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The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image Hardcover – February 26, 2012
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Finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in History
"We have long needed a thorough and careful study of the various ways in which Spinoza has been appropriated by Jewish causes and movements. Daniel Schwartz's welcome book takes a close look for the first time at what the author calls 'the rehabilitation of Spinoza in Jewish culture.'"--Steven Nadler, Times Literary Supplement
"Whether Baruch Spinoza was 'the first modern Jew,' as the title of this outstanding volume suggests, has been a subject of continuing debate. . . . Schwartz displays admirable versatility in tracing the idolizations, disputes, and ambivalences evoked by Spinoza in Germany (Moses Mendelssohn and Berthold Auerbach) and eastern Europe (Salomon Rubin), within Zionism (Yosef Klausner), and in Yiddish literature (Isaac Bashevis Singer). . . . Essential."--M. A. Meyer, Choice
"[P]assionate arguments, of the kind now richly documented by Schwartz, about Spinoza's Jewishness and his relevance to our times, still enrich and enrage . . . and probably will continue to do so--without end."--Allan Nadler, Forward.com
"This is the first full-scale history of Spinoza's reception among Jews. . . . [I]t clearly demonstrates how this excluded philosopher could be viewed as religious or secular, as more Baruch or more Benedict, but almost necessarily as a touchstone in defining Jewish identity in the modern age."--Choice
"With extensive and helpful notes, an index and a bibliography, this work is highly recommended for all academic collections that deal with Jews and Judaism in the modern age."--Marion M. Stein, Classical World
"Schwartz has written a superb study that not only presents Spinoza as a thinker who fits uneasily into the modernist categories of 'religious' and 'secular': he has also composed a daring challenge to the popular interpretation of the modern age as a purely secular affair that left religion behind over 300 years ago."--Grant Havers, European Legacy
From the Back Cover
"This is a spectacular book, deeply researched and brilliantly written, on a riveting subject--the historical reception of Spinoza from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Schwartz demonstrates his command of European philosophy, modern European Jewish history, Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and Zionist culture. A tour de force."--David Biale, University of California, Davis
"In this daring and outstanding book, Schwartz does a superb job of bringing Spinoza back to life in a number of diverse and intriguing historical contexts. A full-bodied cultural history, attentive to the various settings in which Spinoza was rediscovered and revivified, this is the most wide-ranging, historically grounded, and illuminating book that has been written on the subject."--David N. Myers, University of California, Los Angeles
Top Customer Reviews
Daniel Schwartz' new and first book, "The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image" is the most recent study that examines the relationship of Spinoza to Judaism. More precisely, as the subtitle of the book points out, Schwartz is concerned with the history of studies of Spinoza in the Jewish community over the years, more than with Spinoza himself. Schwartz, an Assistant Professor of History at George Washington University argues that Jewish students of Spinoza have projected their own questions and thoughts about the relationship between Judaism and secularism upon the elusive 17th Century philosopher. The natures of both "Judaism" and "secularism" are both notoriously difficult to pin down. Schwartz identifies two broad understandings of secularism which run through his study. The first sees secularism, and a this-worldly orientation as a rupture from and a decisive break with a theological understanding. The second understanding sees secularism as evolving from religious sources and as developing, without necessarily fully repudiating, a religious outlook.Read more ›