Episodes
"I've been a philosopher for all my adult life and the three most profound books of philosophy that I have ever read are Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Songs." This is the opening line of Peter Kreeft's Three Philosophies of Life: Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Songs (Ignatius Press, 2016). He reflects that there are ultimately only three philosophies of life and each one is represented by one of these books of the Bible-life is vanity (Ecclesiastes); life is suffering (Job); life is love...
Published 05/20/22
The history of the Palestine War does not only concern military history. It also involves social, humanitarian and religious history, as in the case of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jerusalem. A Liminal Church: Refugees, Conversions and the Latin Diocese of Jerusalem, 1946–1956 (Brill, 2020) offers a complex narrative of the Latin patriarchal diocese, commonly portrayed as monolithically aligned with anti-Zionist and anti-Muslim positions during the “long” year of 1948. Making use of largely...
Published 05/13/22
Uncovering a history buried by different nationalist narratives (Jewish, Israeli, Arab and Palestinian) the book by Louis Fishman looks at how the late Ottoman era set the stage for the on-going Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This work presents an innovative analysis of the struggle in its first years, when Palestine was still an integral part of the Ottoman Empire. Fishman argues that in the late Ottoman era, Jews and Palestinians were already locked in conflict: the new freedoms introduced...
Published 05/10/22
Today I talked to Jaclyn Granick about her book International Jewish Humanitarianism in the Age of the Great War (Cambridge UP, 2021).  In 1914, seven million Jews across Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean were caught in the crossfire of warring empires in a disaster of stupendous, unprecedented proportions. In response, American Jews developed a new model of humanitarian relief for their suffering brethren abroad, wandering into American foreign policy as they navigated a wartime...
Published 05/06/22
The land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan Valley has been one of the most disputed territories in history. Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Palestinians and Israelis have each sought to claim the national identity of the land through various martial, social, and scientific tactics, but no method has offered as much legitimacy and national controversy as that of the map. In The Politics of Maps: Cartographic Constructions of Israel/Palestine (Oxford...
Published 05/04/22
AD KAN (NO MORE) was founded in 1988 by a group of academics at Tel Aviv University. The initiative, a public pressure group, was prompted by public indifference (at best) about Israel’s 20-year occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and its forceful attempts to suppress the nascent First Intifada popular uprising in the West Bank. Whilst outward facing in their basic ambitions, the founder members of AD KAN also understood that academia’s failure to engage with the realities of the...
Published 05/03/22
When the Nazis came to power, they used various strategies to expel German Jews from social, cultural, and economic life. Fighter, Worker, and Family Man (U Toronto Press, 2022) focuses on the gendered experiences and discrimination that German-Jewish men faced between 1933 and 1941. Sebastian Huebel argues that Jewish men’s gender identities, intersecting with categories of ethnicity, race, class, and age, underwent a profound process of marginalization that destabilized accustomed ways of...
Published 05/02/22
Demons! Nightmares with the Bible: The Good Book and Cinematic Demons (2021) published by Fortress Academic views demons through two lenses: that of western religion and that of cinema. Sketching out the long fear of demons in western history, including the Bible, Steve A. Wiggins moves on to analyze how popular movies inform our beliefs about demonic forces. Beginning with the idea of possession, he explores the portrayal of demons from ancient Mesopotamia and the biblical world (including...
Published 04/27/22
In God’s Image: The Making of the Modern World (Yediot Aharonot, 2021) examines the central role that the biblical idea of the “image of God” has played in the development of Western civilization. Focusing on five themes—selfhood, freedom, conscience, equality, and meaning—this book guides the reader through a cultural history of the Judeo-Christian tradition, from biblical times through modernity. It explains how each of these ideals was profoundly influenced by a central ancient conception...
Published 04/25/22
Since the late-1990s, the fate of Nazi stolen art has become a cause célèbre. In Belonging and Betrayal: How Jews Made the Art World Modern (Brandeis UP, 2021), Charles Dellheim turns this story on its head by revealing how certain Jewish outsiders came to acquire so many old and modern masterpieces in the first place - and what this reveals about Jews, art, and modernity. This book tells the epic story of the fortunes and misfortunes of a small number of eminent art dealers and collectors...
Published 04/19/22
This episode is part of a series of recordings I do with artists and scholars from Israel and Palestine. To allow people from the conflict to make their voices heard. Today I interview Sigal Naor Perelman, who is a literary scholar, editor, founder, and co-director of the Derech Ruach organization to promote the humanities in Israel. Sigal has published two research books on Natan Zach and Noah Stern. Her first volume of poetry, Machluta, was published in 2020. Sigal's poetry book, Machluta...
Published 04/19/22
"As a result of the historic catastrophe in which Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was exiled from its land, I was born in one of the cities of the Exile,” S. Y. Agnon declared at the 1966 Nobel Prize ceremony. “But always I regarded myself as one who was born in Jerusalem.” Agnon’s act of literary imagination fueled his creative endeavor and is explored in these pages. Jerusalem and the Holy Land (to say nothing of the later State of Israel) are often two-faced in Agnon’s Hebrew...
Published 04/14/22
The biblical commentaries known as Miqra’ot Gedolot have inspired and educated generations of Hebrew readers. Now, with the five volumes of the acclaimed English edition of Miqra’ot Gedolot, The Commentators' Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy—the voices of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Nachmanides, Rashbam, Abarbanel, Kimhi, and other medieval Bible commentators come alive, speaking in a contemporary English translation annotated and explicated for lay readers. Join us as we speak...
Published 04/13/22
From Frank Sinatra’s early pro-Zionist rallying to Steven Spielberg’s present-day peacemaking, Hollywood has long enjoyed a “special relationship” with Israel. This book offers a groundbreaking account of this relationship, both on and off the screen. Tony Shaw and Giora Goodman investigate the many ways in which Hollywood’s moguls, directors, and actors have supported or challenged Israel for more than seven decades. They explore the complex story of Israel’s relationship with American Jewry...
Published 04/08/22
In American Shtetl: The Making of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Village in Upstate New York (Princeton University Press, 2022), Nomi Stolzenberg and David Myers tell the story of how a group of pious, Yiddish-speaking Jews created a thriving insular enclave and a powerful local government in upstate New York. While rejecting the norms of mainstream American society, Kiryas Joel has been stunningly successful in creating a world apart by using the very instruments of secular political and legal power...
Published 04/05/22
Shulem Deen is a writer, journalist, and author of the award-winning memoir All Who Go Do Not Return. He is a regular contributor to the Forward, and in 2015 was listed in the Forward 50, an annual list of American Jews with outsized roles on political and social issues. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the New Republic, Salon, Tablet Magazine, and elsewhere. He serves as a board member at Footsteps, a New York City-based organization that offers assistance and support to...
Published 03/31/22
Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World's Most Contested City (Doubleday, 2021) takes readers into the tombs, tunnels, and trenches of the Holy City. It brings to life the indelible characters who have investigated this subterranean landscape. With clarity and verve, acclaimed journalist Andrew Lawler reveals how their pursuit has not only defined the conflict over modern Jerusalem, but could provide a map for two peoples and three faiths to peacefully coexist. In 1863, a French...
Published 03/28/22
What can the history of Jewish philosophy teach us about modern life? In How to Measure a World?: A Philosophy of Judaism (Indiana UP, 2021), Martin Shuster, an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director, Center for Geographies of Justice at Goucher College, explores the history of Jewish philosophy to examine how key thinkers have understood the world. Using a phenomenological approach, the book brings thinkers including Levinas, Maimonides, Adorno, and Cavell into dialogue with a huge...
Published 03/22/22
When I Grow Up, the latest graphic nonfiction narrative from New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein, is based on six of hundreds of newly discovered, never-before-published autobiographies of Eastern European Jewish teenagers. These autobiographies, submitted in a writing contest, were hidden away at the outbreak of World War II, and were only discovered seven decades later. In When I Grow Up, the author brings these stories, their authors, and their entire world, to life. David Gottlieb is the...
Published 03/22/22
The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, Volume 6: Confronting Modernity, 1750–1880 (Yale University Press, 2019), covers a period in which every aspect of Jewish life underwent the most profound changes to have occurred since antiquity. Organized by genre, this extensive yet accessible volume surveys Jewish cultural production and intellectual innovation during these dramatic years, particularly in literature, the visual and performing arts, and intellectual...
Published 03/22/22
When Lily and Alex entered a packed gymnasium in Queens, New York in 1972, they barely recognized their son. The boy who escaped to America with them, who was bullied as he struggled to learn English and cope with family tragedy, was now a young man who had discovered and secretly honed his basketball talent on the outdoor courts of New York City. That young man was Ernie Grunfeld, who would go on to win an Olympic gold medal and reach previously unimaginable heights as an NBA player and...
Published 03/21/22
Movie-Made Jews: An American Tradition (Rutgers University Press, 2021) focuses on a rich, usable American Jewish cinematic tradition. This tradition includes fiction and documentary films that make Jews through antisemitism, Holocaust indirection, and discontent with assimilation. It prominently features the unapologetic assertion of Jewishness, queerness, and alliances across race and religion. Author Helene Meyers shows that as we go to our local theater, attend a Jewish film festival,...
Published 03/11/22
In his latest book Freud's Pandemics: Surviving Global War, Spanish Flu, and the Nazis (Confer Books, 2021), Professor Brett Kahr has used his remarkable skills as experienced psychotherapist and rigorous historian to tell a meticulously researched, deeply engaging tale of the trials and tribulations of Sigmund Freud's life. Kahr has taken an unflinching look at the darkest hours of this remarkable man, such as the Spanish flu of 1918, the Nazi invasion of Austria in 1938 and a long struggle...
Published 03/11/22
Jeffery D. Long and Michael G. Long's Nonviolence in the World's Religions: A Concise Introduction (Routledge, 2021) introduces the reader to the complex relationship between religion and nonviolence. The meanings of both religion and nonviolence are explored through engagement with nonviolence in Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Jain, and Pacific Island religious traditions. This is the ideal introduction to the relationship between religion and violence for...
Published 03/10/22
To date, scholars have skilfully discussed aspects of Polqar’s thought, and yet none of the existing studies offers a comprehensive examination that covers Polqar’s thought in its entirety. Isaac Polqar: A Jewish Philosopher or a Philosopher and a Jew? (Walter de Gruyter, 2020) aims to fill this lacuna by tracing and contextualizing both Polqar’s Islamic sources (al-Fārābī, Avicenna, and Averroes) and his Jewish sources (Maimonides and Isaac Albalag). The study brings to light three of...
Published 03/07/22