Past Issue Abstracts
Fall 2022, Vol. 46.2
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This article explores Theodor Herzl's understanding of social elites and their role in society, especially with regard to creating (or resisting) social and political change. The article follows Herzl's different perceptions of elites and their relation to society, tracing the path that led him from an ideal of an aristocratic republic to his later democratic model. For Herzl, creating a utopia, that is, an ideal polity, effectively meant shaping a new understanding of the elite's position in society. Even though in his imagined future polity elites still govern—and even still, govern with an aristocratic ethos—their relationship with society is changed, shifting from an external authority to a socially and morally engaged position, which forms their public legitimacy and source of power.
In the decades surrounding the end of the seventeenth century, new ideas about women's bodies migrated from Latin medical texts to Hebrew ones. This article follows the journey of one particular idea, that there exists a unique kind of feminine madness, termed furor uterinus in Latin, which originates in the womb, and expresses itself in excessive sexual desire and uncontrollable speech. The article offers a comparative reading of Hebrew depictions of furor uterinus, locating them within their wider cultural context. It reveals the dynamic ways in which early modern Hebrew authors actively participated in contemporary scientific discussions, importing them back into the Jewish community. The intense (albeit often unacknowledged) dialogue which took place between Hebrew medical texts and their source texts offers a valuable lesson on forms of cultural transfer, authorship, and translation, as well as on competing notions of feminine sickness and sexuality in early modern Europe.
Motti Inbari and Menachem Keren-Kratz
The Sociological Model of Haredi Rebbetzins: “Two-Person Single Career” vs. “Parallel-Life Family”
This article discusses the biographies of two well-known ultra-Orthodox rebbetzins (rabbis' wives): Sarah Sonia Diskin (1816–1906) from the Old Yishuv of Jerusalem and Alte Feige Teitelbaum (1912–2001) from the Satmar court of New York. While reviewing the lives of Rebbetzins Diskin and Teitelbaum, the paper explores the function of the ultra-Orthodox rebbetzin and explores how this position allows some women a degree of freedom and recognition. The paper presents the sociological model of the "two-person single career," whereby a husband and wife jointly enhance the man's vocation, thereby also elevating the social status of his wife, and examines the extent to which this model is applicable in the case of the rebbetzins discussed in this paper.
Michael L. Satlow and Michael Sperling
The Rabbinic Citation Network
This article is the first academic attempt to apply quantitative methods of social network analysis to the Babylonian Talmud. We make three contributions. First, we introduce a digital methodology for finding and analyzing the citation chains in the Bavli. Second, we use our analysis to show the general characteristics of this network, which we find to be limited, densely connected, and centered around just a few rabbis at its center. Finally, we discuss three use cases that point toward further research that could throw light on the redactorial process of the Babylonian Talmud. This research lays the groundwork for much future work in applying quantitative methods to rabbinic texts.
Epidemics were a part of early modern, and are still a part of modern, life. Yet, one catastrophic epidemic looms above others in popular historical thinking: the Black Death. A historical catastrophe, the Black Death carries a particular resonance in Jewish history, as the event provoked the outbreak of violence against Jewish communities across Europe and the massacre of Jews in large numbers. A popular reckoning of this episode suggests that Christians blamed Jews for the outbreak or spread of the plague on the belief that whereas Christians were perishing in droves, Jews had escaped the worst of the plague's lethal impact. Although the claim was without basis, in time writings by and for Jews came to accept the premise of Jewish resistance to plague, but they transvalued the meaning and memory of the Black Death persecutions from conspiratorial accusations to indications of Jewish prudence and sanitary behavior. Historical writing about Jews and the Black Death over the centuries—both frequently appearing yet limited in scope—reflects a history of both the changed political circumstances in which such writing was produced and the impact of advances in understandings of medical theory as it furnished authors with a structuring narrative about collective identity in the past.
This article revisits two Latin antitalmudic texts penned by the converted bishop of Burgos, Pablo de Santa María (c. 1352–1435). It argues, in contrast to previous assessments, that far from being a failed replica of Christian scholastic formulas, they echo the conversionist or "apostatic" argumentation that proselytes to Christianity were making in Jewish quarters, a polemic that was not shaped by a scholastic-inquisitorial perspective but rather was still very much rabbinic in style and methods. The article traces echoes of this intra-Jewish polemic, using the extraordinary corpus of Abner of Burgos (d. 1347). It focuses on three themes: the antirabbinic allusions to Zechariah's prophecy; the historical-hermeneutical brawl over the identity of Edom; and the notion of talmudic-demonic alliance. Evaluating the potential agency that Pablo's peculiar texts could have had among Christian readership, I propose that his critique of talmudic literature undermined important aspects of the Christian antitalmudic tradition, reframing the Talmud according to rabbinic conventions.
Sunny S. Yudkoff
The Joy of Joys: A Reception History of Leo Rosten’s Yiddish Lexicon
In November 1968, Leo Rosten published his best-selling lexicon, The Joys of Yiddish. The present essay traces the reception history of this iconic text, framing its analysis with the three Yiddish variations of "joy" that Rosten includes in his volume: naches, simcha, and mechaieh. These terms circumscribe both the positive and negative reception of his work, alternately highlighting the enthusiasm of devoted readers and fueling the ire of the most enraged. The paper further identifies moments in the reading history of Rosten's work when the wager of postvernacular Yiddish culture brushes up against the interpretive perspectives of Yiddish activists. Examining both the "joys" that Rosten includes and those he does not brings into relief the emotional goals and strategies of the volume and situates this paper in the emerging debates in Jewish studies concerning affect.
English Abstract of Hebrew Article
This paper discusses the Jewish discourse on the blessing She-lo ʿAsani Goy (Who has not made me a gentile), which originated in Germany in the nineteenth century and reflects a Jewish attempt to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity. While liberal Jews omitted this blessing or changed it, some Orthodox Jews suggested making only modest changes to the wording of the blessing. Others objected to any changes, but gave new interpretations to the prayer in a manner that strengthened the Modern Orthodox stance. This analysis forms a case study of an ostensibly venerable tradition that is in reality a modern response to new challenges.
Biblical Studies and Judaism in Antiquity
Moshe Halbertal. The Birth of Doubt: Confronting Uncertainty in Early Rabbinic Literature
Daniel M. Herskowitz
Michael Fishbane. Fragile Finitude: A Jewish Hermeneutical Theology
Molly M. Zahn. Genres of Rewriting in Second Temple Judaism: Scribal Composition and Transmission
Idan Dershowitz. The Valediction of Moses: A Proto-Biblical Book
Malka Z. Simkovich
Ari Mermelstein. Power and Emotion in Ancient Judaism: Community and Identity in Formation
Daniel James Waller
Mika Ahuvia. On My Right Michael, On My Left Gabriel: Angels in Ancient Jewish Culture
Medieval and Early Modern Eras
Ephraim Shoham-Steiner. Jews and Crime in Medieval Europe
Ross Brann. Iberian Moorings: Al-Andalus, Sefarad, and the Tropes of Exceptionalism
M. Lindsay Kaplan. Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity
Debra Kaplan. The Patrons and Their Poor: Jewish Community and Public Charity in Early Modern Germany
Adam Teller. Rescue the Surviving Souls: The Great Jewish Refugee Crisis of the Seventeenth Century
Brian E. Crim. Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television
Jeremy Phillip Brown
Boaz Huss . Mystifying Kabbalah: Academic Scholarship, National Theology, and New Age Spirituality
Sheila E. Jelen. Salvage Poetics: Post-Holocaust American Jewish Folk Ethnographies
Nicolas de Warren
Daniel M. Herskowitz. Heidegger and His Jewish Reception
Cynthia Francis Gensheimer
Dvora Hacohen. To Repair a Broken World: The Life of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah
Eliyana R. Adler. Survival on the Margins: Polish Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Union
Dalia Kandiyoti. The Converso’s Return: Conversion and Sephardi History in Contemporary Literature and Culture
Daniela Flesler and Adrián Pérez Melgosa. The Memory Work of Jewish Spain
Schneur Zalman Newfield. Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation while Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism
Ayala Fader. Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in the Digital Age
Neta Stahl. The Divine in Modern Hebrew Literature
Yael Halevi-Wise. The Retrospective Imagination of A. B. Yehoshua
Gaëlle Fisher. Resettlers and Survivors: Bukovina and the Politics of Belonging in West Germany and Israel, 1945–1989
Kenneth Hart Green. The Philosophy of Emil Fackenheim: From Revelation to the Holocaust
Martin Shuster. How to Measure a World? A Philosophy of Judaism
Jessica L. Carr. The Hebrew Orient, Palestine in Jewish American Visual Culture, 1901–1938
Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz. Challenge and Conformity: The Religious Lives of Orthodox Jewish Women
Anna Elena Torres
Saul Noam Zaritt. Jewish American Writing and World Literature: Maybe to Millions, Maybe to Nobody
Julia Elsky. Writing Occupation: Jewish Émigré Voices in Wartime France
אסף ידידיה ברכת “שלא עשני גוי” וחלופותיה: לגלגוליה של ברכה אחת במרחב היהודי הגרמני במאה התשע עשרה .........................................................................................................................א-כ
Spring 2022, Vol. 46.1
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Introduction to the Theme
Ayala Fader, Orit Avishai
This paper expands the "family resemblance" metaphor, frequently used to explain orthodoxies' diversity and Orthodoxy's multivalence, by emphasizing familial politics and interrogating contentious dynamic belongings. It examines how central negotiating the politics of belonging is for Orthodox Jews, and how categorization and differentiation pose fundamental challenges in the production of scholarly knowledge on contemporary Orthodoxy. Focusing on the Israeli case, it highlights current lacunas in the study of dati (modern Orthodox) Jews, and the urgent need for social science–oriented research of "lived orthodoxies" to better understand the sector's myriad dimensions and shifting terrain. Using examples from a qualitative study on dati feminist ʿagunah activists, it calls for exploring orthodoxies as contested "projects of belonging" aimed at producing specific articulations of "the right way" to be Orthodox. This approach shows how orthodoxies' messiness confounds and revitalizes the idea of a shared framework, highlighting tensions between Orthodoxy as a descriptive, discursive, and constitutive notion.
Early social science scholarship on Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews told a story about Haredi life wherein the yeshiva rescued Orthodox Jews from extinction. Many social scientists have viewed ultra-Orthodoxy through the lens of the yeshiva, and by extension disembodied men and rabbinic stringencies. This lens presented ultra-Orthodoxy as a society of certainty, with the ultimate authority in text. Based on a survey of the field, I found that although more scholars have conducted research outside the yeshiva, and scholars continue to demonstrate the many ways that Haredim are no longer solely a society of learners, new scholarship still reflects an outdated paradigm of understanding Haredi life. I argue that when we shift the perspective away from this narrative, we come to see that embodiment, competing authorities, and doubt are also integral to Haredi life and part of its definition.
Orthodox Time at a Lower East Side Yeshiva
My article draws on long-term fieldwork and participation at an all-male yeshiva on the Lower East Side. Its literary form is autoethnographic memoir, comprising a set of anecdotes and reflections all closely tied to my own involvement. This affords me grounds for reflecting on what the term "Orthodox" means to me and to those with whom I have been studying for several years now. In my understanding, the regulars at this yeshiva view the institution as neither "Modern Orthodox" nor "Haredi" but as representing a common-sense but threatened middle ground. My article reinforces the notion of that middle ground with respect to temporality inside the yeshiva, as I support the claim that while the yeshiva is very much in the world and in no way "out of time," the valuation of time and its rhythms remains distinctive, perhaps increasingly so in a world where commodification otherwise seems to proceed apace.
In this article, I demonstrate how discourses regarding propriety and artistic expression draw lines around the shifting boundaries of Jewish Orthodoxy, providing scholars with a window into the construction of social-religious taxonomies. Understanding expressive culture as a social phenomenon, this article examines debates over musical propriety—at times referred to as "kosher music"—in Orthodox Jewish communities in order to examine the ways in which "rightness" is claimed and policed. In doing so, I suggest that expressive culture invites us to consider how contests over these boundaries play out on both the individual and communal level, and shift the lines of Orthodoxy and its subcultures. Furthermore, I argue that the ethnographic study of Orthodox expressive culture enables scholars to locate Orthodoxy in new domains, and therefore expand beyond constraining paradigms that understand Orthodoxy in conceptually and methodologically narrower ways.
This article looks at women's tefillah (prayer) groups (WTGs) as an anthropological case study to consider how an initially radical movement on the margins quickly moved into, and thereby changed, the center of Jewish Modern Orthodoxy. I take up this example in order to reflect on processes of religious transformation, and to think about Orthodoxy as the product of negotiated boundaries between female lay leaders and male rabbinic authorities. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, the first section gives an account of a WTG service at an American Modern Orthodox synagogue. The following sections document some of the main concerns that motivated and hampered WTG founders and leaders, largely from their perspectives. I examine their establishment of groups in the face of halakhic and institutional opposition, their practical liturgical strategies, and their negotiation of feminist sensibilities and Orthodox piety. The article then offers some concluding thoughts on Orthodoxy as an analytical and theoretical category.
In this paper I engage with tication to North Africa within the return to religion (teshuvah and Aliyah) for the Banlieusard (Parisian suburb-dweller) turned Breslover, Shmuel Benisrah. Through a close analysis of Shmuel Benisrah's trajectory—from Garges, greater Paris, to Jerusalem and from Arab Jew to Breslover—I seek to add complexity to the category of contemporary French Breslov Orthodoxy by revealing its close relationship to and increasing abstraction from postcolonial Maghribi (North African) identification and an intergenerational feeling of social alienation from French national cultural and secular norms. My observations show the power of religious praxis and its importance to new and politicized forms of Breslover community formation in Jerusalem. These community formations include perceived tensions between French Jewish and Muslim groups of North African descent in France and their manifestation in Jerusalem.
The ban against writing Oral Torah stands at the heart of rabbinic study culture. Scholars have suggested that the ban was formulated during the third century in Palestine in an attempt to preserve the oral nature of rabbinic study. At the same time, despite the overt orality of rabbinic practice, multiple talmudic anecdotes point to a complex reality that does not align with what seems to be an explicit prohibition. In this article I argue that the key for solving this long-standing crux is to distinguish between the two book cultures among the rabbis in Palestine and in Babylonia. Although the Bavli directly relies on Palestinian clusters of traditions, it transforms their meaning. While Palestinian sources forbid inappropriate writing of scriptural texts, fearing the physical obliteration of scriptural material, the Bavli reinterprets these prohibitions as securing the original division between the oral and the written forms of Torah.
English Abstract of Hebrew Article
One of the main debates among interpreters of Maimonides concerns the relationship between the esoteric and the exoteric meanings in his texts. In this article I seek a new method of analyzing how Maimonides wrote about esoteric subjects in his various books. First, I analyze the esoteric in Maimonides's legal writing: we will see that Maimonides himself used the methods of teaching esoteric subjects that he attributes to the Bible and the sages of the Talmud. I then analyze esotericism in the Guide of the Perplexed, finding that in this work Maimonides employed the same techniques to impart esoteric meaning that he used in his legal writings, for the same pedagogical reasons, as well as some alternate techniques.
Biblical Studies and Judaism in Antiquity
Royal Illness and Kingship Ideology in the Hebrew Bible by Isabel Cranz (review)
The Story of Sacrifice: Ritual and Narrative in the Priestly Source by Liane M. Feldman (review)
Jason M. H. Gaines
Aseneth of Egypt: The Composition of a Jewish Narrative by Patricia D. Ahearne-Kroll (review)
R. Gillian Glass
Voices from the Ruins: Theodicy and the Fall of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible by Dalit Rom-Shiloni (review)
Joel S. Kaminsky
Medieval and Early Modern Era
Kabbalah in Print: The Study and Popularization of Jewish Mysticism in Early Modernity by Andrea Gondos (review)
Brothers from Afar: Rabbinic Approaches to Apostasy and Reversion in Medieval Europe by Ephraim Kanarfogel (review)
Law's Dominion: Jewish Community, Religion, and Family in Early Modern Metz by Jay R. Berkovitz (review)
Ronald B. Schechter
"If We Had Wings We Would Fly to You": A Soviet Jewish Family Faces Destruction, 1941–42 by Kiril Feferman (review)
Russian-Speaking Jews in Germany's Jewish Communities, 1990–2005 by Joseph Cronin (review)
Wild Visionary: Maurice Sendak in Queer Jewish Context by Golan Y. Moskowitz (review)
Yiddish: Biography of a Language by Jeffrey Shandler (review)
The Last Ghetto: An Everyday History of Theresienstadt by Anna Hájková (review)
Jewish Studies as Counterlife: A Report to the Academy by Adam Zachery Newton (review)
Grief: The Biography of a Holocaust Photograph by David Shneer (review)
Jews Out of the Question: A Critique of Anti-Anti-Semitism by Elad Lapidot (review)
Daniel M. Herskowitz
Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice by Rachel B. Gross (review)
Sheila E. Jelen
Jews and Germans: Promise, Tragedy, and the Search for Normalcy by Guenter Lewy (review)
Another Modernity: Elia Benamozegh's Jewish Universalism by Clémence Boulouque (review)
Yiddish Writers in Weimar Berlin: A Fugitive Modernism by Marc Caplan (review)
Rabbi Leo Baeck: Living a Religious Imperative in Troubled Times by Michael A. Meyer (review)
Unsettling: Jews, Whiteness, and Incest in American Popular Culture by Eli Bromberg (review)
Yeshiva Days: Learning on the Lower East Side by Jonathan Boyarin (review)
Schneur Zalman Newfield
Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine by Amelia M. Glaser (review)
Conceiving Agency: Reproductive Authority among Haredi Women by Michal S. Raucher (review)
Holocaust Memory in Ultraorthodox Society in Israel by Michal Shaul (review)
Avraham (Alan) Rosen
The Rise and Fall of Jewish American Literature: Ethnic Studies and the Challenge of Identity by Benjamin Schreier (review)
Vladimir Jabotinsky's Russian Years, 1900–1925 by Brian Horowitz (review)
Antisemitism in Galicia: Agitation, Politics, and Violence against Jews in the Late Habsburg Monarchy by Tim Buchen (review)
Jewish Forced Labor in Romania, 1940–1944 by Dallas Michelbacher (review)
Paul A. Shapiro
Germany and Israel: Whitewashing and Statebuilding by Daniel Marwecki (review)
With Us More than Ever: Making the Absent Rebbe Present in Messianic Chabad by Yoram Bilu (review)
האזוטרי במורה נבוכים: גישה חדשה