American society. In the 12 chapters of the books, he chronicles what he wrote in his journal during those 12 weeks. While Boyarin and his wife have lived in the neighborhood for decades; the book details those 12 weeks of the summer of 2008.

Through the book, one gets to meet the many congregants, with their diverse personalities that make the synagogue a special place. Some young, many old, and each bringing their unique touch and diversity to make the synagogue the brilliant mosaic that it is.

If a word describes this book, it’s subtle. Boyarin shares his subtle observations of the synagogue, community and other overall Jewish scene in New York City. The book has no plot per se, rather it’s simply Boyarin observing and ruminating. Also subtle in the sense that as an ethnographer, Boyarin is able to focus on seemingly innocuous statements, and focus on their deeper relevance and significance. Be it a comment, how a person vocalized a specific blessing, and much more; he is able to pick up on these nuances and detail their underlying meanings.

There are many Jewish communities Bayarin could have studied; but he writes that he chose his Lower East Side neighborhood due to its attitude of inclusiveness towards all different types of Jews.

It’s clear that Boyarin enjoys being part of this special synagogue; as he takes the reader down to the Lower East Side and invites you to reminisce on his interesting trip with him. This is a fascinating tale of a neighborhood in transition and rejuvenation, and Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side is a most pleasurable read.


Chosen?: Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Chosen?: Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
by Walter Brueggemann
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.54
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More of a diatribe than a scholarly analysis, June 1, 2016
In Chosen?: Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, author Dr. Walter Brueggemann has written a book aimed at Christians (of which this reviewer is not) who may have issues dealing with the modern state of Israel, and reconciling it with certain Biblical passages.

Since it weighs in at fewer than 100 pages, I didn’t expect Brueggemann to be able to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict has vexed the world, and every US Presidential administration over the last 50-odd years. But I was hoping at the very least that he would provide some pragmatic ideas, based on Biblical texts, on how to better understand this conflict. Perhaps he would even provide novel solutions to this seemingly intractable problem. Unfortunately, he doesn’t provide anything of the sort.

The questions the book attempts to answer are:
1. Are modern Israeli citizens the descendants of the ancient-Israel of the Bible whom God called “Chosen”?
2. Was the promise of land to Moses permanent and irrevocable?
3. What about others living in the Promised Land?
4. How should we read the Bible in light of the contemporary situation?
5. Who are the Zionists, and what are their beliefs?

Brueggemann should be commended on asking good, pointed questions. However, I didn’t find any of his answers satisfying.

As to the first question, aside from Israeli-Arabs and others from scores of foreign countries that have obtained Israeli citizenship, most Jews are indeed descendants of ancient Israel. By this I mean those that left Egypt, received the word of God at Mount Sinai, and forty years later entered their homeland. I believe that this is clear based on an objective view of history. Only by ignoring the historical and biblical record can Brueggemann believe that there’s no link between ancient Israel and modern Israel. Thusly, the book is an attempt to delegitimize the modern State of Israel.

Brueggemann thinks the most pressing issue of our time is the Israel/Palestinian conflict. It’s his book and he is able to structure the questions as he likes. While Brueggemann may want to create a linkage between Israel’s chosenness and the Palestinian situation, that idea is his alone.

Brueggemann asks what “Zionism” is, and goes on to provide a most narrow definition. His definition goes along with his thesis. It must be pointed out that there are many strands of Zionism, and it’s particularly troubling that the book doesn’t acknowledge this fact.

Brueggemann doesn’t admit, or isn’t aware, that there are many Zionists and leading Zionist rabbis that have long been in favor of land-for-peace swaps. These scholars include Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), a major American Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist and modern Jewish philosopher and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), the most prominent Sephardic chief rabbi of the last half-century, and longtime spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-orthodox Shas party.

Brueggemann writes that Israel’s dealing with the Palestinians is now the issue of our time. He feels that Israel violates its chosenness if they don’t treat the Palestinians with more compassion. This is seemingly a random and arbitrary selection, as Brueggemann offers no biblical prooftext, theological basis or rationale as to how the issue of Palestine somehow affects Judaism’s claim of chosenness.

In addition, this is just one of a number of flaws in Brueggemann’s logic. One side, he denies any connection of contemporary Israel to ancient Israel, yet on the other side he expects Israel to act as a chosen people to the Palestinians.

Numerous times Brueggemann uses vague and often sweeping terms such as “Palestinian suffering,” as if Israel was responsible for all the sufferings of the Palestinian people. There are certainly many Palestinians suffering, but how much of that is Israel’s fault is highly debatable. Yet Brueggemann seems to think it is all Israel’s fault. Brueggemann doesn’t seem to realize there are many Palestinians living very normal lives in Israel, some very opulent. In addition, Brueggemann, like too many others, never mentions the forgotten Palestinian refugees of Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

The book does make some interesting points, but the author’s use of hyperbolic terms such as “Israel’s total violation of the civil rights and human rights of Palestinians,” “Israeli government having no interest in a peace agreement,” “no realistic hope for any two-state solution,” and “Israel never intends to allow a viable Palestinian state,” are all factually and historically incorrect, along with being intellectually dishonest.

The author feels that given the Palestinian issue, it’s time to reevaluate Israel as God’s chosen people. Why this is the case is something that he never articulates nor provides any basis for. While he offers no proof for this notion, he gets many facts wrong. Brueggemann writes how Israeli settlements are the obstacle to peace. Yet between 1948-1967, when there were no settlements, peace was far from close.

Brueggemann writes of Zionist recalcitrance in returning the West Bank. Yet days after the Six Day War, many Israeli leaders wanted to enter into negotiations and return the entire West Bank. The Arab League response was via the Khartoum Resolution of September 1967, with its famous three no’s: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.

Just last week, President Clinton said in this video that he had negotiated a deal where the Palestinians would have gotten all of Gaza, 96% of the West Bank, and compensating land in Israel for the other 4%. Israel was giving the Palestinians the land back, yet they turned this down. Rather than being uncooperative, Israel made a legitimate and equitable offer to the Palestinians. And this is above and beyond offers of Palestinian statehood to Palestinian National Authority Presidents Arafat in 2000 and Abbas in 2008.

Another factual error: while the Israel/Palestinian conflict is a problem; he feels that as long as it remains unaddressed, it will add to regional destabilization. Yet there is no evidence that unrest in the Middle East is due to the Israel/Palestinian conflict. The problems in Iraq, Syria, the rise of ISIS, Arab Spring, and more have nothing to do with conflict.

Brueggemann repeatedly takes Israel to task given its military power. He writes that there is a difference (without explaining in detail what that difference is) between a covenantal people and a state that relies on military power without reference to covenantal restraints. This is yet another significant factual mistake.

From a covenantal perspective, Maimonides, perhaps the greatest medieval Jewish scholar detailed the necessary legal requirements in his code of Jewish law. Moshe Halbertal (professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and visiting professor at Harvard Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School and Yale Law School) is not only a Maimonidean scholar, but also the co-authors of the Israeli army's code of ethics.

The truth is that not only is there no contradiction between being a covenantal people with adequate military power; Israel’s annihilation by its neighbors has only been prevented by having an adequate military presence. Perhaps a testament to Israel’s chosenness is that it is the only country being allowed to modify the US-made F-35 advanced stealth fighter.

Dr. Brueggemann certainly knows the importance of effective military might with the story in the book of Samuel where David killed Goliath. It’s certainly no coincidence that Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is working with American defense contractor Raytheon to develop David's Sling. This is a system designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles.

Every book has mistakes; but I haven’t seen any scholar make so many errors in so few pages as Dr. Brueggemann has.

The five questions Brueggemann asks are legitimate, but the core part of the book ends at page 53, where they are never fully developed or answered.

Until seeing this book, I had never heard of Brueggemann. According to Wikipedia, he is known as one of the most influential Protestant Old Testament scholars of the last several decades. At age 83, this book certainly is a stain on his legacy.

But the real danger of the book is that many readers will assume that since Brueggemann is a biblical scholar of note, this book must be fairly accurate.

Brueggemann said he wrote this book with a very strong bias. To that, I’m in complete agreement with him.


Privacy on the Ground: Driving Corporate Behavior in the United States and Europe (Information Policy)
Privacy on the Ground: Driving Corporate Behavior in the United States and Europe (Information Policy)
by Kenneth A. Bamberger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $32.68
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent survey of global privacy best practices, May 23, 2016
Many countries take the approach that the best ways to solve problems are via regulations. In some cases, that will work. In others, these regulations are simply a penalty that everyone must bear; think TSA. When it comes to information security and privacy laws and regulations, often those perpetrating the crimes are impervious to any or regulation.

In Privacy on the Ground: Driving Corporate Behavior in the United States and Europe, authors Kenneth Bamberger and Deirdre Mulligan have written a well-researched and compelling study on global privacy practices. In it, they’ve interviewed numerous chief privacy officers (CPO), regulators, engineers and others in the United States, France, Germany, UK and Spain. If you know a CPO, this book should be on their wish list.

Much of the book is spent comparing and contrasting how privacy is done in each of these countries. In addition, the authors show what best practices, regulations, and laws can be most effective.

Data and personal privacy have long been important. With that rise of big data and its ensuing analytics, combined with IoT gathering key pieces of personal data; privacy in 2016 is an imperative.

The goal of the authors with these interviews was to understand what privacy professionals did right and wrong, and create a set of best practices that the reader can implement.

Bamberger is a professor at the Berkeley School of Law, while Mulligan is an associate professor in the School of Information and a co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, and as such, the book has a bit of an academic feel.

A key point the book makes is that at the corporate level, privacy isn’t something that can be the responsibility of a single department or individual. The nature of privacy is such that for it to be taken seriously and the underlying data secured; it needs to be embedded into an organizations DNA, and fully integrated into all applications and technologies.

There are a lot of ways to do privacy wrong, which unfortunately too many countries and enterprises do. For those concerned about personal privacy, and how to ensure effective privacy principles are implemented, Privacy on the Ground: Driving Corporate Behavior in the United States and Europe will help get them there.


Jewish Radical Ultra-Orthodoxy Confronts Modernity, Zionism and Women's Equality
Jewish Radical Ultra-Orthodoxy Confronts Modernity, Zionism and Women's Equality
by Motti Inbari
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $99.99
34 used & new from $69.10

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides superb context to the worldview of the Neturei Karta, Satmar & other groups., May 10, 2016
Motti Inbari is an associate professor of religion at the University of North Carolina with a fascinating new book: Jewish Radical Ultra-Orthodoxy Confronts Modernity, Zionism and Women's Equality (Cambridge University Press 1107088100). John Gilmore famously said that the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. Similarly, radical ultra-orthodoxy generally doesn’t confront anything modern; it simply discounts and overlooks it.

The book is overview of the history and ideology of some of the main segments of anti-Zionist Orthodox Judaism. The 3 main personalities covered are Jerusalem-based Rabbi Amram Blau, founder of the Neturei Karta, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapiro of Munkacz, Ukraine and Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar, Hungary. The later 2 were world-renowned rabbinic scholars, while Blau was known for his religious activism.

In the following 8 chapters, Inbari has written a well-researched and objective take on the subject:
1. The de Haan assassination and the background to the formation of Neturei Karta
2. Rabbi Amram Blau, founder of the Neturei Karta movement
3. The modesty campaigns of Rabbi Amram Blau and the Neturei Karta movement, 1938–1974
4. Messianic activism in the work and thought of Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapira in the interwar period
5. The life and work of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, founder of the Satmar Hasidic Court in New York
6. Eschatology, dualism, and the decline of the generations: the world view of radical ultra-Orthodoxy
7. Jewish zealotry – past and present
8. Epilogue: contemporary trends in radical ultra-Orthodoxy

While the fight against Zionist sentiment was often based in religious sources; Inbari writes that their opposition to the modern state of Israel has to be understood as part of their broader struggle against modern culture and all of its manifestations. These religious leaders embodied a unique type of fundamentalist leadership: one that is enclave based and defensive; yet engages in constant protest.

The Neturei Karta was founded in 1938 and opposes every aspect of Zionism. They call for the complete dismantling of the State of Israel in the belief that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the arrival of the messiah. Inbari notes that the Neturei Karta consists of but a few hundred members (similar to the Westboro Baptist Church), yet exert an influence far greater than their size suggests.

Interestingly the book notes that Blau’s personal archive has ended up in of all places, the Boston University Library. This is due to the fact that universities in Israel were for the most part unwilling to invest in preserving and maintaining Blau’s archives. The new material the archive provides gives a glimpse into Blau’s mindset that heretofore was unobtainable. Rather than being just a narrow-minded religious zealot, Inbari details Blau’s personal side, especially with his relationship challenges with his second wife; whom he married after being widowed for a number of years.

In chapter 3 on the modesty campaigns of Blau, Inbari writes interestingly that Blau was able to achieve a level of authority that placed him on the same level as the spiritual level of the Haredi rabbinic community. While the Rabbis gained authority from their level of rabbinic knowledge, Blau gained his power from his activities in the field of inspection and enforcement.

The chapter on the life and work of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum is particularly interesting. While it’s quite easy, yet incorrect, to label Teitelbaum as a narrow-minded extremist, Inbari writes that he was a complex character and underwent many changes over the course of his life. He notes that Teitelbaum revived a unique branch of the diverse world of Judaism, and became one of the most interesting figures in contemporary Jewish history.

Inbari’s conclusion is that it’s far too trivial to simply conclude that the motivating force behind the radical stream of Hasidic ultra-orthodoxy was simply anti-Zionism; in truth it was about anti-modernism. The negation of Zionism was just one part of a broader worldview.

The topic is a both a challenging and emotionally-charged one. Inbari does a good job of providing an unbiased approach to the topic. This is one of the first books to make significant use of the Blau personal archives. Aside from a very small number of reference errors (for example, attributing something to Maimonides when it is found in the Talmud), this is a well-researched and engrossing book.

Inbari’s conclusion is that the groups which seemingly are quite hesitant to change, nonetheless have a strong capacity to adapt and to overcome obstacles.

As Israel Independence Day approaches this week, many of these groups will be protesting Israel’s very existence. Perplexing to outsiders why they would do this, in a country that is quite benevolent to them, Jewish Radical Ultra-Orthodoxy Confronts Modernity, Zionism and Women's Equality explains eloquently just why these groups do what they do, how they are thriving, adapting and expanding.


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