Academic journal article Shofar

Book Notes

Academic journal article Shofar

Book Notes

Article excerpt

American Jewish Life

Landmark of the Spirit: The Eldridge Street Synagogue, by Annie Polland. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. 164 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-300-12470-5.

New York City's Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in 1887 in response to the great wave of Jewish immigrants who fled persecution in eastern Europe. Their synagogue served not only as a place of worship but also as an important center in the development of American Judaism. A near ruin in the 1980s, it was recently reopened after a twenty-year restoration. Annie Polland uses elements of the building's architecture - the façade, the benches, the grooves worn into the sanctuary floor - as points of departure to discuss themes, people, and trends at various moments in the synagogues history, particularly during its heyday from 1887 until the 1930s. Exploring the synagogue's archives, the author shines new light on the religious life of immigrant Jews, introduces various rabbis, cantors, and congregants, and analyzes the significance of this building in the context of the larger American -Jewish experience.

Ancient World and Archaeology

Philo's Portrayal of Moses in the Context of Ancient Judaism, by Louis H. Feldman. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007. 542 pp. $80.00. ISBN 978-0-268-02900-5.

This book is a study of Philo's De Vita Mosis. Feldman, well known for his work on Josephus and ancient Judaism, here uses rabbinic material to illuminate important parallels and differences between Philo's writing on Moses and rabbinic literature. One way in which Hellenistic culture marginalized Judaism was by exposing the apparent defects in Moses' life and character. Philo's De Vita Mosis is a counterattack to these charges and is a vital piece of his attempt to reconcile Judaism and Hellenism. Feldman shows how Philo glorifies the birth, education, and virtues of Moses and demonstrates that Philo is careful to explain in a scientific way those portions of the Bible, particularly miracles, that appear incredible to his skeptical Hellenistic readers.

Biblical and Rabbinic Literature

Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought, by Joshua A. Berman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. 249 pp. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-19-537470-4.

Joshua Berman engages the text of the Hebrew Bible as a document of social and political thought. He proposes that the Pentateuch can be read as the earliest prescription on record for the establishment of an egalitarian polity in contrast to the social orders found in the surrounding cultures of the ancient Near East-Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, and the Hittite Empire-where the hierarchical structure of the polity was centered on the figure of the king and his retinue. Berman shows that the Pentateuch's egalitarian ideal is expressed in its theology, politics, economics, use of technologies of communication, and narrative literature.

Digging Through the Bible: Understanding Biblical People, Places, and Controversies through Archaeology, by Richard A. Freund. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. 381 pp. $44.95. ISBN 978-0-7425-4644-8.

Freund presents overviews of the archaeological evidence surrounding figures of the Bible and provides a discussion of how to understand current controversies and how much information is necessary to form new conclusions about the past.

The Exilic Code: Ciphers, Word Links, and Dating in Exilic and Post-Exilic Biblical Literature, by Preston Kavanagh. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2009. 313 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-1-55635-070-2.

Drawing from more than one thousand examples, the author analyzes how biblical writers encoded messages into their texts. The Exilic Code dates portions of the Bible, establishes Ezra as an exilic person, brings to light a School-of-Daniel scripture factory, names Second Isaiah and the Suffering Servant, identifies the individual who triggered Josiah's reforms, and traces coding from the Deuteronomistic Historian in the seventh century BCE to Daniel's apocalypse in the second. …

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