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

By Burton L. Visotzky; David E. Fishman | Go to book overview

Introduction

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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From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 7
  • 1 - The Hebrew Bible 9
  • Notes 35
  • Suggested Readings 35
  • 2 - Jewish History and Culture in the Hellenistic Period 37
  • Notes 54
  • Suggested Readings 55
  • 3 - Judaism Under Roman Domination: from the Hasmoneans Through the Destruction of the Second Temple 57
  • Notes 69
  • Suggested Readings 69
  • 4 - The Literature of the Rabbis 71
  • Suggested Readings 102
  • 5 - The History of Medieval Jewry 103
  • Suggested Readings 126
  • 6 - Medieval Jewish Literature 127
  • Suggested Readings 165
  • 7 - Medieval Jewish Philosophy 167
  • Notes 180
  • Suggested Readings 180
  • 8 - Modern Jewish History 181
  • Suggested Readings 206
  • 9 - History of Soviet Jewry 207
  • Notes 231
  • Suggested Readings 231
  • 10 - Modern Jewish Literature 233
  • Notes 254
  • Suggested Readings 254
  • About the Editors and Contributors 255
  • Index 257
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