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An eloquent, accessible, well-written reflection on the significance of being a Jew.

A multifaceted exploration of Jewish identity in the modern world and the place Israel has come to hold in it.

In this personal, analytical, nonpolemical work, Harvard law professor Feldman, author of The Broken Constitution and Divided by God, walks readers through the different versions of Jewish belief today—including “ultra-Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, Religious Zionist, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Humanist”—and how the state of Israel plays a central role in them all. With an intentional nod to Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, published in 1190, Feldman employs deep scholarship and a nondidactic tone to revisit the essential stories of Jewish struggle and faith. First, he looks at the beliefs of various Jewish sects, regarding them all inclusively, even the atheist. “Even conscious rejection of Jewishness may be meaningfully Jewish,” he writes. In the second part of the book, the author posits, “the idea of Israel has fundamentally transformed all strands of Jewish belief.” He delves deeply into the early secular Zionist ideal; how the early 1970s brought Israel to the forefront for Diaspora Jews because of renewed Holocaust awareness and the Yom Kippur War; the powerful appeal of messianism; and the debate over how Jews are the “chosen” people. He offers a warning that Israel is exhibiting the sin of excessive pride. Finally, the author examines Jewishness as an embrace of family, community, and God. “A nationalism that tries to take God out of the picture and transmute Jewishness into an expression of pure peoplehood,” he writes, “will not provide access to experiences of transcendent meaning that make life worth living.” Feldman calls this work a map or field guide, and he seems to have in mind young readers who are confused and angry about the raging Israel-Palestine war.

An eloquent, accessible, well-written reflection on the significance of being a Jew.

Pub Date: March 12, 2024

ISBN: 9780374298340

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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