A worthwhile collection for scholars and readers interested in Jewish affairs.



An intellectual history of 20th-century Judaism.

An adept crew of editors and writers takes on the arduous task of documenting two difficult-to-define concepts: modernity and Judaism. The result is a hefty collection of 44 biographical essays of Jews born as early as the 1850s and as late as the 1950s. The editors identify a full range of individuals to profile, from poets to artists to scientists to politicians. The work begins with a somewhat cumbersome introduction authored by the four editors. “Modernity…can be understood, as we have seen, as a border- and contact-zone: as liminal spaces and liminal times, in which rituals of transformation and of renewal and conversion are believed and staged—and this is expressed in a great deal of critique.” Indeed, each contributor puts forth his or her own expression of what “modernity” is—at least in regards to their own particular subject matter. Various themes run throughout the book, perhaps chief among these being assimilation. Virtually every person profiled is or was, in one way or another, “assimilated” into another, non-Jewish culture. In some cases, that assimilation was muted, though quite real (Abraham Isaac Kook); in other cases, it was quite complete (Simone Weil). Socialism is another recurring theme, as various individuals promoted or at least confronted the new realities of socialist theory and practice in 20th-century Europe. Of course, also playing significant roles are such motifs as anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the inescapable reality of Hitler’s reign. Readers will find an impressive range of personalities from a wide variety of disciplines, including the arts (Mark Rothko), the sciences (Freud, Einstein), literature (Elsa Lasker-Schüler, Kafka, Bellow, Levi, Lispector), statecraft (David Ben-Gurion), philosophy (Buber, Derrida), and a host of others.

A worthwhile collection for scholars and readers interested in Jewish affairs.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-691-16423-6

Page Count: 680

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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