Book Notes


Art and Music

Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic, by Amy Horowitz. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010. 251 pp. $29.95. ISBN 978-08143-3465-2.

This book examines a pan-ethnic style of music created by North African and Middle Eastern Israeli musicians in the late twentieth century. The relocation of North African and Middle Eastern Jews to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s brought together communities from Egypt, Iraq, Kurdistan, Yemen, and many other Islamic countries, as weU as their unique music styles. Amy Horowitz investigates the emergence of a new pan-ethnic Mizrahi style of music between the 1970s and 1990s, as the community struggled to gain recognition on the overlapping stages of pohtics and music. This volume is both an ethnographic study based on Horowitz's immersion in the Mizrahi community and a multi-voiced account of community members, who describe their music and musicians who play it.

Biblical and Rabbinic Literature

Crown of Aleppo: The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Codex, by Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2010. 199 pp. $40.00. ISBN 978-0-8276-0895-5.

Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider tell the story of the survival, against all odds, of the Aleppo Codex - one of the most authoritative and accurate traditional Masoretic texts of the Bible. Completed circa 939 in Tiberias, the Crown was created by Tiberian scribes who copied the entire Bible into book form, adding annotations, vowel and cantiUation marks, and precise commentary. Praised by Torah scholars for centuries after its writing the Crown passed through history until the 15th century, when it was housed in the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, Syria. When the synagogue was burned in the 1947 pogrom, the codex was thought to be destroyed, lost forever. But miraculously, a significant portion of the Crown of Aleppo survived the fire and was smuggled from the synagogue ruins to an unknown location - presumably within the Aleppan Jewish community. Ten years later, the surviving pages of the codex were secretly brought to Israel and finally moved to their current location in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. This book contains over 50 photographs and maps, including those of the Aleppo Codex, the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, and the people who played a part in its rescue.

Biography, Autobiography, Memoirs, Diaries

Driven to Innovate: A Century of Jewish Mathematicians and Physicists, by loan James. Oxford: Peter Lang 2009. 312 pp. $38.95. ISBN 978-1-90616522-2.

Mathematician loan James celebrates the contribution made by Jewish people in mathematics and physics, from Norbert Wiener to Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. He teUs the life stories of thirty-five men and women, born in the nineteenth century, who were at the forefront of research in their fields.

Elias Bickerman as a Historian of the Jews, by Albert I. Baumgarten Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010. 377 pp. euro99.00. ISBN 978-3-150171-5.

This biography of Elias Bickerman (1897-1981), one of the foremost historians of Greco-Roman antiquity active in the twentieth century, focuses on his role as a historian of the Jews. Albert Baumgarten explores the connections between Bickerman's life and his scholarly work on the Jews in its different cultural and academic contexts (Russian, German, French, and American). He argues that Bickerman intended to create a usable Jewish past and further shows that Bickerman conceived the ancient Jewish encounter with HeUenism and the modern Jewish entry into European civilization in light of each other. Bickerman argued that there were some ancient Jews who were wrong in the way they tried to bridge the gap between Judaism and Hellenism, while there were other ancient Jews who found the right solution. Baumgarten illustrates the contemporary significance of these conclusions concerning the past for Bickerman himself and for other Jews of his time. …

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