From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature

From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature

From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature

From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature

Synopsis

This is a one-volume introduction to both Jewish history and literature from its earliest times up to the present. Experts in each field contribute original and comprehensive essays.

Excerpt

BURTON L. VISOTZKY AND DAVID E. FISHMAN

THE EXPLOSIVE GROWTH OF JEWISH STUDIES PROGRAMS in American universities is testimony to the acceptance of Judaism as part of the fabric of modern American life. In the Jewish community itself, the question is no longer, "Am I a Jew first or an American first?" Rather, Jews in America express their patriotism and American identity through a broad range of Jewish religious identities. This identification leads them to explore Jewish history and literature in the institution that they consider the key to their success as Americans -- the university. Furthermore, Christians show a keen interest in the academic study of the religion that was the source of their own. Particularly since World War II, an ever growing interest in the Judaism of Jesus has gripped Christian scholarship. As a result, Jewish studies courses in universities are populated by both Jews and Gentiles.

The plethora of course offerings on Judaism, particularly on an introductory course level, has been hampered by the lack of a textbook that attends to both the history and the literature of the Jews. Perhaps uniquely among peoples, the history of the Jews is ineluctably entwined with its literature. The people of the book is also the people of linear history; therefore, the history and literature of the Jews form the woof and warp of the fabric of Jewish civilization. There are works that address Jewish history. Likewise, there are books that survey Jewish literature. This book attempts, for the first time, to encompass both aspects of Jewish civilization in its pages.

In order to do so, this textbook consciously eschews the treatment of what might be deemed "current events" in its pages. For the most part, both the history and the literature considered do not go beyond the advent of the State of Israel, just following World War II. There are a variety of reasons that we editors have chosen to end the text short of our own era. First, it seemed unlikely that there could be any sense of objectivity writing about events (or books) that we ourselves were part of. Second . . .

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